5-HTP || The Fibro Miracle?

**DANGER, Will Robinson! DANGER! This post may contain affiliate links!**

Being in pain can make some of us desperate to find relief. We may use things that are not good for our bodies and well-being because at the time, anything seems better than hurting. Well, I am hurting (big surprise) and so I am looking for relief, but I want to find relief in products and actions that are good for me. During my hunt for such a product, I came across 5-HTP. You may have heard of it. It’s been deemed the fibro miracle drug by many researchers. I couldn’t help, but wonder if those researchers also had chronic pain issues…. After doing some reading, I was intrigued to learn more and try it out for myself.

I don’t have a lot to spend on products that don’t work, so I definitely tried to learn as much as I could before spending my hard earned money. Being sick is expensive! I’ve left work limping and hunched over too many times to throw cash away!

So, what is 5-HTP? It stands for 5-hydroxytryptophan. Big word, right?! 5-HTP is interesting because it is a precursor to serotonin. This is important because low levels of serotonin is a suspected trigger for the development of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes. Are your ears perked up as much as mine were?

Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that helps us sleep better; it effects how we process pain; and it helps control our appetites. Wait, there’s more! It’s also used to improve our mood by reducing feelings of depression and anxiety. Almost sounds too good to be true! 5-HTP interacts with endorphins and other elements in our bodies that are involved in the sensation of pain in a positive way. What happens is 5-HTP is converted from an essential amino acid called L-tryptophan that we get from our diets. From there, the 5-HTP is changed into serotonin. It crosses over the brain barrier and boom! It starts doing its magic. For more information about serotonin, click here.

Needless to say, I was fairly convinced by this point. After reading several reviews, I went ahead and ordered a bottle of 100mg 5-HTP by a brand called Nested Naturals on Amazon. I’m a prime member so I can’t resist the free two day shipping, otherwise I probably would have ordered it directly from the company. They are roughly the same price, plus a portion of purchases on their supplements goes to their non-profit charity “Vitamin Angels“, who provide nutrition for needy children. Help my body while simultaneously helping kids. Nice.

There have been alleged studies on those with fibromyalgia taking 100mg of 5-HTP 3 times a day for at least 30 days. It was shown that sufferers not only had a decrease in tender points, but also in the intensity of pain. There was a noticeable difference in morning stiffness; their quality of sleep and sleeping patterns; and their level of fatigue, depression and anxiety. After reading this, I was ready to inhale an entire bottle, although through further search I wasn’t able to locate any concrete studies.

**Forewarned, 5-HTP should not be taken if you are on anti-depressants; too much serotonin is dangerous! Please read more here: Serotonin Syndrome

I have been taking 5-HTP (along with my prescriptions) for about 3 weeks now. I take 100mg twice a day, but have just started taking it three times a day on Monday. The first night I took it with melatonin before bed because I was out of my regular medicine. I did not have a good reaction. I was extremely jittery and awake most of the night. From some reviews I’ve read, some people do take it at bedtime and sleep great, so don’t let my experience scare you off. My morning stiffness is still there and I do still get tired, moody, and hungry. However, I can’t deny that my actual level of overall pain has decreased and I don’t toss and turn throughout the night from pain and insomnia as often. When I do get up, my feet and ankles still hurt, but they don’t always feel like they’re going to snap off from underneath me.

I can’t confirm whether this is a miracle supplement, however, I will admit I have felt a little better. So, I plan on keeping this supplement in my pill book. I may upgrade to the 200mg after this bottle is gone. I have experienced minimal to no side effects taking the Nested Naturals brand of 5-HTP along with my regular medications (aside from the one night with melatonin). If you are interesting in trying this supplement, please consult with your physician or pharmacist. Better safe than sorry!

Resources for this post were found at: University Health News; Health Rising; Be Brain Fit; WebMD; and my past massage studies

Breakthrough With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome??

 

“Queensland scientists have linked Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), to a dysfunctional immune system — proving for the first time that the condition does stem from the body rather than the mind.

Researchers from Griffith University’s National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) told the Huffington Post Australia the breakthrough came through findings that showed abnormalities in immune cell receptors.

