My Top Five Natural Aids

MY TOP 5NATURAL AIDSPregnancy can be a trying time for the Fibro Mama, so it’s a good time to utilise the natural (non pharmaceutical) aids available to us, especially because there isn’t much else that’s safe.

So here’s what I’m loving at the moment:

1. My new foam mattress topper

I had been sleeping on a double folded winter duvet to appease my aching body. After a lot of deliberation, I bought a foam mattress topper – and I am glad I did! really takes the pressure off my hips, glutes and upper body.

2. Anti flamme cream
My neck, shoulders and low back have really being paying for having to sleep on my side (to keep baby’s weight from blocking out blood flow from the major vessel around there). This natural rub, featuring arnica has been useful in place of anti inflammatory rubs.

3. Magnesium oil
I have taken magnesium supplements for years but only recently decided to try it as an oil. I put it on my calves and low back for general dosing and to avoid leg cramps – so far so good!

4. Peppermint tea
This was a lifesaver when I was painfully bloated and my go-to when my tummy is upset (relatively often until I found that I’m not tolerating beans and legumes at the moment).

5. Heat pack
I love heat for pain relief. My heat pack is my multiple-times-a-day pain relief option. I get up and sit with it, use it in the day and take it to bed. My neck loves it and my low back loves it when it gets a turn.

BonusGentle Exercise
I can’t tolerate a full yoga programme due to the post-exertional malaise (feeling exceedingly wiped and sick afterward), however I can and do utilise various poses. Cat and Cow Pose, Child’s Pose and Superman are my favourites. I also stretch my neck, glutes and hamstrings regularly. My walks have been 20 gentle minutes down the road and back about four times a week (due to weather, energy levels and time). It all makes a difference.
Do you have any other natural aids that you love?
The Sleep ProblemWith Fibromyalgia

The Sleep Problem in Fibromyalgia

The Sleep ProblemWith FibromyalgiaI feel like the sleep disorder part of Fibromyalgia is really overlooked. It certainly has been in my experience with the New Zealand medical system.

Sleep is a basic human necessity. Yet we live in chronic sleep deprivation:
“Sleep studies show that Fibromyalgia subjects show abnormal “awake-type” brain waves all night long, with reduced and interrupted deep sleep and frequent “mini-awakenings” (Brandi 1994; Kooh 2003). This deep-sleep deprivation leads to pain, fatigue, and poor brain function (Lerma 2011; Moldofsky 2008; Harding 1998). Treatment focused on increasing deep sleep is the key to improving all these symptoms.” The Fibro Manual: A complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor (2016) Dr Ginevra Liptan p25.

In plain terms, people with Fibromyalgia don’t tend to reach stage four of the sleep cycle (the deep, restorative stage), therefore suffer from chronic, deep sleep deprivation which causes all sorts of issues with the body – pain, fatigue, fog, anxiety etc.

One author explains that, “sleep deprivation is very similar to speeding up the process of dying of old age.”
No wonder we feel like Fibromyalgia is progressive, our bodies are progressing toward death until we take the sleep problem seriously.

Recently, I saw a pain specialist at the hospital, the second appointment I’ve had in the ten years since diagnosis, and she dismissed my sleep problems saying medicine won’t help and I should try some more sleep hygiene.

I go to bed around the same time every day, don’t have caffeine after lunch, take my time to wind down, do a body scan meditation before going to sleep, partake in gentle exercise most days etc. I have also tried chamomile tea, SleepDrops, 5-HTP, melatonin, magnesium and I have been on amitriptyline for nearly ten years. I have done all of these things for a long time. I wouldn’t have been begging for help or looking into medicine if anything had worked.

I have always known that sleep makes a massive difference for me – if I can spend nine to ten hours in bed to achieve eight hours of broken sleep, I feel so much better. If I can’t spend long enough to achieve the eight hours, I am more miserable, more sore and waiting for bedtime all day. My recent reading and research has been confirming this for me.

In the website Fibromyalgia is located under “sleep disorders”.

Fatigued to Fantastic
Dr Jacob Teitelbaum and Dr Genevra Liptan are two prominent physicians who have Fibromyalgia and write about how to recover – sleep is the basis for recovery. They recommend both natural and pharmaceutical options, and they acknowledge how important sleep is to getting well.

I have come a long way. I have implemented an entire lifestyle change including reduced work hours, supplementation, gentle exercise, meditation and rest. But I can’t get any further without help with my sleep. A Fibro Mama can’t spend nine or 10 hours per night in bed to catch their eight hours. And I refused to believe I have to be miserable while my children are small. I want to enjoy them, to be there with them.

