The Impact of a Kid’s Chronic Illness on Marriage and Family

The Impact of a Chronic Illness on Your Marriage and Family

Years ago, after friends and acquaintances in my little community learned about my son’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis, just about everyone’s knee-jerk comment was, “you need to talk to” one particular woman—who, in this article, we’ll call “Cathy,” due to the lack of anonymity in said “little community.” Cathy’s child had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes more than a decade earlier, when he was an infant. Her son’s diagnosis was a terrifying ordeal of a sickness repeatedly misdiagnosed; when he was finally airlifted to an urban hospital that specialized in pediatric endocrinology—and saved his life—his blood sugar was in the 1,000s.

It took me a while to contact Cathy. My husband and I first had to find our bearings and figure out how to take care of our little boy on our own terms. We had another toddler, stressful jobs and were far from family who could step in to offer relief or support. When I finally reached out, Cathy and I hit it off immediately—people dealing with a chronic disease like type 1 diabetes seem to belong to their own tribe, what I call an “I Get It” club. Cathy and I understood each other’s worlds. She educated me on dealing with schools, on traveling with diabetes, on expecting my kid to eat us out of house and home after lows. Cathy could carb count with the speed and finesse of a gymnast; she made managing her full, bustling household look easy; she let her kid with diabetes play outside—alone. She sent him to diabetes camp. And it was her son who helped show my little guy that he could do his own finger sticks, that an insulin pump would mean all sorts of freedom. We gathered for play dates and family meals and sometimes the two of us escaped for cocktails.

So about a year ago, when Cathy confided that she was leaving her husband, I was floored. She’d had enough, she said.

Now, I want to preface what follows by saying that type 1 diabetes did not ruin Cathy’s marriage. In Cathy’s case, the relationship ended because of what she describes as “systemic dysfunction.” She says, “I was a full-time mom and [my husband] figured his 40-hour work week job was his job. I just did everything. We didn’t talk about it. That’s where the resentment built up.”

Sure, diabetes was demanding, sometimes overwhelming. Cathy took on all of her son’s nighttime checks, medical appointments, pump set changes and ordering of medical supplies, but “it wasn’t just diabetes,” she says. She was responsible for managing the household as well as everything involving her other kids’ needs.

“[My husband] was complacent and comfortable. I would have had to be in the hospital for him to step up to the plate and even then he wouldn’t have known what to do. He was never a solution-maker, never contributed in the conversation about how we could manage everything and make it doable for both of us.”

She says, “I wouldn’t wish a chronic illness on any family.” The stress that comes with it while dealing with everything else “can bring out characteristics in a partner that were already there, but more magnified.”

Cathy and I have discussed this at length. She says that if there’s a thread of her experience that can help people, if hers can serve as a cautionary tale, she’ll feel she’s contributed something. And so, to honor her wishes and to support all of us who are juggling life and then some, the following is advice from Dr. Rebecca Ruid, a psychologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center who has worked with hundreds of families dealing with type 1 diabetes.

When First Diagnosed

Learning that your child has type 1 diabetes is a life-changing event. I encourage families to accept this and allow for a period of grief, which includes anger, sadness … you name it. I encourage parents to observe their emotional responses during this time without judging them or trying to change them. Validating our own emotional experiences, as well as those of others, is important in this initial stage. Everyone won’t respond in the same way, or at the same time. There is no right response.

How to Cope

I encourage families coping and adjusting to a new diagnosis to seek support from the multi-disciplinary staff in their clinic, which most often includes a social worker, psychologist and nutritionist in addition to the familiar nurse educators and medical team. We have been through this with many families and can offer a neutral party perspective. I also encourage families to seek the support of other families who have a child with type I diabetes. Connecting in person with other parents/caregivers who can understand and empathize can be helpful. And accessing online forums can also provide support from others who can best understand your experience.

A Specific Support List

I encourage parents to develop a concrete list of how friends, family and others can help you. Those who care about your family and child want to help but don’t know how. This leads to limited support that is offered, or support that is more of a burden or stress than it is helpful, despite the well-meaning intentions. The list may include asking those you often dine with to calculate carbs in the initial weeks to months of the new diagnosis. Or requesting that the school nurse contact you via email each day with BG readings for your log.

Your Role in Caring for Your Child

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to determining roles within a family when it comes to general tasks and responsibilities, such as grocery shopping, paying bills and mowing the lawn. It’s no different for diabetes. The key is clear and healthy communication about roles and determining who is responsible for what and when—and communicating exceptions to this. If one parent feels overly burdened by a responsibility, this should be discussed and changes should be made. More often than not, problems within a marriage (poor/ineffective communication, unhappiness with roles, challenges with problem solving) were present before diabetes arrived in the family. Diabetes can bring these to the forefront, or shine a spotlight on them, but diabetes is certainly not to blame for the dissolution of a marriage. It can be detrimental to blame diabetes for marital problems—it can lead to resentment and anger about diabetes, it can lead to guilt on the part of the child with diabetes. It can inhibit learning from challenges and moving forward with more healthy relationships because it places the blame on something external to the two individuals involved.

Self-care

I encourage caregivers to have date nights. Most of us had relationships with our partner before children and we will hopefully have one after our kid(s) successfully launch. To do this, we need to maintain that relationship during the more active child-rearing years as well. Whether it’s a weekly or monthly date, schedule time for you, as a couple, to connect. When you and your partner are connected, communication—both about diabetes and unrelated matters—is better. And feeling connected to your partner feels good!

I encourage caregivers to have their own hobbies, interests and activities. This may involve fitness, a book club, spa trip, grabbing a drink with friends. Though these interests can include the other caregiver—and even the child(ren), at times—this should be “me time.” Yes, these activities take time away from family time, but they are important for maintaining mental wellbeing. Not only does this self-care provide time to recharge, but it models healthy balance for our children. Parents are individuals too, with our own interests, coping tools and needs. It’s okay to identify and access them. We are only able to parent well when we are well.