NCNED Co-Director, Professor Don Staines, said: “We have discovered and reported for the first time abnormalities of a certain receptor in immune cells of the body and hence it’s likely to be in every cell in the body.”  @HuffingtonPost, Luke Cooper

To read more about this story, click here!

MCTs? What are Those?

**”DANGER, WIll Robinson! DANGER!” There are affiliate links in this post!**

If you’ve heard of, tried, or currently enjoy Bullet Proof Coffee then you may already be familiar with MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), also called MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids). This is relatively new to me. I remember when putting butter and coconut oil in coffee became the latest health trend. I wondered why people wanted to drink greasy coffee… I’m not very hip. Despite my skeptism, I did a little research; apparently there’s some real science behind buttery, oily drinks and what’s inside it may be beneficial to those of us with fibromyalgia and other illnesses.

MCTs, also known as MCFAs, are a group of 4 medium chain fatty acids, or triglycerides, that are processed in the liver instead of during normal digestion. Bile is not needed to break them down, so they pass directly into the blood stream after they’ve entered your intestines. This is great, because that means these fats require no energy to be absorbed, stored, or used by our bodies. What does that mean for us? Quick energy that lasts; couldn’t we all use some of that? When combined with caffeine, they act as super stimulants, increasing focus and motivation without the crash before lunch.

MCTs are processed from coconut and palm oils, however, consuming MCT oil is not quite the same as just eating a spoonful of coconut oil (another trend I did not understand). While coconut oil does consist of all 4 of the MCTs, its most abundant with the longest of the 4.

For clarity, the four medium chain types are:

  • Caprioc acid (C6)
  • Caprylic acid (C8)
  • Capric acid (C10)
  • Lauric acid (C12)

The numbers indicate the length of the chain. The shorter the chain, the more efficient it is at being converted into ketones, however, C8 and C10 are noted to be the most efficient of the four at increasing ketones. Now, these ketones, formed by the liver ,are not the same as the Dr. Oz Raspberry ketone craze. I’ll get more into depth about the role of ketones in another post. For now, just know that ketones feed mitochondria, which are known as the powerhouse of our cells. Because it feeds the mitochondria, it helps improve cognitive thinking and increase energy.  C12, or lauric acid, is abundant in coconut oil (it makes up about 40%), but is less effective at curbing our appetites or promoting brain health. Regardless, coconut oil is still a decent source of the shorter MCTs along with other health benefits.

So, moving on. MCTs do appear to have some benefit for everyone, including those with illnesses. They aide in food absorption for those on medications for gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, celiac disease, liver disease, etc. It’s also suspected to help with Alzheimer’s and some seizure disorders in kids, like epilepsy. To add, they may help reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and autoimmune disorders. From a medical standpoint, does this stuff not sound awesome?

As far as which is better, concentrated MCT oil or coconut oil, it all depends on what you’re looking for. Both can also be found in powder form which can be used in drinks and baking. No greasy coffee!

If your goal is to suppress appetite in order to reach weight loss goals, then MCT is probably your better bet. Its made mostly of the two most important fatty chains for that. Plus, they’re known for having a thermogenic effect which is said to speed up metabolism. MCTs are also a popular for helping to achieve nutritional ketosis; essentially, you can reap the benefits of a ketonic diet without cutting out all carbs. Yay, pasta! Its also more readily available and used faster for energy since it goes directly into the bloodstream.

If you’re hoping to get the additional known benefits of coconut oil to include the antiviral, antibacterial, and antiinflammatory effects, then coconut oil is right up your alley, and a bit cheaper!

Either are known to clean your guts of bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Each have great benefits and are useful.

For all the many annoying symptoms of fibromyalgia, I definitely see a need to add this to my diet. Not only could it possibly help with my weight loss, but it could also help with brain fog, raising energy levels, and digestive health. Pooping is just so hard… literally! This stuff may not be for everyone, so definitely consult with your doctor or pharmacist prior to use.

After going back and forth, I finally settled with the coconut oil powder by Quest purchased on Amazon. I’m spoiled with the free two day shipping!! Although weight loss is my ultimate goal, I desire the overall health benefits coconut oil provides, plus I have a family that I want to keep healthy as well. The price may have also swayed my decision. The coconut powder was cheaper and I got more for my money than I would have with their MCT powder.

