January 23, 2005

Fibromyalgia Support Group

January 2005

A new fibromyalgia support group is forming at Florida Hospital Heartland in Sebring. This group is for those with fibromyalgia and/or their caregivers. This support group is also suggested as the next step after attending the Fibromyalgia Self-Care class, offered by the Arthritis Foundation, through Florida Hospital Heartland Division. For support group dates, call 386-6468. Leave a name and number, and staff will return the call.

Posted by Nancy at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2005

Three fibromyalgia sufferers learn to cope through aquatics

January 2005 [Coles County Leader] by Amy Kaiser

Those who see Julia Boyd kickboxing or doing Pilates at the Mattoon YMCA wouldn't dream the 31-year-old has been confined to her bed for days at a time. Nor would they believe she suffers from a disease that often sweeps victims off their feet, sometimes for good.

Many people have heard of fibromyalgia, but unless they suffer from it or know of someone who does, it's hard to understand the physical and emotional toll it takes on its victims. Fibromyalgia is one of the more than 100 rheumatic disorders related to arthritis.

It's a musculoskeletal disease that strikes some six percent of the U.S. population and although men and children do contract it, the chronic pain illness seems to be partial to women.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread muscle pain and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness and chronic fatigue. And according to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), the pain is profound, widespread and chronic and often migrates to all parts of the body, varying in intensity. Other symptoms, according to the NFA, are irritable bowel, severe jaw pain, dry eyes and mouth, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and insomnia.

Boyd was diagnosed with the disease at age 28, after experiencing crippling muscle pain. Shortly after giving birth to her second child, her doctor told her she was not only suffering from postpartum depression, but that she had Fibromyalgia, as well.

Though Boyd was surprised by the diagnosis, looking back she realizes she first began experiencing muscle pain and fatigue about age 17, after a horrific knee injury. She was eventually diagnosed with arthritis and joint problems.

And though Boyd still experiences many of these symptoms, the fitness instructor at the Mattoon Area YMCA has learned to manage them - for reasons not entirely her own.

"A year after my diagnosis, my son was diagnosed with autism. Frankly, I didn't have time to be sick so I learned to manage my disease so I could help my son," she explained.

But as those who know her would probably attest, Boyd isn't the type of person who would let a disease control her. And though there is no cure, her energy and optimism about life in general helps her deal with it.

"I knew if I let it, this disease would get me down," she explained. "But I wanted to control it, not let it control me. At first I took medications. But what has really worked is learning how to avoid stressful situations - good or bad - and exercise, particularly aquaerobics."

The NFA advises gentle exercise and stretching for Fibromyalgia patients to help maintain muscle tone and reduce pain. Boyd said doctors recommended water exercise for her - common advice for this disease.

Boyd was first introduced to aquaerobics in 1992 when she began taking the classess at the YMCA to help soothe her arthritis and joint problems. She began to teach the class in 1993 and has been instructing ever since. Certain months cause her disease to affect her more, especially seasonal changes. During those difficult months, she spends more time exercising in the water.

"Exercise is one thing I have to do for my body," she explained. "Meticulous nurturing is getting me through this. People tell me that there is no way I'm in pain by the way I move and act. I tell them that I am often in pain, but I'm controlling it with exercise."

Ironically, the YMCA is no stranger to Fibromyalgia. Two other fitness instructors there have also been diagnosed with the disease.

At age 66, Shirley Nolan has had the disease for 16 years.

"I was diagnosed at age 50 and just hurt all over," she explained. "When I was diagnosed, I was actually relieved. I finally knew what I was dealing with." Her doctor told her the best way to "deal" with her disease and make herself feel better was to go to the Y and take aquatic classes or just get into the pool.

"I was leery of the water. I couldn't swim so I gave the excuse that I lived too far away to drive to the YMCA," the Ashmore resident said. "The pain got so bad, I forced myself to go." And it made all the difference in the world, she added.

When she first attended the Hinges and Twinges class, she said she was terrified of the water and stayed at the edge of the pool. Today, the mother and grandmother teaches the class specifically designed for arthritis sufferers.

And then there's Nancy West. She was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis with Fibromyalgic tendencies when she was just 11. The disease progressed so quickly that she was not physically able to attend high school. She was schooled via an intercom system between her school and home, established by the local phone company.

Today the 42-year-old mom is an active aquaerobics instructor. She said her reaction when diagnosed was, "I can beat it." She manages her disease through medication and water exercise.

All three women swear by water exercise and offer the same advice to people suffering from muscle and joint pain - Get into the water.

"I was skeptical that water exercise was the answer," West explained. "Now I'm sold on it and encourage others to get in the water. No matter how much effort it will take, it will be worth it."

Nolan agreed. "It's the best thing I ever did for myself."