Finding the Difference Between Accepting My Chronic Pain and Giving Up

I have a chronic pain condition. It is incurable, but can be managed, they say. It comes and it goes. Sometimes it seems to come and stay. When it goes, I spend quite a bit of time being afraid of when it will show back up. So I manage, because it is the only choice I have. And I assure you that I have run through the choices. Doctor after doctor, pill after pill, acupuncture, therapy, oils, diet and in my greatest of desperation, even brain surgery, but the pain persists. I have gotten great at hiding it except on the days I can’t.

I have a sweet friend who is also a nurse. She used to text me daily asking how my pain was that day. I always answered, often with a number. One day, I looked at the phone and was tired of talking about pain. I texted her back and told her that she was so kind, but to start asking me how my life was instead of how I felt. Those two questions seem almost the same.

How do you feel?

How are you?

But they are so different. I think that I got so used to answering the first question that I forgot how to live the second.

Everything I read tells me how important acceptance is to an illness. That at some point I need to use all the energy I keep putting into fighting this pain into living. Books, therapists and friends who have been here parrot the same thing. They tell me to just figure out who I am here. That this version of me will be different, but no less full, if I just let it. They ask me if I even know who I am here.

So I start to tell them. I tell them the girl here juggles doctor’s appointments, pills and manages her pain. I think about the things I have lost and can no longer do and the silver lining in me even tries to say a few things I have learned in the process. But this is just a list. This is a comparison of who I was before and who I am forced to be after. They remind me again to figure out who I am here. I keep answering the same way.

One day in the car I turned the radio down and I said ever so quietly over the loud of the traffic, I might never get better.”

In the moment, I wasn’t sad or angry. I was not even sure that I believed it. I think it was something that I just needed to hear in my own voice. Nothing magic happened. I didn’t feel any better or different or worse. However, I felt like this quiet part of me just breathed some kind of sigh of relief, like it had been let out of a dark closet and given some space next to me. I sat there in the quiet for a few seconds, wondering what should happen next. I said it again, this time more fearfully, worried that maybe saying it a second time makes it more real. My voice, I have learned, doesn’t make things any more or less true. They just are. Or they aren’t.

That moment was months ago. It was not some magic turning point. Actually, that day I just turned the radio back up and sang along. I put that tiny piece of acceptance right back in the dark closet I had let it out of. Like my pain these days, it comes and goes. Recently I have let it stay a little bit longer each time.

I have been struggling to figure out the difference between acceptance and giving up. I am willing to find the first, but not do the other. Just like the similar questions my friend asks me, they are not the same thing. One whispers truth in the car, the other keeps asking for help. They are both good voices to have. They both help give me answers to that question that keeps coming up — who am I here? I have been so worried that being here means I can’t go anywhere else. Eventually, I remember that on a map, here is always where you begin.

15 Things No One Tells You About Chronic Pain As A 20-Something & Back Pain

This was originally published on The Mighty, a site that finds the strength, joy and beauty in disability and disease.

1. Sometimes you feel like a lab rat/medical experiment gone awry.

“House M.D.” doesn’t even begin to cover all the weird treatments and experiments you’ve undergone to aid your health. Your “medical team” becomes the people you know and hear from most.

2. The idea of going out and maintaining a normal 20-something social life is laughable.

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Think you’re going out for a few drinks tonight? Oh wait, you can’t because of your specific diet, medications you’re on, etc. Friends may be disappointed. You may be bored (really bored). Netflix will be your bestie, don’t worry.

3. Some people are really open and kind about your chronic pain. Some are just the worst.

Explaining your chronic illness truly becomes an art. You read their body language and take their past experience and personality into consideration before divulging your illness. Then, usually, it’s a game of 21 questions.

4. There are good days and bad days.

Good days and bad days depend on a lot of the perpetuating factors you may have. Some days, I’m good enough to take a day trip to go shopping and other days, showering is a legitimate goal if you can make it out of bed.

2015-07-11-1436583024-7189767-katnissyoucandothis.gif GIF source:Cosmopolitan

5. You become your own doctor/pharmacist/advocate.

Doctors can make mistakes sometimes. I double-check all of the interactions of my drugs when I’m prescribed new drugs to make sure I’m not going to accidentally kill myself. Do your research. Many of the things that work for me now consisted of a series of trial-and-error combinations of medicine and therapies.

6. With chronic pain comes new and different priorities and limitations.

The way I best describe any given day is that my life is like an iPhone battery, and I’m on energy-saving mode. Everything from cooking, to getting dressed, to going out to eat, to working take a little (or a lot) of battery. Some things I used to love to do are just not worth it anymore.

7. Chronic pain is a full-time job.

2015-07-11-1436583096-6806908-rabbitfallsasleep.gif GIF source:Hilarious GIFs

I’m not kidding. If I could show you my calendar, between all my specialists, I have on average about four doctor’s appointments weekly. Half of them are usually out of town — meaning they’re out of state. I also, on a monthly basis, get acupuncture, chiropractic work, Reiki, massage, trigger point injections and see a personal trainer (who specializes in chronic pain) twice a week to weight train. If something pops up out of nowhere and everything needs to be rescheduled, I’m on the phone for sometimes hours rearranging appointments.

8. Certain foods become your best friends.

When my pain was at its worst about a year ago and I had no medication to help my pain, all that could comfort me was mashed potatoes and ice cream. Turns out, mashed potatoes and ice cream are not a cute look for my body and with my physical limitations, cooking healthy food for myself and exercising is much more challenging.

9. Sleep, above all, is key.

Seriously, if I get no sleep the night before, my whole day and body goes to sh**. Getting enough sleep is worth it.

10. Maintaining a love life? LOL.

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I haven’t even begun to crack the chronic pain code on this one. I have no answers here.

