My Journey Towards Mindfulness


Listening to my dogs and husband’s breathing while they slept the other night reminded me that taking slow deep breaths relaxes me and eases anxiety. Stress and letting go are constant battles in my brain.  The former can aggravate chronic and mental illness and pain.  I practice yoga and other exercises that are gentle on my body  (though, admittedly, not lately) and learned some time ago the value of deep breathing.  Not the most disciplined person, I find myself needing more – a tangible, realistic way of letting go of circumstances that are toxic to my brain.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Watching Anderson Cooper on a 60 Minutes report on mindfulness, my curiosity piqued when Cooper said research of the practice showed positive results for sufferers of chronic illness.   Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction and Relaxing Program (later renamed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.  While he studied Buddhism, Kabat-Zinn prefers taking a scientific approach to mindfulness and apparently, it works.  American Mindfulness Research was created in 2013 to support empirical and conceptual data as well as develop best practices.

According to the website: www.mindful.org: “Mindfulness is the innate ability we have to be present, composed, and to pause before we overreact to the challenges of our busy lives.”

I’m intrigued that practicing mindfulness can improve physical, as well as, mental health.  The practice may also improve eating habits and insomnia.  Through research and practice, I hope I can better manage stressful situations – especially those that I cannot change – and improve my health.  Never before disciplined with daily meditation, I recently started listening to a podcast offering free mindful meditations (Mindful Meditations) before sleep.  I think I’m ready to take the next step and practice mindfulness in my daily life.

In addition to the websites mentioned above, I’m reading two books by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Mindfulness for Beginners 
Wherever You Go, There You Are  

I welcome comments from readers who practice mindfulness and anyone who wants to join me on my journey.

CNN Article: 5 Ways to Handle Chronic Pain


This is a great article!!

(Laura’s note:  It’s encouraging to read that many of my blog topics are supported by a physician)

Editor’s note: Dr. David Kloth is a practicing interventional pain management physician in southwestern Connecticut, director at large for the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians and co-author of the book “Pain Wise: A Patient’s Guide to Pain Management.” He has been practicing pain medicine and researching pain management for more than 20 years.
(CNN) — Chronic pain conditions now affect more than 116 million Americans, according to the Institute of Medicine, a figure that dwarfs the number of people who suffer from diabetes, coronary heart disease/stroke and cancer combined.
Unfortunately, too many patients rely on prescription drugs as an isolated therapy to treat their pain. While pain medications play an important role in the treatment of chronic pain, many pain sufferers rely on powerful prescription painkillers to mask it.
If you are suffering from chronic pain, you should also seek treatments that are designed to reduce the pain by attacking the specific cause. Many patients and even some doctors aren’t aware of some of the other available therapeutic options, which are typically less invasive and/or less risky than alternatives such as surgery or medication.
Interventional pain medicine is a medical sub-specialty that is devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of pain-related disorders, with an emphasis on diagnosis first.

Specially trained pain physicians utilize various types of injections and minimally invasive surgeries to manage and treat persistent and intractable pain. These specialists treat a wide range of chronic-pain conditions, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, extremity pain, headaches, joint pain, musculoskeletal injuries and cancer pain.

If you suffer from chronic pain and want to explore options, here are some tips:

Find a pain specialist:  It is important to find the right doctor if you want precise answers on the cause of your pain and to identify an appropriate treatment course. When advice from a non-specialist is sought, it often results in no diagnosis or, worse, a misdiagnosis, neither of which is helpful in treating the pain problem.  When this occurs and the pain continues, patients are often told that there is nothing that can be done, or they are directed toward more aggressive surgical approaches that may not be necessary and are typically more risky.

Many pain sufferers don’t think about finding a doctor who specializes in pain when looking for answers to their problem. Instead, they often seek help from an internist or other physician.

Not all pain specialists are equal. You should look for one who is board certified in pain management.

Don’t chase your pain with pills:   Prescription pain medications are potentially addictive but can also be an important component of pain management.  Pain medications have a greater indication and acceptance when used for acute pain rather than long-term chronic pain, where the evidence to support their benefits is lacking.  High-dose chronic pain medications are questioned by many pain physicians, and so long-term use of pain medications should be done judiciously and with expert supervision due to the risks associated with this form of treatment.

