Vibration can help reduce some types of pain, including pain from FM, by more than 40 per cent, according to a new study published online in the European Journal of Pain.
When high-frequency vibrations from an instrument were applied to painful areas, pain signals may have been prevented from travelling to the central nervous system, explains Roland Staud, MD, professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology in the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville.
If you think of a pain impulse having to travel through a gate to cause discomfort, the vibrations are closing that gate. “When the gate is open, you feel the pain from the stimulus. It goes to the spinal cord. When you apply vibration you close the gate partially,” says Dr Staud. You can still feel some pain, but less than you would have felt without the vibrations, he adds.
Subjects were split into 3 groups: 29 had FM, 19 had chronic neck and back pain and 28 didn’t have any pain at all. Dr Staud and his research team applied about five seconds of heat to introduce pain to each participant’s arms and followed that with five seconds of vibrations from an electric instrument that emits high-frequency vibrations that are absorbed by skin and deep tissue.
Dr Staud used a biothesiometer, an electric vibrator (not THAT kind of vibrator – get your mind out of the gutter!) with a plastic foot plate that can be brought into contact with the patient’s skin.
Similarly, you could buy/borrow a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS), which is a medical device, designed specifically for the purpose of assisting in the treatment and management of chronic and acute pain; and it does exactly what Dr Staud is suggesting. I am currently borrowing a compact TENS machine. The pulse rate is adjustable from 1-200 Hz.
Following the use of heat and vibration, patients were asked to rate the intensity of their pain on a 0-to-10 scale and found that the experimental pain, as opposed to their chronic pain, was reduced by more than 40 per cent with the use of vibration. What was of particular interest was that the patients in the study with FM appeared to have the same mechanisms in their body to block or inhibit pain through the use of vibration as those in the pain-free group.
“Fibromyalgia patients are often said to have insufficient pain mechanisms, which means they can’t regulate their pain as well as regular individuals. This study showed that in comparison to normal controls, they could control their pain as well,” Dr Staud explains.
What they don’t know is how long the pain relieving effects will last.
I used the TENS on my arms two days ago and the pain has not returned (yet! Knock on wood!) If I choose to buy it, it will cost me $175.00 from www.tensaustralia.com.au
Dr Howard, a rheumatologist and director of Arthritis Health in Scottsdale, Ariz., says this study is still very interesting. “Vibration is another way of minimizing pain, and it sounded like it would be more helpful for regional or local pain rather than widespread pain,” he says.
Dr Staud says this theory is still very much in the testing stages and the vibrating instrument used in this study isn’t available to the public. “Although we didn’t test it, I think that the size of the foot plate of the biothesiometer is relevant. I wouldn’t suggest that everybody should go out and by any vibrator to use for pain relief. But pending a commercial product this is entirely feasible,” he explains.
Until then, Dr Staud’s message for patients is that vibration involves touch, and that can provide pain relief.
Dr Howard agrees that this study reinforces the importance of touch therapy, like massage, and even movement therapy, like gentle exercise, for people with chronic pain.
“When you have pain, you want to stop what you’re doing and protect the area. But for some types of pain that’s not the right thing to do,” Dr Howard says.
You do, however, need to know what types of pain touch is good for and for which ones it isn’t. Dr Howard says his general rule is to baby your joints and bully your muscles.
“Fibromyalgia patients often shrink away from touch therapy and movement. The foundation of treatment is to use movement and touch and stimulus to help with their pain, but their natural reaction is to withdraw and avoid tactile activity. Don’t be afraid. Don’t avoid it,” Dr Howard says.
Last night I went to hydrotherapy. Holy cow! Major workout!
Technically, it was no different to all my other classes (in fact, we have a set routine) but my body really didn’t like moving. I’m guessing that it’s because it’s been about a week and a half since my last session (which was a self-help session), where I felt like I was moving through molasses!
I had given up my self-help session while I was attending rehab as I went to a hydro class there, but their hydro was very low impact and I had built up my session to be quite physical – so it seems that I had lost my momentum during all of this.
Mind you, I am finding it harder to walk the same distance that I do every day – but I am still doing it, at least!
Because it is (seemingly?) getting harder, it would be easy to just say that the exercising is not helping my FM – a very self-sabotaging mode of thought – BUT we know we should be exercising. All the research tells us so! But when it comes time to actually get out there and start moving, many of us have a long list of excuses not to exercise:
Excuse #1: I Don’t Have Time!