11. Get a pain guru.

Having someone close who’s been through the ringer with everything you’re dealing with is so helpful. Anytime I call her frustrated about something, she has five to 10 different solutions I never thought of. My pain guru happens to breed puppies. Speaking of which, puppies are just about the best therapy you can have, so get those, too. Nothing feels better than lying in a pile of puppies.

12. You will have haters.

Send donations in their honor to your favorite chronic pain charity.

13. A few people will be inspired by you, a few people may feel too sad to even be around you and a few people may slit your tires when they see you in handicapped parking with a handicapped tag.

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The tire thing didn’t personally happen to me, but it did happen to someone I know. Don’t forget, just because you can’t see an illness doesn’t mean it’s not there! Don’t be those people.

14. Silver lining: you get to watch every show you ever missed out on and try a lot of hobbies you never thought you’d have time for.

Hobbies I’ve started since medical leave: learning French on Rosetta Stone, writing, flower arranging, pottery, painting/sketching, jewelry design, puppy socializing, volunteering at a pit bull rescue, cooking, baking and reading.

15. Chronic pain has forced me to see the world in a different way. It has forced me to embrace all of my vulnerabilities and genuinely be a better person. Ironically, because of my chronic pain, I am now finally able to do exactly what I always dreamed of.

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18 Memes That Nail What It’s Like to Live With Chronic Illness

Here’s what you sent us: 

1. 

chronic illness meme: auto-immune disease, because the only thing tough enough to kick my ass is me
Submitted by Melissa Austin

2. 

chronic illness memes: when i'm feeling down and someone says suck it up i get the urge to break their legs and say walk it off
Submitted by Talia Tedrow

3. 

chronic illness meme: oh, what's that you say? i don't look sick? well.. you don't look stupid but...
Submitted by Leanne Wood

4. 

chronic illness meme: oh my cousin's friend's sister's girlfriend used to have that, she had magic healing moon fossils implanted under her skin and now she's fine, you should ask your doctor about that
Submitted by Tabitha Hodges

5. 

chronic illness meme: i am not anxious, i am just extremely well educated about the things that can go catastrophically wrong
Submitted by Katie Smeltzer Ireland

6. 

chronic illness meme: my whole body hurts from not doing anything today
Submitted by Leah Larsen

7. 

chronic illness meme: why are there never any good side effects? just once i'd like to read a medication bottle that says may cause extreme sexiness
Submitted by AutoimmuneMom

8. 

chronic illness meme: being alive is so fucking expensive
Submitted by Leah Larsen

9. 

chronic illness meme: you can't have that condition you're too young! if only it had asked ID
Submitted by Sarah McGee

10. 

chronic illness meme: you've got it backwards actually, i'm faking being well
Submitted by AutoimmuneMom

11. 

chronic illness meme: when i'm trying to keep all my conditions in check
Submitted by Christina Chalgren

12. 

chronic illness mem: pain lets you know you are still alive. man i feel so, so, so alive right now
Submitted by AutoimmuneMom

13. 

chronic illness meme: recovery expectations vs. reality
Submitted by Karin Ursula Phelps Williams

14. 

chronic illness meme: they say always trust your gut. have you met my gut? you don't want to trust that bastard.
Submitted by Jayne Olson

15. 

chronic illness meme: the face you make when your doctor says let's try this new medicine
By Stephanie Nasby

16. 

chronic illness meme: i think your IBD is all in  your head. don't make me eat one of my trigger foods and lock you in a room with me.
Submitted by Jayne Olson

17. 

chronic illness meme: i can't diabetes today. don't make me diabetes today...
Submitted by Andrea Steeves-Belanger

18. 

chronic illness meme: i may be chronically ill but i'm also chronically fabulous
Submitted by Jayne Olson

Scientists Uncover Shocking Cause of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain

While science currently has no way to pinpoint the precise cause of fibromyalgia, certain contributing factors are present in many cases. The three top causes of fibromyalgia are infections, genetics, and past abuse. Read more about how childhood abuse and fibromyalgia are linked below.

By Brenda Priddy

Although fibromyalgia has been classified as a serious medical condition since the 1970s (before that, doctors thought the condition was fake and invented by women to obtain more drugs), scientists are just beginning to uncover what causes the disease.

In some shocking studies, researchers have found that abuse during childhood is associated with higher rates for chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivities, and fibromyalgia. Studies have shown that women (and a few men) who have reported childhood abuse (sexual or physical) are 65 percent as likely to have fibromyalgia and twice as likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome (which some scientists believe is linked closely to fibromyalgia).

According to one 2011 study from the University of Toronto, “These findings persisted even after controlling for potentially confounding factors such as other adverse childhood experiences, age, race, mental health and adult socioeconomic status.” However, although studies show that abuse and fibromyalgia are linked, there is still some debate in the medical community about the importance of the findings.

According to studies, about 30-40 percent of adults have suffered physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at some point in their childhoods. Other studies suggest that the actual statistics may be much higher and under-reported. Several studies have looked at the role of sexual abuse and fibromyalgia specifically, and the results are shocking.

In several studies, about 65 percent of women with fibromyalgia reported sexual abuse. Although researchers do not quite know how or why childhood abuse is linked to fibromyalgia, it is important to consider abuse’s role in the steps taken to heal and control fibromyalgia symptoms.

Individuals with fibromyalgia should examine their personal history to uncover any past abuse that could have contributed to the sensitivity.

Other Possible Causes

Although abuse is one common contributing factor for fibromyalgia, it is not the only factor. Genetics and infections can also be triggers. Current research has looked at the role of infections in fibromyalgia, and the results there are also somewhat surprising. Latent infections, particularly infections in the nervous system, may contribute to fibromyalgia symptoms and pain sensitivity.

Genetically, studies have shown that individuals who have family members with fibromyalgia or other pain sensitivity disorders are more likely to have fibromyalgia themselves.