So when I’m finished being pregnant and nursing I’ll be stepping up my experiments in this area. I’ll look into the Revitalizing Sleep Formula and other natural sleep aids, and speak with my doctor about any pharmacological options.
Sleep hygiene is something you will probably hear about at some point. It is a set of tips that can make getting to sleep easier. There are a lot of options, so you have to create a sleep hygiene routine that works for you.

Here are some basic sleep hygiene tips that I follow:

  • Don’t have caffeine after lunch
  • Have a wind-down routine (that doesn’t involve technology!)
  • Go to bed and get up at approximately the same time each day
  • Adjust your bed to your needs (i.e. suitable mattress, mattress topper, the right pillow, weather-suitable blankets)
  • Eat a small protein-based snack before bed
  • Have a warm bath with Epsom salts
  • Apply magnesium oil
  • Rub antiflamme (arnica based cream) on trouble spots (i.e. lower back and neck)
  • Dab lavender oil on temples and wrists
  • Use your wheat pack (I heat it up right before bed and go to sleep with it behind my neck/shoulders)
  • Do a body scan meditation right before I go to sleep (and again if I wake in the night in a lot of pain)

Here are some sleep aids that I have tried or would like to try:

  • Revitalizing Sleep Formula
  • Other formulas with the herbal sleep remedies such as Valerian root
  • GABA – Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Amitriptyline or other prescribed antidepressant (I have taken Amitriptyline for nearly ten years now, I take a low dose and it helps me get to sleep and stay asleep, I don’t experience the side effects that some people do)
  • Chamomile tea (I can’t use this as anything other than water after a certain time of day makes me pee a lot in the night, but it’s definitely worth a try)
  • Pain relief (a part of my sleep woes are due to neck pain, prior to bed I take a dose of pain medicine to help get a jump start on the night)
  • Low dose, sub lingual cyclobenzaprine (this is a muscle relaxant that’s been reworked currently in trials overseas)
  • 5-HTP and melatonin (these are more natural aids that didn’t work for me, but could work for others)
Please note that there are stronger sleep aids, like Ambien, but the research shows that they don’t tend to help you achieve deeper levels of sleep and only marginally improve sleep time. Your doctor may suggest this with you if your sleep problems are severe, but they are not a long term answer.
Have you found anything particularly helpful? What’s your favourite sleep aid?

Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 18-20 The Gender Reveal

Pregnancy diaries weeks 18.20

The time to give up sleeping on my back came too soon! The night became a rather long struggle of tossing from side to side and waking up to dead arms. My back, shoulders, neck and glutes all yelled at me all night, no matter how I arranged the pillows. Even my meditation/daily rest became difficult due to positioning, until I got the hang of it (I pillow-loaded).

It didn’t help that Nu began really testing the boundaries and took extra energy to manage. Though, he was still very excited about baby, from 18 weeks he talked often about the next scan when he would see the baby dance.

At week 19 Nu got a really bad cold and was clingy and not sleeping well, which was really difficult. My pain issues from sleeping on my side and Nu waking me in the night and very early several times, made coping very hard.

Not having to sit at my computer for several hours four days a week really helped my neck and back. The work I did do seemed to flare it up a bit faster due to the lack of sleep.

It wasn’t all bad news, due to baby being tucked in the back it took a while for movements to become more frequent and obvious (which is the best part of pregnancy, until they wedge a foot in your ribs) but when they came it was reassuring.

One thing my second pregnancy has taught me, is that the times my body is craving coffee are actually the times I need rest. Having a two year old means I can’t always indulge in a full lie down meditation, however I can sit with my heat pack for a time. It makes such a difference. I can go from miserably exhausted, barely keeping my eyes open, to relatively normal after 30-45 of good meditation.

Plus a 10 minute lie down can make a difference – relax (I use a variety of pillows); Close your eyes and count (in 10, out 10, in 9, out 9 etc) until zero; slowly imagine each body part relaxing (right hand thumb, first finger, second finger etc); lie for as long as you can gently breathing.

I saw an obstetrician at week 19 to confirm that my midwife could keep managing my pregnancy with me. When discussing pain relief she said she’d need to refer me back to the pain clinic, when I expressed my feelings of disappointment with the most recent doctor I saw there, she said that I may get a different doctor. *Sigh* She also said that Fibromyalgia doesn’t affect pregnancy, or vice versa. This stunned me. Pregnancy reduces sleep and places stress on the immune system and body, and Fibromyalgia is worsened through reduced sleep and stress on the immune system and body. The entire body is connected. You can’t have something happen in one area (eg. The uterus) and not affect other areas (eg. The back, neck, shoulders, hips, glutes, sleep system and immune system). So I felt like it was just me and my research in a 20 week endurance event. But I’m used to that!

