Let me first say I’m not a doctor. Anything stated here is solely based on my observations as a massage therapist and are in no way medically solid. I simply feel the need to write this as I find many similarities in my fibro clients that, to my knowledge, have not been brought up in medical studies. My observations are just something I thought we might all consider about this particular disease.
Now, I’d like to throw out a giant defense to all my chronic pain clients, especially fibromyalgia clients. “Just because you can’t see or understand these people’s condition does NOT mean it’s all in their head!” I’ve seen way to many clients come in truly upset because no one wants to accept their pain is real. I must admit my “mama bear” instincts kick in when I hear this as I find it extremely upsetting when someone dismisses what another person is feeling and will defend you dear people to my bitter end.
So I’ve noticed many, not all, of my clients have several of these traits in common:
1) They are givers who tend to put themselves at the end of their caretaking list…which makes them high-stress people. Not in an anxious kind of way, but more in a “weight of the world” kind of way. And the more stress the more pain.
2) Many are carrying a few more pounds than their frame should carry. Every body structure is different and I’m in no way judging here. I do believe that there’s a HUGE difference between “skinny” and “healthy”, and a healthy weight for your body type is always more beneficial than being skinny for society’s sake. However, these clients seem to be more sensitive to extra pounds.
3) They have very poor sleep patterns. Part of this is the nature of the condition as pain keeps them awake, and part of this is from stress as well. Their minds don’t stop just because it’s bed time.
4) This one threw me for a loop at first – When the touch is expected, like in a massage session, they’re typically ok. When it’s unexpected…that’s when it can be quite painful. A bump from a passing person, a hug that’s tighter than expected, a shirt that’s too tight; the things they don’t know and accept are coming seem to be more of a problem.
Because of these particular traits, I’ve wondered if stress and adrenaline have a part to play in this condition. We all know long term stress is bad for the body. The reason is that stress produces adrenaline, which is meant to be a short term chemical for self preservation. It is not meant to be in the body long term. It makes you hyper sensitive to outside stimuli…including touch. It makes you unable to relax and sleep. AND it slows down digestion (an unnecessary place to waste energy when your life is supposedly in danger) which over a longer period of time could lead to weight gain and digestive problems. My fibro clients have these problems! Could they at least partially be a symptom of adrenal overload?
I spoke to my acupuncturist about this little theory of mine. Her response was “Huh, that could actually make sense.” So what do I recommend? Relax more. Saying “no” to people is ok if you know you’re going to pay for it later. Learn breathing or meditation techniques to calm your body and mind. Take up Yoga. Get more relaxing massages. Try acupuncture. It’s ok to care for you. I’ve seen clients decide to make a commitment to care for themselves first have fewer flare-ups and are much happier overall. Try it….see if it helps. It’s just a theory on my part, but I’ve shared this theory with a few clients and it seems to help.
Jennifer Parker, Body Harmony Massage
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