How Is Abuse Linked to Fibromyalgia?

Much of the research about abuse and fibromyalgia has emerged within the past 5-10 years. This means that there is little hard evidence that pins down how abuse can influence fibromyalgia symptoms in the future. However, there are currently two different theories about how fibromyalgia and abuse are linked:

Extended Stress Theory

Research published in “Scientific American” in 1995 looked at the brain changes in patients who were sexually abused. The researchers found that the hippocampus was significantly altered in abused patients. The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for short-term and long-term memories.

During stressful events, the hippocampus is flooded with the stress hormone cortisol. This altered the brain and the way memories were stored in abused patients. Some researchers theorize that extended stress could also alter the area of the brain dealing with pain reception. Studies have shown that individuals with fibromyalgia are more sensitive to pain even at a chemical level, so this theory is not completely unfounded.

Sensitization

The second theory about fibromyalgia and abuse is called sensitization. This theory states that individuals with fibromyalgia have a reduced threshold of pain because their brains have an increased sensitivity to pain signals. This theory is similar to the stress theory, but looks at the same conclusion from a different angle.

The researchers believe that extended nerve stimulation (as occurs during abuse) can cause brain changes in individuals with fibromyalgia. Basically, all sensations are reported to the brain as pain.

Fibromyalgia Abuse Studies

Several recent studies have backed the theory that abuse of any kind can lead to an increased risk for fibromyalgia.

A 1995 study conducted by McGill University in Canada found that in a group of 83 women with fibromyalgia and 161 women in the control group, 37 percent of women in the fibromyalgia group had experienced childhood sexual abuse. Only 22 percent of women in the control group reported childhood sexual abuse. Women in the fibromyalgia group also reported higher levels of physical abuse (18 percent vs 4 percent), drug abuse (16 percent vs 3 percent), and lifetime sexual abuse (17 percent vs 6 percent).

Another study from 1995 conducted by the American College of Rheumatology found that 65 percent of women with fibromyalgia reported sexual abuse. 52 percent of the women in the control group reported facing sexual abuse at some point in their lifetime. The women with fibromyalgia who were abused also reported higher levels of pain, weakness, fatigue, and depression. The researchers from this study concluded that although sexual abuse was not a direct cause for fibromyalgia, it could make symptoms much worse.

In 1999, the journal “Disability and Rehabilitation” published a study examining the relationship between sensory and pain disorders like fibromyalgia and past childhood abuse (including sexual, physical, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse). In the fibromyalgia group, 64.7 percent of participants reported past abuse. The researchers concluded that childhood traumatic events could significantly influence a person’s chances of suffering from chronic pain.

In 2011, researchers from the University of Toronto examined statistics from over 7,300 Canadian women. 10 percent of the women reported childhood sexual abuse. 2.5 percent of these women were diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The researchers found that women with past physical abuse were about 65 percent more likely to develop fibromyalgia.

While the current medical research does link abuse to fibromyalgia, to say that abuse causes fibromyalgia in all cases is premature. It is definitely a contributing factor, according to these studies, but it does not explain why many women and men who were abused as children do not have fibromyalgia. There are also other factors at work in addition to the abuse issue.

Some researchers believe that treating abuse-related fibromyalgia in a similar method to treatment for abuse, rather than for chronic pain, could help heal symptoms more effectively. One possible treatment method is raising serotonin levels in the brain; which helps boost overall brain function, restore mood, and reduce pain sensitivity.

Diagnosing Abuse-Related Fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia or another chronic pain disorder, speak to your health professional about the possible relation to past abuse. Your health professional may want to treat your condition from a different angle if past abuse is revealed. Healing abuse-related issues could help contribute to a reduction of fibromyalgia symptoms.

Natural Treatment Methods

Many treatment methods for fibromyalgia can be done in the privacy of your own home. Research has suggested that a variety of natural treatment options can be effective at reducing pain sensitivity and helping individuals with fibromyalgia live normal lives. If your fibromyalgia is influenced by past abuse in any way, the following three natural methods can help you fight unwanted pain symptoms and live a normal life:

Diet and Supplements

Your diet can play a role in healing your body and reducing pain sensitivity. You may not be able to completely eliminate fibromyalgia flare-ups, but you can help keep them under control with these helpful supplements and diet options.

Supplement Options
These supplements offer the best support for fibromyalgia symptoms and include pain-reducers and mood-boosters.Ginger: Ginger and turmeric are two compounds that can reduce inflammation and ease pain. A 1992 study found that supplementing with ginger was able to reduce muscle pain in all participants.
Ascorbigen: This compound is released when vegetables like broccoli are cooked. The compound was also found to help reduce pain in study participants in a study conducted by the National College of Neuropathic Medicine in 2000.
Magnesium: Magnesium is an all-over beneficial mineral. Many women and men are deficient in this mineral. A 1990 study found that supplementing with magnesium could reduce muscle pain.
St. John’s Wort: This classic remedy is known for its mood-boosting abilities. According to Web MD, some studies have shown that supplementing with St. John’s Wort is more effective than tricyclics antidepressant medication and may be just as effective as SSRI antidepressants. This may be particularly effective for individuals suffering from abuse-related fibromyalgia, as depression is a common side-effect of abuse.
5-HTP: 5-HTP is an essential building block to make the chemical serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for lifting mood and preventing depression. Studies have also shown that high levels of serotonin can reduce fibromyalgia pain. According to Web MD, 5-HTP can improve depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia pain, and insomnia.
Omega 3s: Most Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lead to a variety of problems. According to a 2007 study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), irritable bowel syndrome (IBD), and dysmenorrheal, it was found that increasing omega-3 intake for 3 months was able to reduce pain, stiffness, and overall inflammation. The same results will likely apply to individuals with fibromyalgia.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone responsible for setting healthy sleep patterns. Your body naturally makes melatonin at bedtime to promote restful nights. However, fibromyalgia pain can interfere with normal sleep patterns. Supplementing with melatonin can help reduce sleepless nights. In fact, a study from 2000 found that not only did melatonin improve sleep, but it also reduced tender points in fibromyalgia sufferers.
SAM-e: According to Web MD, the supplement SAM-e may increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, leading to improved mood and reduced pain sensitivity. Studies have indicated that SAM-e may also increase restful sleep, although it does not directly reduce pain symptoms or depression, according to other studies. SAM-e is best taken in conjunction with other pain-fighting and mood-lifting supplements.