So, the coconut oil power, aside from price, was the better choice for me. I may try MCT powder in the future to test the difference. I only just received my order Monday, so I’m trying to work it into my diet and lifestyle. It mixes pretty well into my tea without altering the taste, not that I’d mind. I like coconut! I‘ll update with my experience in my blog section under Life of Fi and more research here in the Health and Wellness area.

If you have Fibromyalgia or any other chronic illnesses and use MCT or Coconut oil, what are your feelings? Has it worked for you? Did you experience any negative effects? I want to know!! Please comment and share your story!

Resources for this post can be found at: Wellness Mama; Mercola; Web MD

Learning to be Selfish

Recently, I decided to be selfish and put my own needs and desires first. It sparked a lot of anxiety, but it also tested my willingness to progress and succeed at creating my own happiness, despite how it effects others.

Even before I received my diagnosis, I never wanted to be a bother to anyone. I never wanted anyone to go out of their way for me. I did everything I could to hide my pain and exhaustion. Any slip up meant I was complaining too much or  just being lazy. Not wanting to go anywhere or do anything left friends wondering why I was avoiding them. I soon became a joke, because I was always so tired and in pain. The joke, however, made it easier to avoid being seen as a hassle…

In my post, Choosing to Live the Life of Fi, I talk about choosing to be happy and doing what I need to in order to achieve it. My main focus is weight loss. I’m not looking to get skinny or drop a bunch of weight. I just want to feel and look healthy in my eyes. I dont want anyone to feel bad about themselves if they are larger. Its about my own views and feelings toward my own body. My goal is to develop a fibro-friendly diet and lifestyle that works for me. Which i encourage everyone to do.

Between flare ups, inactivity due to fatigue and pain, lowered metabolism and loss of muscle mass, plus medications, I lost myself and my esteem. I realize i will never be the person I used to be and I can never truly control what my body decides to do, but I can find ways to minimize symptoms in order to reach my goals and start to be feel good about this new person I’ve become. Its about learning my body and its needs and finding new ways to be happy. No one else can do that for me; I have to do it for myself. So do you.

Choosing to live the life of Fi is making conscious decisions to better your situation and finding or creating happiness be it losing weight, setting aside more days to rest or do more self care, changing your career, telling someone no, getting more massages, etc. So, what are you doing to live the life of Fi? What selfish choices do you make for your well being?

I did the dishes…

This morning, I did 10 squats. Then, I went to work. When i came home, I did the dishes. After that, I put dinner in the slow cooker. Not everyone can understand just how big of a deal this is. Now, I suffer for it. I am so tired, but my son just got off the bus and I have to take him to his ju jitsu class. All I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep. I have felt so off today. I didn’t get much sleep last night, but I still had to get up to get my son ready for school. All day, its been hard to concentrate and my head just feels full. It feels like the flu, except I know its not…

I got myself dressed this morning as quickly as I could, walking in and out of rooms forgetting what I was doing and what I was looking for. I noticed the time, so I grabbed my table to carry out to the car. I swear that thing gets heavier every time I pick it up. I struggled to get it in  but after several attempts I got it into the trunk. I’m already over this day.

I went back into the house, double and triple checking that I had everything I needed. I rushed out to the car, get in and put on my seat belt. I reached out to start the car. I forgot keys. I looked out the widow to the door and then to the time. I just want to be early for once. Climbing out of this tiny tuna can hatchback is such a hassle. I have to pull on whatever I can reach in order to stand up. I huff and grunt to get out of that thing. Someone might assume I was older than I am. Got the keys.

At my clients house, I did my best to hide the fact that I’m struggling to concentrate on the story his wife is telling me. They are such a wonderful couple. He truly depends on me to feel better, so I continued to smile and work. I wasn’t in that much pain, I was just so incredibly tired.

When I got back in the car, I sat there for a moment, but not too long because I didn’t want them to wonder why I was just sitting in their driveway. I really needed to go to the grocery store and run an errand, but I just couldn’t. Not today.