Posted by Nancy at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Fibromyalgia: New Insights Into a Misunderstood Ailment

January 2005 [Health Day News]

Fibromyalgia was once dismissed by many traditional medical practitioners as a phantom illness.

But that view is changing rapidly. Not only is fibromyalgia accepted as a diagnosable illness, it is also a syndrome that researchers are finding more complicated as new information emerges.

As recently as a year ago, many physicians still associated some of fibromyalgia's symptoms with emotional problems, but that's no longer the case.

A simple description of fibromyalgia is that it is a chronic syndrome characterized by widespread muscle pain and fatigue.

For still unknown reasons, people with fibromyalgia have increased sensitivity to pain that occurs in areas called their "tender points." Common ones are the front of the knees, the elbows, the hip joints, the neck and spine. People may also experience sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and other symptoms.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia affects 3 million to 6 million Americans, 80 percent to 90 percent of whom are women. The condition is most often diagnosed during middle age, but at least one of its symptoms appears earlier in life.

But is there a psychological tie-in strong enough to differentiate fibromyalgia from other similar diseases and conditions? Apparently not.

"Fibromyalgia patients are such a diverse group of patients, they cannot all be the same," said Dr. Thorsten Giesecke, a University of Michigan research fellow.

Giesecke and his colleagues evaluated 97 fibromyalgia patients, including 85 women and 12 men. The patients underwent a two-day series of tests, answering questions about their coping strategies and personality traits -- particularly their emotional well-being. They were also tested for sensitivity to pressure and pain.

"It's generally been thought that fibromyalgia patients who have higher distress have higher pain sensitivities," Giesecke said.

In other words, it was believed that those with fibromyalgia who were prone to emotional difficulties such as depression and anxiety were more likely to experience greater physical pain.

As recently as a year ago, many physicians still associated some of fibromyalgia's symptoms with emotional problems, but that's no longer the case.

A simple description of fibromyalgia is that it is a chronic syndrome characterized by widespread muscle pain and fatigue.

For still unknown reasons, people with fibromyalgia have increased sensitivity to pain that occurs in areas called their "tender points." Common ones are the front of the knees, the elbows, the hip joints, the neck and spine. People may also experience sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and other symptoms.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia affects 3 million to 6 million Americans, 80 percent to 90 percent of whom are women. The condition is most often diagnosed during middle age, but at least one of its symptoms appears earlier in life.

But is there a psychological tie-in strong enough to differentiate fibromyalgia from other similar diseases and conditions? Apparently not.

"Fibromyalgia patients are such a diverse group of patients, they cannot all be the same," said Dr. Thorsten Giesecke, a University of Michigan research fellow.

Giesecke and his colleagues evaluated 97 fibromyalgia patients, including 85 women and 12 men. The patients underwent a two-day series of tests, answering questions about their coping strategies and personality traits -- particularly their emotional well-being. They were also tested for sensitivity to pressure and pain.

"It's generally been thought that fibromyalgia patients who have higher distress have higher pain sensitivities," Giesecke said.

In other words, it was believed that those with fibromyalgia who were prone to emotional difficulties such as depression and anxiety were more likely to experience greater physical pain.

Posted by Nancy at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

A Hands-On Approach to Improved Health

January 2005 [Mayo Clinic]

Newswise — What therapy can help decrease pain, anxiety, stress and depression? It can help patients with arthritis, lymphedema, fibromyalgia, scleroderma, pregnancy and psychological disorders. And it even can help relieve agitation that may occur with Alzheimer’s disease and the rigidity associated with Parkinson’s disease.

The therapy isn’t a new discovery. It’s massage -- one of the oldest forms of therapy. Today, there’s growing interest in the benefits of massage used in conjunction with other conventional medical treatments. Massage uses positioning, hands-on pressure and movement to promote relaxation and to loosen and increase motion in muscles.

The January issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter lists potential benefits of massage:

* Improved circulation, which can be helpful in wound healing after surgery, in improving blood pressure and in relieving fluid buildup in arms and legs.

* The release of stress-reducing hormones -- such as endorphins -- that can increase energy and reduce the risk of illnesses caused by chronic stress.

* Reduced pain, which can promote muscle relaxation and healing of muscles.

* Improved range of motion, increased flexibility and reduced risk of injury.

If massage sounds intriguing, ask your doctor if massage is safe for you. It isn’t always advisable if you have skin with open sores, active cancer or conditions such as severe varicose veins or phlebitis.

Seek out an experienced professional. Training and certification vary widely, and licensing isn’t required in every state.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today’s health and medical news. To subscribe, please call toll free 800-333-9037, extension 9PR1

Posted by Nancy at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

Can massage cure?