We made sure that my husband and Nu could attend the 20 week anatomy scan – again the baby was very busy so it took some time to capture all the pictures. We waited with baited breath to be told it was a healthy baby boy! Nu took a few hours to warm to the

idea that it was a boy. I talked myself into it over the next day. Husband was happy.

I thought I would share this journey, as I did with the first, to provide a sense of what it’s like for a mama with Fibromyalgia to do pregnancy. Find weeks 4-6, 7-10, 11-14 and 15-17 here and look out for the rest soon!

In Defense for Doing What Works For You

In Defense of What Works For YouI go to bed relatively early. I do this because I’m exhausted by 7pm and the last couple of hours of the day are a drag, because I sleep poorly (I lose at least an hour of sleep in the night and don’t stay asleep for longer than one or two hour blocks), Nu wakes about 6.30am and because I’m growing a baby.

Regardless of these excellent reasons, I shouldn’t need to explain myself.

I think many of us have encountered people who have an opinion about how we should do things, it’s especially frustrating when they do not understand our illness (or pretend it doesn’t exist).

But how about we let people choose what they need to do and leave them to it.

How about we acknowledge that, as much as culture and traditions and expectations, personal preference counts. I may not have strong cultural traditions, but I do have a way I do things. I have a valid opinion. And what I chose for myself and my son are the final decisions.

A lot of my lifestyle choices are influenced by how I cope with Fibromyalgia. My day to day choices dictate whether I’m miserably sore and fatigued, or whether I have a nice day – usually somewhere in between.

Sleep is very important. Rest is vital. Exercise, nutrition, supplements, heat, medicine and physio also form part of my coping mechanisms. And the only person that suffers when I am forced to overdo it, or let these coping mechanisms slide, is myself. And nobody should have to feel like they’re just treading water.
Fibromyalgia is an illness of self-management. We need the space to manage it.
And noone has a right to comment on this. Unfortunately we will find pressure to do more, to sleep and rest less, but we need to try to make it white noise. We need to keep our eyes fixed on what helps and walk forward with hope.

Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries Weeks 15-17

fibro mama pregnancy diariesI thought I would share this journey, as I did with the first, to provide a sense of what it’s like for a mama with Fibromyalgia to do pregnancy. Find weeks 4-6, 7-10 and 11-14 here and look out for the rest soon!

Unfortunately side sleeping has become a necessity (thanks back) and my neck has not been very happy with me. Despite multiple pillow changes, tossing and turning all night and medicine at bedtime, I’m waking with a rather stiff and sore neck.

The first moderate neck headache occurred late in week 14 and was managed with repeated heatpack, panadol soluable and a relatively quiet day (I have a two year old boy, quiet is not a word to be applied to our days!).

The physiotherapist, who does neck tractions and places acupuncture needles in tight neck and upper back muscles, really helps me. Unfortunately this is not covered at all and private fees are not cheap, so I have to survive on one visit per fortnight. I highly recommend trying this for Fibromyalgia or pregnancy (just ensure they are trained in treating pregnant women as there are points to avoid and there is a slight risk, but they have to disclose this before they treat you).

I had some spotting as we headed into week 15 which gave me a little fright. It’s quite normal in the second and third trimester and is generally alright if it’s light, brown and not accompanied by pain. It would have been so great if I could feel baby move so I could double check!

Nu remained excited about baby, and often told me that he saw the baby on the TV and it was dancing (baby was busy in the scan and it took a while to get the measurements) – confirming it is a direct relation to Nu! He liked to say hi to baby -pat, kiss and do the sign of the cross (a Catholic blessing).

Somehow, while still in bed and having only been awake for a few minutes, I managed to pull a muscle in my neck while stretching out he stiffness from sleeping on my side. OUCH! I was in such agony. On the first morning I couldn’t move without severe spasms radiating down to the shoulder. Luckily, injuries heal, and by day three I could move a little better and had less pain. It took a week to get full movement back and I was rather nervous of moving from side to side in bed after that!

Despite the neck issues, I fully enjoyed the benefits of the second trimester. I relished food and our walks, I enjoyed all my projects and I managed to make a small dent in the tick list of items baby needs. I am determined to organise baby’s room and belongings before the third trimester hits so that I can focus on resting, exercising and generally trying to be well.

I was heartened to find a few blog posts by other expecting fibro/CFS/ME mamas (or mamas when they were expecting) that showed the 20-25 week area to be relatively cope-able too.

The absence of stress and too many work hours has really helped me to cope physically. Although the burden on my husband is not light. I’m hoping that by not getting so run down in pregnancy and having my husband home for six weeks after, that I’ll be able to enjoy (and remember my baby’s early days).

For now I’m enjoying my bump and feeling my baby move.