When I finally got home, I left everything in the car and slowly made my way into the kitchen. I was really hungry, but the kitchen was so messy. I’d been trying to clean it for 3 days. I decided I’d just try do the dishes first and then sit down for a bit. I noticed my shoulders were burning a bit more than they were, but its ok, I told myself. All I had to do was wash the dishes and then I’d get a break. Shoot. I forgot I had chicken in the fridge that had to be used. Its ok, I told myself again. I’d just put some stuff in the crockpot really quick and then I’d sit down. My shoulders hurt so much…

Finally, I got a moment to rest. “Why is my lower back on fire?” The dogs started barking obnoxiously. At this point, I felt a headache coming on. I really needed to sleep. I could barely keep my eyes open. Just as my eyes started to shut, I remembered my son would be getting off the bus soon. Since I had no time for a nap, I chose to write and a edit a few blog posts while I waited.

Apparently, I’d forgotten how to spell. Thank you autocorrect. I didn’t get very far before the school bus arrived.  “Why is he asking so many questions? Oh, right. He’s 6. Try not to get irritated… Try not to get irritated.” These were my thoughts as I did my best to give my kid attention. I remember feeling so ignored as a child. The pain in my back and shoulders has gotten do much worse, but I still can’t stop.

I looked at the time. I had to him ready to take him to ju jitsu. I forgot I’d left the table in the back. “Great. I still have to empty the car and hook up the car seat.” Its time to leave when he starts crying about bringing toys… He finally stopped whining long enough to get in the car. As we drove past the road to my team’s building, my son said to me, “I guess you’re not going skating anymore.” It hurt so much to hear that, but he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know  what’s wrong with me. I barely know what’s wrong with me.

Well, I survived the drive, but my head feels like its filled with cotton.. All I had to do smile through this class so the other parents wouldn’t ask questions or think I was being rude. I felt like I could collapse. I am so exhausted and my feet were freezing. I knew it was going to hurt to walk later… I sat in the car while my son played with the other kids before his class. I wished I could stay there the whole time, but I had to go inside.

I thought I would get a break for the four to just sit on the bench, but my kid had other plans. He’d had a bad day at school and it trickled over into his martial arts class. I ended up carrying him out kicking and screaming while they continued with the class. The ironic part is I put him in ju jitsu to help him eotj controlling himself.

The drive home was horrendous as he screamed and kicked in the backseat. I could not get home fast enough. I’m laying in bed now using the last of my energy reserves to type the rest of this post on my phone. This day could be considered bad for anyone, but having a bad day with a chronic illness feels so much worse. I wish I could put words to how I feel. My back, shoulders, and hips are on fire, yet my feet and the rest of me are cold. The side I’m laying on feels like my hip is ripping apart from the pressure of the mattress, but I almost feel too tired to roll to the other side. Not that that would matter, because then my other side would hurt.

I don’t think I’ll be able to accomplish anything else, but at least I did the dishes…

To deep, or not to deep…

If you’ve ever inquired about a massage, you were probably asked what type of massage you’d like. What was your answer? If it was anything like “I don’t know” or “I just want a lot of pressure”, were you disappointed afterwards? What were your expectations?

Two of the most basic massage modalities offered by day spas, studios, or what have you are either Swedish or Deep Tissue massage. If you go to a medical style facility, gym, or a physicians office, options may be slightly different. I usually recommend a Swedish for my newbies so they can get a feel for what its like to receive bodywork and discover some areas of pain they never noticed or forgot about. I have had quite a few go-getters, however, that want to jump right into the deep tissue work. If you’re one of those and things didn’t go quite as you expected, there are several techniques that will render similar results of a deep tissue massage without getting an elbow jammed into your shoulder blades. If you were hoping for that kind of experience, you may be looking in the wrong places.

In this post, I just want to briefly discuss the two standard menu items: Swedish Massage and Deep Tissue work.

Swedish Massage

Whenever I have a client that doesn’t really know what they want or can’t identify dysfunction in their body, I usually recommend a full body Swedish massage. This is also true for those that do not want to hurt. No pain, no gain doesn’t always apply. There is a whole history behind what Swedish is and how it began, but I can explain more in depth in a later post. Knowing where it originated probably isn’t an important decision factor.