January 16, 2005 [Skagit Valley Herald]
By Hilary E. MacGregor Los Angeles Times

You lie on the crisp white sheet of the massage table in semidarkness. The scent of almond oil fills the air. Then come the hands, gently kneading the necklace of knots that rings your back, your neck, your shoulders. You close your eyes, breathe deeply and let yourself relax. Beyond the pleasures of the moment, though, are there medical benefits to massage?

Hospitals and medical clinics around the United States are beginning to integrate massage into patient care. Massage is currently the most common nontraditional therapy offered in U.S. hospitals, according to an American Hospital Association survey in 2003. The most common uses for massage in hospitals: helping patients cope with pain and stress, and as a therapeutic service for cancer and maternity patients.

At Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va., cancer patients are offered therapeutic massage by one of eight trained therapists. Longmont United Hospital in Colorado has a massage therapist on staff around the clock for patients who need or request it. At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, 11 massage therapists are on a staff team working with hundreds of patients admitted to the hospital or seen at its various clinics.

And at the University of California-Los Angeles Center for East-West Medicine, a team of four therapists use massage to alleviate pain and symptoms for patients suffering from illnesses such as fibromyalgia, migraines and back pain.

The National Institutes of Health is funding several studies to examine the medical benefits of massage. Previous studies by various organizations have found that massage can help reduce chronic pain, diminish anxiety and depression, and enhance immune function.

A new survey by the American Massage Therapy Association, a professional organization, shows that nearly half of Americans have used massage therapy as a way to manage and relieve pain. The survey also found that healthcare providers are more likely than before to discuss the possible benefits of massage and to recommend it to their patients. And some health insurers have begun paying for the therapy, according to the survey.

Still, many doctors remain skeptical of the research suggesting a medical benefit to massage, saying more rigorous studies are needed.
But doctors, nurses and patients who have seen massage in action say that even if the benefits can't be demonstrated by large clinical studies, the anecdotal evidence is powerful.

‘‘Clearly there are medical benefits to massage,'' said Dr. Gregory P. Fontana, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who conducted a pilot study of heart patients to measure the effectiveness of nontraditional therapies, such as massage, in helping speed recover after surgery.

Ninety-five percent of the 50 massage patients reported that massage was a ‘‘very important'' part of their recovery, Fontana said. Dr. Ka-Kit Hui, director of UCLA's East-West Center in Santa Monica, Calif., goes further: ‘‘Massage is a very important therapeutic approach which is underutilized and underappreciated. A lot of people think massage is good for aches and pains. But what we have found is that massage activates the body's own healing system.''

The use of massage as a healing art dates back to about 4000 B.C., when the therapy was used in China and India. In this country, massage was commonly used by nurses up until the 1960s and 1970s to help ease patients' pain and help them sleep.

But the advent of powerful prescription pain medications in recent decades has diminished the use of massage in medical settings — until fairly recently.

Patients at UCLA'S East-West Center see a team made up of a Western-trained doctor, an acupuncturist and a massage therapist. Often referred by their physicians, many of the patients come to the center because traditional Western remedies, such as prescription drugs, have not proven effective for their ailments.

About half of the center's patients receive some massage therapy as part of their treatment program, which may also include traditional medicine.

On a recent morning, Anna McGuirk, 45, sat on the edge of a massage table in a hospital gown. About five years ago she began to experience migraines so severe that doctors gave her morphine and Demerol to ease the pain. Confined to bed three to four days a week, she was in danger of losing her nursing job.

‘‘The medical profession kind of pooh-poohs migraines,'' she says. ‘‘And I was losing half my life.''

Her primary care doctor sent her to a neurologist, who put her on pain relievers and antidepressants. Nothing worked.

Finally the neurologist referred her to the East-West Center, where she was treated by Dr. Jun Liang Yu, a Chinese-born doctor trained in Western medicine in Asia, who practices acupuncture and massage therapy at the center.

‘‘That was the first time anyone had touched my neck or shoulders'' in a medical setting, McGuirk said of her massage treatments with Yu. The UCLA therapists told her that her neck and shoulders were ‘‘as hard as wood.''

‘‘They told me I was getting no blood circulation to the brain. If there is no blood circulation there is no oxygen, and if there is no oxygen, of course you are going to get headaches.''

As McGuirk lay on the table, Yu began to work her neck, back and shoulders. He did not press down hard on sore areas or acupressure points. Instead, it looked almost as if he were rolling her muscles.

‘‘We don't beat up muscles. We manipulate the muscles,'' Yu explained. ‘‘We are rolling the muscles back in place.''

McGuirk has taken prescription medication, such as muscle relaxants, and made lifestyle changes, and now says her migraines occur only about once every three weeks.

But she is convinced that massage had been a key factor in her improvement.

Over time massage advocates hope that research that supports the safety, benefit and, perhaps, even the cost-effectiveness of medical massage will help persuade more hospitals to give it a try.

Posted by Nancy at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)