Diet Options

You can add a lot of essential nutrients simply through diet. Add the following foods to your diet to ensure you promote health and reduce pain symptoms in your life:

Vitamin D Foods: Dairy products, eggs, fish, mushrooms Ascorbigen Foods: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower

Magnesium Foods: Potatoes, leafy greens, beans, fish, brown rice

Omega-3 Foods: Fish, walnuts, leafy greens, fortified dairy products

Avoid Chemicals: Caffeine, smoking, MSG, artificial sugar Therapy and Emotional Support If abuse has triggered a patient’s fibromyalgia symptoms, in some cases, dealing with the emotional trauma of the abuse may help alleviate some of the physical side effects of fibromyalgia. A few studies have show that therapy methods, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is beneficial in fibromyalgia patients.

Exercise

Exercise has been shown in multiple studies to benefit patients with fibromyalgia by decreasing pain, increasing mood, and decreasing fatigue. Exercise benefits the body in multiple ways. It can make the body stronger, boost mood, and may even help control painful side effects of fibromyalgia.

According to a 2011 review of exercise therapy for fibromyalgia, any form of exercise is beneficial. Most health practitioners recommend a variety of exercises to keep the exercise interesting.

Healing Abuse-Related Fibromyalgia

If your fibromyalgia symptoms are related to abuse in any way, you can still take methods to cure the painful condition. Knowing one of the influencing factors for your condition can help you find the right treatment methods for you.

If you believe past abuse could be contributing to your fibromyalgia pain, consult with your health provider right away about creating an individualized treatment plan involving diet and supplements, medications, exercise, and therapy. A multi-faceted approach may be the best way to reduce or eliminate painful fibromyalgia symptoms that can interfere with daily life.

4 TIPS FOR BEING SUPPORTIVE OF A LOVED ONE WITH CHRONIC PAIN

Family is extremely important to me. My daughters and husband are my world.  I can’t go long periods of time without seeing my parents and my sister and her husband—let alone a day without talking to them.  And for my closest friends (i.e. my second family) I tell them often how much they mean to me. Essentially, I smother people with my love.

My sister Puja and I have always been very close. From the day I was born, she took it upon herself to love me and protect me. Even at four years old, she was trying to give me bottles and cover me up with blankets to keep me warm. Despite our four-year age difference, my mom dressed us alike (a bad habit I have also adopted with my daughters), and as we grew up we chose to share a room even when we didn’t have to. Of course, I played the annoying little sister role well, but despite her irritation with me, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she would always be there for me. After college I moved in with her in Chicago, and she continued to be my best friend, protector, and closest confidante.

When I decided to make the leap to move from Chicago to LA, it was a tough decision. Leaving my sister was hard to do, but I figured she and her fiancé needed some alone time, instead of me tagging along on every date. Soon after I left, my sister got into a very bad car accident, resulting in a herniated disc in her neck and a piece of her spine dislodging.  After much suffering, several injuries, and a quest to find answers, she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. She’s written an incredible series about her experiences on Huffington Post, so if you don’t know much about this medical condition, I definitely recommend clicking over to read it.

Read More: Puja’s Fibromyalgia Series on Huffington Post

Even if you don’t know someone with Fibromyalgia, it’s highly likely you know someone with chronic pain. One in three people in the US suffer from chronic pain, and it can be debilitating (source). I refer to it as the invisible disease because in so many cases you can’t see the symptoms, so people suffer in silence.  It’s beyond frustrating to me when people think that those with Fibromyalgia or other chronic pain conditions can control their pain and it’s no big deal. These people are in intense pain every single day. Yes there are days when it is less intense than others, but they never go a full day without life-altering pain. A lot about Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions is still unknown, but every year there is more literature and education, and the dedicated rheumatologists and brave patients help us all learn more.

I’m ashamed to admit that for a long time I didn’t truly understand my sister’s disease either. I attribute some of that to her not sharing a lot of this journey with me, but I soon came to realize that she really couldn’t until she got to a certain point.  And I attribute most of that to my lack of education and understanding.

But just like in other areas of my life, once I dug in and started doing my research, I realized that there are ways we can help our loved ones just by being there and understanding. So below are four ways I’ve learned to be more supportive of my loved one with chronic pain.


4 Tips for Being Supportive of a Loved One with Chronic Pain | Model Behaviors

Understand they are giving as much as they can.

As I mentioned above, for so long I didn’t understand what my sister was going through. I didn’t understand that she could only expend so much energy each day before her body shut down, or that certain noises or smells would exacerbate her pain, or that it’s hard not to be a little cranky when every ounce of your body is in excruciating pain.

Instead of shutting down, open up to what your loved one is going through. Ask them questions with tangible answers, like what their pain level is that day or what they feel like participating in. And when you’re spending time together, don’t overwhelm their schedule! In my sister’s case she is a high-powered career woman who gives a lot to work despite her disease. When she’s on vacation or spending time with her family, she needs to let her body rest, and for those around her, we need to allow her to do that, guilt-free.

Check in often but give them their space. 