Typically, at least in my practice, Swedish massage is meant to be relaxing. Imagine the youthful, smiling woman wrapped in a white towel on many spa and luxury lotion ads. The goal of this type of massage is to accomplish that look. Actually, the goal of it is relaxation and to increase circulation. You can expect long, smooth strokes over the body. The pressure is completely up to you, with consideration of your therapists abilities. Don’t assume the biggest guy will give the most pressure or that the smallest woman can’t be therapeutic! There may be kneading of the muscles to gently break up muscle fibers and allow them (and you) to relax. Most places will have soft music playing in the background and often use aromatic oils to enhance your experience. Of course, that is optional if its not your thing. Personally, I find piano music distracting.

During the session, you may find tender areas you never noticed before. Many therapists will use Swedish style massage as a precursor for specific bodywork needs later. It allows us an opportunity to evaluate several muscles, make you aware of areas needing more work, and for us to start thinking of ways to correct things. Usually after the massage, I’ll explain what I found. The reason I explain my findings is because I want my clients to know I was paying attention and may be able to help alleviate some issues.

Deep Tissue

Deep Tissue massage is not as scary as it sounds. Basically, your therapist will work on specific muscles and areas at a deeper level in a therapeutic manner in order to relieve pain, adhesions (those knots), and tightness. This form of bodywork does not have to be painful, but it can feel intense. Know the difference and speak up. If you’re in pain, don’t muscle thru it. You may end causing more issues! There are  different ways to approach a deep tissue massage that make it less uncomfortable. So don’t let one bad experience deter you from receiving needed bodywork.

I just want to throw this out there: you can receive deep tissue work almost anywhere on the body. Sometimes, I feel the majority of the population forgets our bodies are more than just a neck and shoulders! I actually began learning and specializing on the lower body specifically for that reason. Everyone asks for it and every therapist knows how to give a neck and back massage. Craigslist girl knows how to give a back massage, but there is a definite need for work on the parts of the body that hold us up everyday. Have you thanked your legs and feet today?

And theeeeeennn…..

When I said therapeutic earlier, I just mean with a distinct purpose; with a specific goal discussed prior to the actual massage. Swedish massage can probably be considered therapeutic as well, but is generally geared towards relaxation and surface work. In the same way, deep tissue can be relaxing for some; it all just depends on what you like.

Whichever type of massage you receive, circulation is increased. At the same time, endorphins are being released and spread throughout the body. As your blood pressure drops, you may suddenly you find yourself asleep wondering where your hour went.

There’s one more thing I’d like to address.  I have had so many clients ask for a full body deep tissue massage. Physically, that’s a bad idea for both you and the therapist. Its also not realistic in 60 minutes or less.

A heavy handed full-body Swedish massage and a deep tissue massage are not the same (see Image above). So, to clarify and try to give my client what they’re asking for, I either offer to take care of the issues requested and attempt to finish with a general Swedish massage -or- I will offer to do a full body Swedish and work on things as I come to them. Both options will give me, or your therapist, an opportunity to accomplish some deep tissue work while still working the entire body. If I come across really stubborn areas, I’ll let my client know I may not have time to get to everything. They’re usually ok with that or will start to direct me to other areas they’d like work on so they can get multiple areas done or still receive their full body experience. I never promise to get everything worked out, not in one session. However, I do try to alleviate what I can in whatever time frame chosen.

I encourage you to drink plenty of water before and after a massage to aide in the circulation and minimize discomfort afterwards. Your muscles will appreciate the hydration and so will you! Feeling dizzy or even “drunk” after a massage are normal. Fluids and feel good hormones have just been pushed and moved around in your blood stream and your blood pressure may have dropped. Just take your time getting off the table.

I hope my quick intro and explanations have been somewhat helpful. In later posts, I’ll go into more detail about the benefits and different styles of massage work. Please, talk to your therapist with any questions or concerns. As usual, you are also welcome to comment or send me a direct message.

**All statements are based upon my personal practice. I do not speak for massage therapists as a whole.

Choosing to Live the Life of Fi

Today is feeling like a not-so-good day. So, I’ll take a moment to write a new blog entry while I rest in bed. **Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.