What is it that is sapping all your time?
If it’s your favourite TV shows, how about during your shows, you use resistance bands, or walk in place; or you could record your shows so you can skip the commercials and see a one-hour show in just 40 minutes – that’s a 20 minute walk right there!
If it’s work that’s sapping all your spare time, try exercising on the job. Close your office door and walk in place for 10 minutes. (It’s not a long time but it all counts!)
People who exercise regularly ‘make it a habit’ – they don’t have more time than anyone else; instead, they have prioritised their exercise time as something that needs to be done and is of great value.
Excuse #2: I’m Too Tired…(said in a whining voice)
It may sound counter-intuitive but working out actually gives you more energy, says Marisa Brunett, spokeswoman for the National Athletic Trainers Association. Once you get moving, you’re getting the endorphins ( the feel-good hormones in your body) to release – in turn, this WILL make you feel better (in the long term).
Excuse #3: I Don’t Get a Break From the Kids.
This is the time to multi-task (says the woman without kids!) Take the kids with you – while they’re swinging, you can walk around the playground or the backyard. Walk the kids to school instead of driving them. During their soccer games or practices, walk around the field. Use your family time for active pursuit – go for a bike ride with your kids or just walk around the neighbourhood with your children. When the weather’s bad, you could try all those new exciting interactive video games like Dance Revolution, Wii Sport, and Wii Fit. (Do your kids want any of these as a Christmas present? They could be a gift for you, too!)
Excuse #4: Exercise Is Boring.
“Exercise should be like sex,” says sports physiologist Mike Bracko, EdD, FACSM, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and director of the Institute for Hockey Research in Calgary. “You should want it and feel good about it before you do it. And it should feel good while you’re doing it.”
So how do you get there? First, find an activity you love. Think outside the box: try dancing, walk to the post office or gardening. Or, if you love music, try ballroom dancing. There IS an exercise for everyone.
If it makes exercise more enjoyable for you, it’s okay to watch The Good Wife or read Fifty Shades while you’re on the exercise bike or treadmill — just don’t forget to pedal or walk.
Working out with a group also helps many people. I’m not talking bootcamps or running groups. Check out your local Arthritis Foundation office – that’s where I found my hydrotherapy classes.
And, every once in a while, try something totally new: for one term I joined a Tai Chi for Arthritis group (again through Arthritis Victoria). Mix it up so you don’t get bored!
Excuse # 5: I Just Don’t Like to Move.
There are people who really DO NOT like moving but how about walking in a mall? Window shopping counts as walking!
If it’s sweating you don’t like, you can get a good workout without perspiring excessively: you can work out indoors, where it’s air conditioned; you can swim so you won’t notice any perspiration; or, try a low-sweat activity like yoga.
If exercise hurts your joints, try starting by exercising in water (my favourite – hydrotherapy!) The stronger your muscles get, the more they can support your joints, and the less you’ll hurt.
If you don’t like to move because you feel too fat, start with an activity that’s less public, like using an exercise video at home. Walk with nonjudgmental friends in your neighbourhood while wearing clothes that provide enough coverage that you feel comfortable.
Excuse # 6: I Always End up Quitting.
Set small, attainable goals – then you’re more likely to feel like a success, not a failure! If you exercise for five minutes a day for a week, you’ll feel good (maybe not immediately, but soon enough. I promise!)
Don’t try to increase your exercise by too great an amount each time. My rehab physio reminded me that Olympians try to increase their best by 5 per cent – so why work harder than an Olympian? If you do 5 minutes one day, try 6 minutes (okay, it’s actually 5.25 minutes, but really?) the next. I started at 10 minutes of walking and am now up to an hour by doing it this way – I only increased my times 4 times a week; the other 3 days, I walked for the same period of time as I had the day before.
It also helps to keep a log (especially as fibro fog can have us forgetting where we are up to). A log may help you see if you’re starting to fall off the wagon (or the treadmill).
Having an exercise buddy keeps you accountable as well – when you back out of a scheduled workout, you’re letting down your buddy as well as yourself.
And look toward the future. It’s harder to start than it is to stick with it once you’ve got your momentum going!
Any more excuses, people?