My sister and I are very close and we talk several times a week. But sometimes, she has a really hard pain week and just doesn’t have the energy to be on the phone after she’s already given so much to her job, husband, and home. However, she does want to know that I’m thinking about her and appreciates when I check in. Before I truly understood her pain, I would get bothered when she wouldn’t initiate as many conversations or contact me as much.  I thought she didn’t have time for me, but now I realize she might not have it in her to talk that day, or that she is experiencing such a bad flare up that she can barely brush her teeth, let alone have a phone conversation. Giving space is just as important as checking in on their well-being.

4 Tips for Being Supportive of a Loved One with Chronic Pain | Model Behaviors

Get educated on their condition.

The onus is not solely on the person with chronic pain to educate you on their condition. It’s also our responsibility to learn more about it. My sister sends my family articles and information on Fibromyalgia, but we have also taken it upon ourselves to seek out this information. It enhances our relationship with my sister and allows us to show her we care by truly trying to better understand what she goes through.

Relationships may be different, but different can still be good.

In fact, they may become better through communication and empathy.

As ridiculous as this sounds there were days when I was mad at the Fibromyalgia because I felt like it had stolen the relationship I had with my sister. It had robbed us of our daily conversations and frequent visits. Not to mention, how heartbreaking it was to see her in so much pain.  But at the same time, the Fibro has also helped us learn more about each other, trust each other in brand-new ways, and communicate better than we ever have before.  It’s taken our support of each other to a whole new level, and for that I am so thankful.

I’m constantly in awe of my sister. Her strength and tenacity in the face of Fibromyalgia is nothing short of inspiring. She pushes herself more than anyone I know. Not only is she a successful career woman, but she founded the first women’s alliance at her company, is an advocate for those with Fibromyalgia and chronic pain, and still manages to be a dedicated wife, daughter, and sister.

My only wish for her is that one day, they will find a cure for this and she will be pain-free.

4 Tips for Being Supportive of a Loved One with Chronic Pain | Model Behaviors

Do you suffer from chronic pain or have a loved one who suffers? What sort of tips and advice have you learned through your experiences? Please share them in the comments below. I’m eager to hear them!

Chronic pain : These 7 New Techniques Offer Drug-Free Pain Relief

Millions of people who suffer from chronic pain take opioid drugs that carry significant risks of addiction and can often do more harm than good. But scientists are developing a new generation of solutions to deal with the problem in ways that safer and more effective than medication, a top expert says.

“The future is promising in the rapidly evolving field of chronic pain management. As we move away from the antiquated, higher risk therapies that only mask the problem, emerging therapies that more precisely target the pain generator are on the horizon,” Dr. Matthew Crooks tells Newsmax Health.
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The nation is in the midst of a crisis when it comes to opioid overuse and dependence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) says.  In 2014 alone, U.S. doctors wrote nearly 200 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers, while deaths linked to the drugs climbed to roughly 19,000 — the highest number on record, the CDC says.

A new report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also noted noted that U.S. deaths tied to heroin use have tripled over the last decade, while deaths from prescription painkillers have nearly doubled since 2013.

Common legal opioids include Percocet and Vicodin, but also fentanyl, an extremely powerful opioid, which was blamed for death of the legendary singer Prince. Such drugs can often be the gateway to more elicit drugs, including heroin, as users build up a tolerance and become reliant on opioids, law enforcement and medical experts say.

“What we at the forefront of the pain management specialty have know for years about opioids is now becoming public knowledge: in many cases, the cure is worse than the disease,” says Crooks, a board-certified pain management expert in Scottsdale, Ariz.

But while the CDC has issued new prescription guidelines aimed at curbing the overuse of opioids for problems such as back pain and arthritis, these recommendations did not extend to severe pain, including that from cancer, which is a very serious problem, says Crooks.

Here’s a rundown on what’s here and on the way to deal with serious pain issues:

1. TENS —Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a current therapy that uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief.  This procedure uses a small, battery-powered device, which is attached using electrodes to the skin. The electrodes are often placed on the area of pain or at a pressure point, creating a circuit of electrical impulses that travels along nerve fibers. When the current is delivered, some people experience less pain.

Researchers at the University of Texas in Arlington are taking electrical stimulation to the next level. They have developed an implantable wireless device that stimulates a deep, middle-brain structure that blocks pain signals at the spinal cord level without drug intervention. The device, which is still experimental, also triggers the release of beneficial dopamine, which may reduce the emotional distress associated with long-term pain.
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“This is the first study to use a wireless electrical device to alleviate pain by directly stimulating the ventral tegmental area of the brain,” says researcher Yuan Bo Peng. While still under laboratory testing, this new method does provide hope that in the future we will be able to alleviate chronic pain without the side effects of medication,” he adds.

2. Platelet-rich plasma — PRP uses blood taken from a patient, which is then treated to create a concentration of platelets that are injected into the site of pain or used to speed healing after surgery.  The technique has primarily been used by high profile athletes, such Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Rafael Nadal and, most recently, Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry, who recently underwent treatments to try and help his knee heal faster after an MCL sprain. The procedure is still being investigated for effectiveness, but it is becoming increasingly becoming mainstream, as doctors use it to help delay hip surgeries in patients.

3. Stem cell treatments — The use of stem cells to treat pain differs from the various uses currently under investigation to cure diseases. Unlike these procedures, which may use stem cells taken from other sources, the pain-therapy experiments use stem cells harvested from a patient’s own bone marrow. Although the research has only recently begun, the preliminary results are promising.

4. Neurostimulation — In this procedure, a stimulator is implanted under the skin and then an electrical impulse is delivered to the spine that overrides a painful nerve signal and scrambles it to make it feel like a comfortable sensation. “This is something that we’re doing now in people that have refractory nerve problems, such as those who have had a limb removed, but this procedure is improving, so that patients that didn’t find it comfortable before are now liking it better,” says Crooks.