After coming to the realization that I literally only have a couple of  pairs of black leggings recently ordered from Groupon that semi-fit, and that I now weigh as much as I did 8 months pregnant, I became inspired to do something! I accept I have a chronic illness; I cannot accept that I am doomed to forever feel unhealthy.

I first decided to stop taking my Amitriptyline every night  and only take it “as needed” since it was my number 1 suspect for the latter weight gain. That didn’t last long… I skipped one night and was repeatedly woken up with the familiar pulling, jerking, and spasming of my body, along with the crawling skin feeling throughout the night. The next night my insomnia overpowered the medicine so A little weight gain suddenly felt more feasible.

After that experience, I took to the internet. Surely there’s something I can do! I first thought about trying a direct sales company. My thought was, I could try a product and if it worked, I would offer it to others in a similar position. One company I’m actually already a promoter for is Le-val for their Thrive products. I was originally turned on to them from another roller derby player from a different team. I don’t have any complaints about the company or products. I stopped using the system because I was at the peak of a really bad flare up but didn’t have an official diagnosis, so I had no idea what was wrong with me. I may actually try their system at a later time. They have a great variety of items and are an overall health and performance system. I just want to learn my body better first. Because of fibro, i have to do things differently than normal people. If you’re interested in the Thrive system, but don’t know any promoters, click here to learn more and order, or feel free to message me with any questions.

The second product I found that I am not associated with is actually what got me to research deeper about what I could do to manage my fibro symptoms and achieve weight loss goals. The company name is Prüvit and their product is called Keto/OS. I’m sure everyone has heard of the ketosis diet. Quickly, it is essentially cutting net carbs in order for your body to go into a state of ketosis where the liver converts certain fats into ketones. Not to be confused with ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition in diabetics  I’ll get more in depth later.

As I really started to research and ask questions, I realized there was something I could do. I needed to create and follow a fibro-friendly lifestyle and diet. One of my issues was the inability to let go of the idea that just because I can’t do what I used to that things are hopeless. No, I can’t just go run a couple of miles or lift weights right now, and completely eliminating carbs and cutting calories to zero are not options either, but there are things I can change.

So, for my chronic pain and fatigue, I have found several key ingredients that I’m missing from my life in order to be healthy and counter the side effects of my medicines. If you’re like me and are ready to live and thrive in the life of fi, subscribe to receive updates and keep checking my website as I go step by step with changes and reactions! If you have some suggestions or success stories of how you came to live and thrive in the life of fi, share your experience! Comment, or leave me a message so that I can read and possibly share with others! The life of fi is rough, but it doesn’t have to be miserable!

First time? Two common concerns for a new massage client

In a previous post I talked briefly about my first thoughts on massage therapy: cue in Olga, Helga, and Sven. Often times I hear from a new client, “I don’t want it to hurt”. Usually this stems from a bad experience or watching too many TV comedies. Massage is not meant to be painful, at least it doesn’t have to be. Now, I can’t promise there wont be some discomfort or intensity in sensation; your muscles are being worked out for the first time, after all. Much is dependent on the type of massage, how aggressive the treatment, and how much body work is needed. If the massage is so painful, however, that you aren’t able to relax without a sedative or feel yourself trying to jump off the table, you’re probably not receiving much benefit.

Tip: Be open with your communication. Never be afraid to talk to your therapist before, during, and after the massage. Let him or her know what feels good, what doesn’t, and any preexisting conditions and/or medications that may interfere with your experience.

Something else I’ve noticed with some new clients is the fear of being naked in front of me. Let’s debunk that fear right away! New or old, I let them know they’re welcome to undress down to their comfort level AFTER I leave the room and that they’ll be covered throughout the entirety of the massage. I stress after because I’ve had so many that’ll start stripping down while I’m still standing in front of them. This doesn’t actually bother me; I’ve helped so many people dress, undress, and shower over the years the human body is just that, but this isn’t a nursing home or Europe; nakedness is in private. Some clients choose to leave garments on; this doesn’t bother me either. It’s their massage and I like clients feel comfortable. Every therapist is different, but we all (should) follow similar codes of ethics, which includes keeping our clients in a safe environment.