Other exercises you might like to try:
Pain management is essential when you have a chronic pain condition. Unmanaged pain can rip your life apart in all areas. When most people think of pain management the first thing that pops in their head is pain medication or medication to control the pain. There are many other options than just medication and you can also use an integrative approach to manage your pain by using medication and non traditional treatments for pain management. Having realistic expectations with pain management is also very important. When you have chronic pain nothing is going to take away all the pain and if you keep reaching for that you are setting yourself up for a lot of frustration, discouragement, and disappointment. The only way to resolve pain completely is to address the underlying cause if at all possible.
We have been taught all our lives that when you hurt or get sick you go to the doctor and get a prescription. Medication has it’s place for pain and for sickness but why do we always reach for that first? Medication does not fix anything they just cover up symptoms and is just another toxin in the body that can cause more pain and illness. There are some people who would have NO quality of life without medications or would not be able to stay alive without medication and these are not the people I am addressing. We really need to think if medication is the right thing for us or just a quick fix. We tend to want the most amount of results with the least amount of effort in this world and sometimes that is not the healthiest approach. You need to ask yourself some serious questions when debating how you want to manage your pain and make a personal choice that is best for YOU and your overall health. You need to be your own advocate and be very clear to your medical providers your wants and needs when it comes to pain management. Doctors are taught to write prescriptions and do not come from a place of healing the underlying cause so it is something you will have to do for yourself and make your wishes clear if you want to try alternative options.
Alternative options for treating chronic pain
- Meditation Meditation cultivates an “awareness that develops when you’re paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, former executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester, Mass. The idea is if you can calm and focus your mind and your body you may be able to control your pain and the degree to which you feel it.”You cannot experience pain unless you focus on it,” says Gabriel Tan, PhD, a pain psychologist at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Houston. “Let’s say you’re focusing on your pain and then the next moment a person comes into the room with a gun and threatens to kill you; you won’t feel pain because you’ll be focusing on the man with the gun. Meditation helps you shift your focus in somewhat the same way,” explains Tan.
- TENS unit “TENS” is the acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A “TENS unit” is a pocket-size, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals. The electrical currents produced are mild, but can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain and may raise the level of endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain). For some chronic pain patients, a TENS unit provides pain relief that can last for several hours. For others, a TENS unit may help reduce the amount of pain medications needed. Some patients hook the unit onto a belt turning it on and off as needed.
- Chiropractors Chiropractors can treat chronic pain. They use a variety of non-surgical treatments, such as spinal manipulation, to address chronic pain symptoms, such as inflammation and muscle tension.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT says that individuals — not outside situations and events — create their own experiences, pain included. And by changing their negative thoughts and behaviors, people can change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills, even if the actual level of pain stays the same.
- Aquatic (water) therapy Aquatic (water) therapy is quickly becoming well-known for its amazing effects on decreasing chronic pain, speeding recovery, and improving function. Aquatic therapy, or pool therapy, consists of an exercise program that is performed in the water. It is a beneficial form of physical therapy that is useful for chronic pain. Aquatic therapy uses the physical properties of water to assist in patient healing and exercise performance.
- Restorative Yoga Restorative yoga turns on the healing relaxation response by combining gentle yoga poses with conscious breathing. Although these poses may look as though you are doing nothing, this is far from the truth. Restorative yoga rests the body but engages the mind. The breathing elements of each pose make restorative yoga an active process of focusing the mind on healing thoughts, sensations, and emotions.
- Dietary Changes and Proper Nutrition You are what you eat, at least that’s the old adage. It’s also one I believe in — what you put into your body has a big effect on how you feel. There are Foods that fight fat, detox foods, and foods that help you get stronger. There are even foods that help you sleep better and look fresher. Adding to the list of foods that fuel with a purpose are foods that help ease pain. Whether it’s a headache, post-workout soreness, chronic pain or an injury, there are foods that will help ease the pain away in a totally natural way.
- Reiki Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
- Massage Massage for chronic pain works by interrupting the cycle of chronic pain. When you have pain in a certain area of the body, the muscles tighten around that area to “protect” it, mobility is limited, and often, circulation is reduced. Additionally, pain that began with an injury or illness can cause emotional and psychological stress that exacerbates the pain and even remains after the physical condition has healed. Massage for chronic pain restores mobility by loosening tight muscles and trigger points and by lengthening muscles. Massage also improves circulation by increasing blood flow, as well as promotes relaxation and helps relieve emotional stress and anxiety that can contribute to chronic pain.