5. Minimally invasive surgery — Spine surgery is traditionally done as open surgery, meaning the area being operated on is opened with a long incision to allow the surgeon to view and access the spine. In recent years, however, technological advances have allowed more back and neck conditions to be treated with a minimally invasive surgical technique. These procedures are being done using small instruments, such as endoscopes, and such equipment is becoming smaller and smaller, and hence, less invasive. “I tell any patient to wait a year or two as long as it is not an urgent problem. This is because the technology is starting to advance so rapidly that the surgery will be so much less invasive then, you’ll recover faster,” says Crooks.

6. Nanotechnology — This is the future of minimally invasive surgery, says Crooks. He envisions a day when instruments could become so tiny, even sub-molecular – so a patient could ingest or swallow them, and then they could potentially target an area that isn’t even problematic yet. “We’re in era where you can sequence a person’s genes. So if your mother or father had a hip replacement at a young age, and it’s found that you’re predisposed to it, there may be an opportunity to deal with it before it becomes a problem,” says Crooks.

7. Physical rehabilitation — Rehab has long been around but now it is being integrated with the services of pain management doctors, and this is changing the field and making it much more effective for people with chronic pain. “These exciting therapies in the future will be used in combination with tried-and-true methods of physical conditioning and rehabilitation, so the goal will be to build strength, utilize biomechanics to restore function, and resolve the underlying problem,” says Crooks.

7 Signs You Might Have Chronic Pain

Why? Because when it comes to dealing with diseases and disorders that aren’t well-known, you really have to be your own advocate. If you’ve been struggling with weird CFS symptoms for a while, I bet you’ve been blown off by more than one doctor. I’m sure they said, “It’s all in your head,” or, “You just have your period.” Super annoying, I know.

It may be helpful to know that CFS falls under the same umbrella as fibromyalgia, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a disorder characterized by widespread pain, sleep, memory, and mood issues. “Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia were both met with skepticism from doctors in the past. But as fibromyalgia has gained mainstream acceptance, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), has continued to meet with confusion and disbelief,” noted health reporter Cameron Scott on the medical website Healthline.com.

Hopefully someday soon CFS will be recognized as a legit disorder. But for now, just because doctors don’t know the cause of all the annoying problems brought on by CFS, it doesn’t mean your symptoms aren’t real. See if the symptoms below ring a bell, and if you’ve been feeling bad, keep pestering your doctor until you get the help you need.

1. You Feel Exhaustion That’s Not Cured By Sleep

Chronic fatigue syndrome is an aptly named disorder, because one of the main symptoms is just that — chronic fatigue. But it’s not just normal tiredness we all feel in the morning, or after a long day at work. It’s the type of tired not healed by sleep, or a weekend spent chilling on the couch, according to the CDC. It’s always there, waxing and waning in intensity, but still present at all times. And it can really affect your work and relationships, especially since it’s so hard for people to wrap their heads around what it’s like to always be sleepy.

2. Everything Is Incredibly Achy

CFS causes all different types of pain from headaches, to muscle and joint aches, to sore skin. But the sore skin thing is especially interesting and unique to CFS. It can make you feel like you don’t want to be touched because any sort of contact is too painful. That must be really difficult to deal with, if I do say so myself.

3. You Have Memory And Concentration Problems

Memory and concentration problems are the most distressing symptomsreported by people with CFS. And I can understand why. CFS sufferers say they don’t so much forget things, but that they have trouble calling up memories, says Scott. It can feel like words are butterflies, and you’re running around lazily with a net, unable to catch any of them. Many sufferers call this feeling “brain fog.” Very distressing indeed.

4. The Lymph Nodes In Your Neck Are Swollen

It’s not well-known why the lymphs nodes in the neck and armpits swell up with CFS, according to the Mayo Clinic. It simply lacks a lot of research and understanding, much like the disorder itself. But it’s definitely something many CFS patients have in common.

5. You Feel Highly Sensitive

People with CFS often feel sensitive to lights, noise, or emotions, according to WebMD. Again, the cause is not well-known, but it could be due to something called “generalized hyper-vigilance,” which may in turn be caused by nervous system abnormalities or stress-system problems. So if you’ve been moping around, cringing at every sound, and pulling the curtains against the sun, then CFS may be to blame.

6. It’s Difficult To Recover After Exercise

Everyone feels tired after exercise, but those with CFS feel tired on a whole different scale. According to WebMD, you may even feel ill or weak. Exercise can also cause CFS symptoms to flare up — which may happen on a delay — thus causing some confusion as to the cause. And what’s worse is that once it starts, it may take you more than 24 hours to feel better again.

7. Ironically, You Have Sleep Problems

According to WebMD, insomnia plays into chronic fatigue syndrome, and it can be one of those “which comes first?” type scenarios. Do you have CFS because you have insomnia, or the other way around? Again, it’s not really known. Often times, CFS patients are prescribed a short-term course of sleep aids to help knock them out so they’ll eventually be able to catch up on their rest. And hopefully, with a little more sleep, they’ll at least be better able to manage their symptoms.

Chronic fatigue syndrome may not be well-researched or well-understood, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. If you’ve been feeling these vague, but incredibly annoying symptoms, be sure to follow up with a doctor until you get the help you need.

To the Person With a Chronic Pain Who Feels Like a Burden

Dear Warrior,

Yes, I called you a warrior, because that’s exactly how I have come to view people dealing with chronic illness. These warriors display courage in the face of fear and the uncertainty that is a constant part of their life. They retain their compassion and propensity to look for good in the world despite being mistreated or ostracized by others. They smile through the pain and make jokes to help put everyone at ease when they are imploding inside. They become familiar with emotions and experiences many people may only see once or twice in their lifetime.

But unfortunately, warriors can also feel like a burden from time to time. Whether that feeling is prompted by the insensitive comment of a family member or a misinformed post of a Facebook friend, it can get us at our core. It harshly whispers, “You are not adequate. You are different in a bad way. All that you are and all that you are able to do is not enough for the people you love and the society you live in.”