Whether you’ve had a massage or not, you may be wondering how bodywork is performed with blankets and clothing. While there are massages that don’t require undressing, most of the work I do does. As far as blankets go, I simply uncover the area I’m working on, then cover it back up when I’m ready to move on to a different body part. This is for the back and front of the body. No exposure of private areas, I promise! Garments are a little more tricky. I use the same draping protocol with the blankets, but I only massage the areas of the skin I can reach. I’ll then do some simple compressions over the clothing (this just means I’m offering pressure for the muscles). Usually, after a few minutes into the massage, my client has gotten pretty comfortable and offers to remove the article that’s blocking their full massage experience. Plus, the fumbling thru shorts and bra straps usually becomes more bothersome than just laying naked under blankets, in a dim lit room. Yes, it is acceptable to be fully nude. I mean, you’re covered up.

These are just two concerns I’ve encountered when meeting a new client that has either never had a massage, or hasn’t received one in the last decade. If these were fears of yours, have I helped you become more open to the idea of receiving bodywork from a professional? Do you still have some anxiety about getting your first massage? Do you have an experience you’d like to share? I’d love some insight from a client’s point of view, or some input from other therapists!

**This post was an extremely generalized summary of my own practices; I do not speak for any other therapists, massage or otherwise.

Spandex, my saviour…

Vanity be thy name. I’m going to blame my shallow need to look good on my placement in the stars. A Leo I am, therefore, I must be the pride of the pack, the beauty of the ball, even if all I can manage are sweatpants and a hoodie.

Before now, I wasn’t really familiar with taking prescription medications over a long period of time. Its taken me months just to remember to take them all daily, hence why birth control never worked out for me. Memory loss is another awesome symptom some of us experience. What I do know is they have side effects. Thank you TV and radio. I knew from day one I didn’t want narcotics and I wanted take the minimal amount of pills I could get away with. Three years of working in a psychiatric facility instilled a sort of phobia in me about being put on medications. I’ve seen some crazy things, no pun intended. Being a massage therapist does also draw me away from pharmaceuticals and into more natural remedies. Don’t think I won’t take ibuprofen when I need it though! I’m only a part-time hippie.

My main focus of this post is a side effect of some medications many people go through that has seriously affected my self esteem: weight gain. While I’m happy I have a supportive partner that doesn’t seem to care about my weight, my ever growing waistline is becoming problematic. I admit, I don’t feel very credible with my clients when I don’t look as though I take care of myself. Leggings have preserved for me some kind of dignity, but I now find myself with a closet full of clothes meant to fit a person I no longer know.

At my latest doctor’s appointment I mentioned my concern, at which he responded dryly that I needed to “get moving” and handed me a standard weight loss packet printed from the internet. I already know these things, thanks Google. If moving more was a realistic option right now, I would do just that. Unfortunately, its not that simple. He’s not a bad doctor, but I do wish I had someone more experienced. I walked out of the office feeling unsatisfied and disregarded. I’ve concluded that my options are to either stop taking my medicine and use mental strength to get through each hour so I can lose the extra pounds or continue taking the medicine and deal with my lowering self esteem wrapped in comfortable stretch pants. Side note: while the medicines do prolong good days, they don’t completely eradicate my symptoms and I do still have flare ups. My only true reason to stop taking them would be for the sake of vanity. Its a tight race as far as I’m concerned.

Before I made the decision to stop drinking and received my diagnosis, I did my best to stay active. I worked out, I played a recreational team sport, I enjoyed going out with friends; however, all could only be accomplished with a strong, liquid numbing agent and handfuls of drug store pain relievers. Terrible for my stomach and liver… Eventually, the pain and fatigue (and possible ulcer) became so debilitating, I could barely dress myself, let alone get out of bed. I dropped over 30lbs in a short period of time and was in and out of the ER and doctors’ offices. My friends thought I was being poisoned by the person I was dating at the time. Now, I’m on the opposite end. I’d managed to get back to my normal weight, but was soon after given my diagnosis along with experimental drugs. Thus began my weight gaining adventure. In my latter efforts to find relief, I’ve put on 50lbs in less than a year and the numbers are still rising. It almost doesn’t seem fair. I take the doctor prescribed medicines that help me stay somewhat functional, but I now feel so uncomfortable in my own skin that I don’t want to be seen.