- Acupuncture A new study of acupuncture — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that it can ease migraines and arthritis and other forms of chronic pain.The findings provide strong scientific support for an age-old therapy used by an estimated three million Americans each year. Though acupuncture has been studied for decades, the body of medical research on it has been mixed and mired to some extent by small and poor-quality studies. Financed by the National Institutes of Health and carried out over about half a decade, the new research was a detailed analysis of earlier research that involved data on nearly 18,000 patients. The researchers, who published their results in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.
Medications Medicines can often help control chronic pain. Many different drugs, both prescription and non-prescription, are used to treat chronic pain. All these medicines can cause side effects and should be taken exactly as they are prescribed. In some cases, it may take several weeks before medicines work to reduce pain. To avoid dangerous drug interactions, tell your doctor all the medicines you are taking (including herbal and other complementary medicines).
Your Choice! Your Body! Your Life!
When it comes to pain management you have to make choices that are best for you because it is YOU that has to live with the consequences and results of that choice. Everyone feels pain different and copes with pain different. Just because Suzi Q is doing something that is helping her it does not mean it will help you. We are all very unique beings and your chronic pain management is going to be as unique as you. The one thing I do recommend to EVERYONE with chronic pain and illness is to eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Even if it does not resolve any of your pain you will be healthier and be able to cope better. You can never lose by eating healthy
A new study by York University researchers finds that practicing yoga reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain in women with FM (sorry but no particular reference to men – does that mean men don’t do yoga? Or that yoga doesn’t help men?)
The study is the first to look at the effects of yoga on cortisol levels in women with FM. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced and released by the adrenal gland and functions as a component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress.
Previous research has found that women with FM have lower-than-average cortisol levels, which contribute to pain, fatigue and stress sensitivity. According to the study, participants’ saliva revealed elevated levels of total cortisol following a program of 75 minutes of hatha yoga twice weekly over the course of eight weeks.
“Ideally, our cortisol levels peak about 30-40 minutes after we get up in the morning and decline throughout the day until we’re ready to go to sleep,” says the study’s lead author, Kathryn Curtis, a PhD student in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health. “The secretion of the hormone, cortisol, is dysregulated in women with fibromyalgia” she says. “Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. We believe this in turn has a positive effect on the HPA axis.”
Participants completed questionnaires to determine pain intensity pre- and post-study; they reported significant reductions in pain and associated symptoms, as well as psychological benefits. They felt less helpless, were more accepting of their condition, and were less likely to ‘catastrophise’ over current or future symptoms.
“We saw their levels of mindfulness increase – they were better able to detach from their psychological experience of pain,” Curtis says. Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist traditions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of inner and outer experiences. “Yoga promotes this concept – that we are not our bodies, our experiences, or our pain,” she says – this is extremely useful in the management of pain. ,” she says. “Moreover, our findings strongly suggest that psychological changes in turn affect our experience of physical pain.”
Due to all my rehab appointments (and then this wonderful holiday – Hee! Hee! I’m in Bali!) I haven’t been anywhere near a yoga class in quite a while. And unlike my friend, Thais, I am not yoga-knowledgeable enough to just do it all by myself. But, after all of this, maybe I had better get back into it ASAP!
Just one more sleep and I have to go home…not happy, Jan! I am seriously thinking about moving here – there has been a lot less pain and therefore a lot less pain killers; the warmth is wonderful; the lifestyle is relaxed, and it is really cheap to live here. I found a gorgeous 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom villa with pool and maid’s quarters (and fully furnished) for about half the price of my 2 bedroom (no pool) unit at home – and I’d need a big house because I am sure that my entire family would suddenly find the time to visit me (OFTEN!)
I figure (with Mommy’s encouragement) that I had better lease here first for a longer period to see if I could really handle being away from family and friends – so when I get home, I’ll be doing some heavy-duty research!
Our last days spent in paradise are being taken up with more massages, a manicure and pedicure for Mommy (I can’t handle them – they hurt!), my eyelash extensions (finally!) and some last-minute sun worship – oh, and a couple of cocktails!
P.S. I won’t miss the #%!!ing rooster!
- FibroModem Does Bali (fibromodem.wordpress.com)