But in those low moments, we must challenge that negative way of thinking. We must not let the misguided views of a few take up residence in our subconscious. There’s a wonderful quote by the author Max Lucado that sums it up perfectly: “You are valuable just because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are.” These words imply we are all inherently worthy, because we’re all human beings. And that is a truth we should believe in.

It’s a reality that we will feel inadequate or burdensome at points throughout our journey, but what’s important is how we respond to those feelings. Unfortunately, we live in a society that says if we can’t do what everyone else can do, we are somehow less. People often forget we didn’t choose the hand we were dealt — it was chosen for us. Judgment is freely passed on people who aren’t viewed as “active, contributing members of society.” But what they don’t understand is we have other ways of contributing to the greater good. Sometimes, it’s just by being who we are.

Don’t waste a precious minute feeling like a burden. If we could change our situations, we would. Instead, let’s advocate for one another and show people how wrong they are. And if the word “burden” somehow weasels its way into our heads, may we always quickly replace it with “warrior.”

Stay strong,

20 Things Only People With Chronic Pain And Back Pain Can Relate To

Millions of people live with chronic pain every day in the US, and they struggle to do basic day-to-day things like getting dressed and going to the shop. Despite their constant pain, their voices are rarely heard by the media because they look ‘normal’ and it is difficult to see the cause of their pain.

Here are 20 things that people in chronic pain can relate to.

1. We try very hard to look ‘normal’

People often say to us that we don’t look sick, but it takes a lot of effort to look normal. We often have to nap before going out to deal with the exhaustion, and we normally take pain meds before meeting up with people.

2. The pain won’t pass in a few days or weeks

This isn’t a cold or the flu, and it won’t go away in a few weeks – we may live with the pain for our whole lifetime.

3. It’s not all in our heads

We are not hypochondriacs; just because you can’t see the cause of our pain doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

4. We have dreams and goals

Just like anyone else, we have passion and dreams that we would like to achieve in our lives. We are not defined by our illness.

5. We are not making a big deal for no reason

We are probably in more pain that you think we are in. It can be pretty difficult to understand chronic pain, and we don’t need your sympathy – we just want to know that you understand our situation.

6. Sometimes it is impossible to get out of bed in the morning

Some days the pain is too bad for us to get out of bed, but we don’t let that get us down. In fact, we will probably Skype our friends or partners so we can have a giggle to take our mind off the pain.

7. We hate being called lazy

Every job is twice as hard if you’re experiencing chronic pain, so we don’t feel lazy – we feel super accomplished for getting dressed and going to shops.

8. Chronic pain doesn’t become less painful with time

Pain doesn’t become less painful over time, but you become better at dealing with the pain. I am still in pain; I’m just not letting it rule my whole life.

9. We don’t always have enough spoons

Christine Miserandino, a woman with lupus, created the ‘spoons’ analogy to describe living with invisible pain.

When you have chronic pain, you start each day with a certain amount of spoons. Every task, like making a sandwich, takes a spoon away from you. Once you have run out of spoons for the day, you cannot complete any more activities – your pain is too much. This analogy helps us to complete our tasks without exerting ourselves too much.

10. If we don’t work, it is because we can’t

We don’t shy away from work; in fact, we would do anything to be healthy and able to work full-time. Sadly for some chronic pain sufferers, this just isn’t an option.

11. Just standing in queues is uncomfortable and painful

Having to hold your body in a certain position for even a few minutes can be extremely tiring and painful, and sometimes we have to ask our friends and families for help.

12. Good days do happen

Some days we wake up feeling better than normal, and we get super excited! Normally we will try to be productive and social on these days, because we don’t know when the next good day will be.

13. But so do bad days

Some days are very painful, and on these days even going to the bathroom is a difficult task. On a day like this, brushing your teeth is a huge accomplishment!

14. We feel guilty about not always replying to our friends

Pain can be mentally exhausting, and sometimes it means we feel too tired and ill to reply to our friends. This makes us feel bad – we love our friends and we hate not replying, but thankfully our friends don’t take it personally when this happens.

15. We are so thankful for the friends and family who are there for us

Often we have to ask our loved ones for help with tasks like cooking and shopping, and we are so grateful for the help. Our friends are more than just friends; they are lifelines and saviors.

16. Medical help can be frustrating

It can take years to diagnose chronic pain due to a lack of training, and when we find an understanding doctor, we try to keep them in our lives for as long as possible.

17. We don’t seek drugs – we seek pain relief

Sometimes chronic pain is treated with medical marijuana and opioids, but that doesn’t mean we seek drugs. We seek anything that will help us to control and manage our pain.

18. We don’t need advice (unless you have chronic pain yourself)

We really appreciate people who are trying to be helpful, but it can be mentally draining to repeatedly discuss the same pain-management methods. We always look out for ways to help manage the pain, so the likelihood is that we have already tried most suggestions.

19. We hope to heal one day

We don’t want to live our whole lives in pain – we want to heal and get better. We will always look out for answers and cures that could change our lives.

20. Love and support helps us to keep going

From strangers and co-workers, the little gestures like offering to help with our bags can really help to make our lives easier.

10 Exercises to Help Prevent Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is an issue that plagues many people; 80% of the population suffers from it at some point in their lives. It can be caused by many things like a muscle strain, herniated disc and poor posture. There are also many conditions associated with lower pack pain like sciatica, spinal degeneration, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, spondylitis and more.

Whether your pain is mild or severe, this infographic illustrates 10 exercises that can help to prevent lower back pain. There’s a variety of resistance, abdominal and stretching exercises that will hopefully help you feel much better.

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10 Exercises to Help Prevent Lower Back Pain Infographic

It’s recommended that you do these exercises two times a week. Don’t be afraid to see a doctor if your pain does not improve with rest or if you experience any of the other symptoms mentioned in the infographic. It also notes that you should consult a physician before beginning these workouts, just to be safe.