To answer the question that may be on your mind: yes, I do still try to work out. When I’m not feeling as if I was scraped from the bottom of a trash can, I attempt to walk on warm days and do at least 10-30min of pilates. In my opinion, pilates is similar to yoga. It’s low impact with great focus on core and supportive strength. It’s one of my favorite forms of exercise next to roller skating. I’d even contemplated becoming an instructor. I often feel defeated though. One day I may be able to do 30 minutes, but the next I’ll be lucky to get through 5. I’ve tried pushing myself harder and longer, but it backfires and leaves me laid out for days. This is why it’s not as simple as just moving more or doing more. In the past, that was the obvious solution, but I’m now finding myself having to redefine my approach to a health and fitness routine.

One of my goals is to not only lose weight, but to find an effective way to stay healthy without burning myself out. Sadly, I was not blessed with a fast metabolism so strict dieting is just not enough, or desired. I would still love to one day pursue the distant dream of becoming a pilates instructor and opening my own pilates and massage studio. My other goal is get back on the roller derby track as my alter ego Dirty Dan. I bet you didn’t know I’m a hippie and a badass! For now, I would just be happy to walk to my living room without needing a nap… And to not split anymore pairs of pants.

Scooting

The running joke is I’m a 90 year old woman in a 20-something year old body. Two of my infamous quotes are “I’m too young to be this old” and “I’m too old to be this young”, pending how I feel that day. The other morning I was reminded of how this disease affects me everyday.

My girlfriend was laying in bed with her eyes closed when I came into the bedroom to grab something. She looked up and laughed, “I was wondering which dog was making that noise, but its just you scooting across the carpet.” I tend to drag my feet when I walk, as she so kindly pointed out. I feel like an old lady without her walker most of the time. I stay cold so I’m constantly curled up trying to preserve heat, which certainly doesn’t help my hunchback situation. I lose my balance often, saved usually by a counter top to grab on to or by her arms. I have taken a couple of unexpected falls at home. Thank goodness I’m not 90! “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” I laughed along with her, but I was also bothered because I was actually feeling pretty good that day. In fact, it was the best I’d felt in weeks. Regardless, my body was still stiff and showing off my poor posture.

If I was my client, I would explain to myself how my movements, or lack there of, affect my body, then give myself self care tips to correct my stance and gate at home… But its difficult to be my own therapist and I sometimes neglect to correct the correctable dysfunction. Once the body is conditioned to move a certain way, it takes manual effort to fix it. I’m an honest hypocrite. I know what I need to do most of the time, but sometimes I just don’t.

I mentioned in a previous post that fibromyalgia is more than just being sore. Having a chronic illness becomes a lifestyle, one that I’m still adjusting to. Every aspect of life is affected by it and everyday is different. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but I do believe most people with any sort of illness can relate.

One of the issues I run into frequently is body stiffness. Usually being still for over 20 minutes makes my body and joints feel incredibly stiff, but its not always accompanied by great amounts of pain. Then I enter into the vicious cycle of being too rigid to move, but needing to move in order to counter the stiffness… Think of Grandpa trying to get up from his favorite recliner after a long sports game. Ok, now imagine Grandpa is a 20-something year old woman. Yea, I look pretty pitiful sometimes.

Because of the stiffness and my permanently cold state, it takes me a little while to get moving fluidly like a normal person my age. I grunt to stand up, I often grab at my lower back, i crack, i pop, and I scoot along while waiting for my hips to activate and for my feet and ankles to stop feeling like they’re going to break with each step. It usually takes quite a few steps to really get myself loosened up. I make jokes that I want a walker with wheels and a basket under the seat. A wheelchair would be nice for the really bad days! I try to stay light and laugh at myself, but some days I genuinely cannot walk very far or move without feeling fatigued or like my body has been trampled over.

Its been a rough time, but I’m learning to enjoy my good days, however few and far between. I’m also trying to take note to not push myself as hard as I used to. Its certainly a process, but this is my life now, so I have to make the best of what cards I’ve been dealt.