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This was just too humorous for me not to post. I came across a great scientific study while reading one of Flourish with Fibro‘s blog entries.

According to a study published in the journal Neuroreport:

Swearing increased pain tolerance, increased heart rate and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing…. The observed pain-lessening (hypoalgesic) effect may occur because swearing induces a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception.

What I want to know is whether that means swearing counts as aerobic exercise, too. (After all, you’re raising your heart rate, right?) I need something new to do in my current, unable-to-walk-properly state.

Bronnie Thompson has written a wonderful blog post about Balance, control & passion. It echoes a lot of what I’ve been pondering (to myself and friends) lately about the meaning of work and values when one has a chronic medical condition/disability.

“Yesterday a couple of colleagues were talking about balance in life, and making it plain that they think people who spend a lot of time and energy on their work are sad.  Their opinion? Work is the means to pay for your ‘real’ life, to spend more on working means less on what is really important to them…

One way of looking at the distress and disability associated with chronic pain might be to think of it as a result of conflict between what can be done (resources) and both values (what is important) and goals (how I want to express my values). An ongoing problem with life itself is the limited resource we have to do what we want!  The whole of life is really about this balancing act.  And I suspect that one of the major sources of distress for people with chronic pain is that they carry on using the same strategies to express values but with limited resources to achieve it.

I’m not the only one to think of it this way – several authors have talked about the concept of ‘psychological flexibility’ (McCracken & Vowles, 2007).  Psychological flexibility involves several processes such as acceptance, mindfulness, values, and cognitive defusion.  This is a bit of jargon from ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) and basically means being able to allow oneself to experience all that life brings, while at the same time choosing to act according to what is important and valuable to you – and being prepared to alter the way in which this is achieved, depending on the situation.

So one way of looking at people with disability from their chronic pain is that they are stuck.  Stuck using old and unhelpful ways to achieve what is important to them.” [emphasis mine]

What wonderful insight. In my introduction, I talk a lot about my pre-bipolar-and-fibromyalgia self and preconceptions about what it means to be successful.

A lot of people talk about finding a balance, often finding a balance between mind, body, and spirit. How does having fewer resources to do so affect this balance? What happens when you don’t have as much energy, or you’re dealing with chronic pain? Bronnie discusses some different treatment modalities, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy).

“One problem I have with CBT is that when my own resources are low (I’m really tired, maybe I’m a bit depressed) the energy it takes to process and evaluate my automatic thoughts can be really hard to find.  It takes a lot less energy to simply allow the thoughts to be there but not act on them and remain focused on achieving things that are important to me.”

I actually hadn’t heard of ACT before, so that’s something for me to look into. I have to echo thoughts on the energy it takes to use CBT. If you’re already in the midst of some emotional or physical pain/fatigue/distress, it’s very hard to kick-start yourself into using those CBT coping skills. When I’ve dealt with some negative thought patterns due to mental illness, I found that it was very important to use my coping skills as soon as I noticed a problem. If I waited until it was a bigger problem, it snowballed out of control. Physical pain can sometimes come on very suddenly. You don’t always get some head notice that you’re going to have a flare-up. That’s why I prefer mindfulness meditation to CBT when I’m having a fibro flare.

“What we are trying to achieve in pain management is living according to what is important (valued) and being flexible enough to find ways to achieve this despite pain…

What this means is that there are times when I choose to act according to what is important to me, despite my own thoughts (which might be automatic, and wanting affirmation from people that I’m OK and not ’sad’), and despite my own energy levels.  To be able to choose whether I persist with some things and drop others, knowing that I’m living out my important values gives me that freedom that we call ‘being in control of my own life’.”

Well said.

A friend of mine passed on an interesting article from the New York Times about migraines. (I’m posting it as a “special weekend edition,” as I don’t know how long the article will be freely accessible online. With the newspaper industry the way it is, I think the NY Times charges for older articles.)

“Some early data suggests that if you let headache pain go without treatment it can lower your threshold for pain down the line,” Dr. Saper said. In other words, untreated headaches can make you more vulnerable to pain.

On the other hand, if you are taking over-the-counter or prescription painkillers two to three days a week for months on end, the medications you are taking to dull pain could worsen your condition. You may then start to experience medication-overuse headaches — a risk for migraine sufferers.

I think this is one of the really tricky things about medications. Not only do you have to find the right medication that works for your body, you also have to figure out the right dosage. How much medication is too much? Am I able to lower my dosage safely, or will I have renewed symptoms?

There is also a lot of controversy – particularly in alternative medicine settings – about taking prescription medications at all. I know many people are uncomfortable with taking medications, often particularly with taking painkillers. I can understand this, and yet many people also don’t have a choice about whether or not to take their medications. For example, someone with HIV/AIDS should not go off their anti-retrovirals.

It’s particularly interesting to see this article’s mention of the positive/negative effects of medication on chronic pain. Pain is such a nebulous thing anyway. Different people have different pain thresholds, and chronic pain takes the issue to a whole new level.

How do we treat pain in our society? I think it’s certainly telling that we have medications called “painkillers.” Yet untreated pain, as mentioned in the article, can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Certainly, having pain all the time – particularly with no effective coping strategies or pain management – is really, really terrible.

Researchers are learning that pain and the medications used to treat pain can potentially change the biology of the brain.

Receiving good treatment can help you function more effectively, and will probably also save you money over the long term. And if you have health insurance, it should cover most of the relevant medical evaluations and treatments.

The question of universal health care aside, I think the key thing this article mentions is “good treatment.” The article continues by talking about effective strategies for talking to your health care provider about migraines/chronic headaches, as well as some supplements migraine sufferers may find helpful if they’re going the “alternative” route.

I’m glad that researchers are studying the effects of medication, unmanaged/untreated pain, and treatment strategies on migraines. I’m interested to see what further studies reveal. I feel like the study and article raise a lot more questions than they answer.

My Etsy Store

A fibro-friendly item from my Etsy store

I've been working on making fibro-friendly jewelry. I'd love it if you checked them out by clicking the image above, or going to www.etsy.com/people/RogueCrafter

About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

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