Why you can’t sleep when you’re in pain.  In addition, pain itself is often a protective mechanism that warns you of injury. By dulling the pain response, pain medications can lead to further injury. When you don’t feel the pain, you may do something to injure the area further, a serious concern in patients who perform manual or heavy labor.

This is not to say that chronic pain medications should never be used, but they should be used and monitored carefully and not relied upon in most cases as the primary and/or sole therapy. Alternative therapies that actually reduce or eliminate the pain should be tried and at least incorporated into the treatment regimen. It is better to remove the painful stimulus than to mask it with pain medications, which can also mask or dull the senses.

Do your homework:  Many patients are told that there are no other treatments to manage their ongoing pain issues, when this is simply not the case. There are a number of interventional pain therapies available that can not only alleviate pain but in some cases eliminate the underlying cause of pain.

Interventional pain management has been around for more than two decades. The procedures implemented by pain management physicians reflect the standard of care for pain management today, and their efficacy has been demonstrated through extensive study and research.

Epidurals and other nerve blocks:  Various injection therapies, including the use of epidurals, are among the most common interventional pain therapies used today.  Epidural steroid injections are in widespread use for a variety of chronic pain conditions but are most typically used to treat a nerve that is pinched at the spinal level. Epidurals used in interventional pain medicine are minimally invasive injections comprising a small amount of local anesthetic and steroid to reduce inflammation. When properly applied, they can help reduce the patients reliance on pain medication.

In addition to epidurals, other treatments include trigger point injections, to alleviate the pain associated with tight and restricted muscles; facet injections, often used to treat arthritis of the spine; and sacroiliac injections. The sacroiliac joint commonly causes back pain but is often overlooked by non-pain physicians.

Manage your expectations:  The goal of interventional pain management procedures should be to reduce and manage pain, with emphasis on the word “manage.”  Your pain physician may or may not be able to cure the entire problem (and for the record, surgery may not either), but they can help you control the pain and maximize your functional level.

Although the ideal goal is to completely resolve the pain, this is often not realistically possible.  Bear in mind that this is also true for the majority of other chronic health problems; heart disease, diabetes, COPD, arthritis, etc. All require long-term management. Chronic pain may similarly require intermittent or continual treatment.

 

The article can be found at:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/22/health/expert-chronic-pain/index.html?hpt=hp_bn13

Tips from my Website


You can conquer any mountain
You can conquer any mountain

Below are tips for sufferers of chronic illness from my website LB Webb Coach.  Check out more useful information at www.lbwebbcoach.com
Please Note: It is important to talk with your physician, physical therapist or other licensed professionals before trying new physical activities or tools.

Find a Trusted Medical Professional – Communicating with your physician is critical. This is the most important advice I can offer.   Go to appointments with lists of questions.  I can offer suggestions on how you can self-advocate.  If you are not comfortable with your physician and (s)he minimizes your concerns, find another!! Talk candidly about medications and if one doesn’t work, explain how it makes you feel and try something else. If unable to find a physician who doesn’t listen or make you feel valued, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and other health professionals may help.

A Trusting Ear – Good mental health is an important part of your health program. It is important to have someone to share frustrations as well as successes. Ideally, everyone needs multiple people they trust depending on the circumstances. Family members, friends, professional therapists, life coaches can all be considered. The key is finding someone who you know who does not judge you, accepts you, and appreciates you.

Exercise – Start slow and easy but do something! Whether walking for 5 minutes; sweeping the floor; practicing tai chi or yoga, it is very important to get into a routine of using muscles and joints. Swimming is probably the best exercise for chronic pain and illness as it easier on joints and muscles. Many pools offer classes specially designed for people like us.

I knitted this baby blanket for a loved one.
I knitted this baby blanket for a loved one.

Find a Hobby –  Knitting, crotchet,  creating scrapbooks, photography, bird watching, gardening or anything that is pleasurable for you and takes your mind off your pain is important.

Massage – Many people in pain (particularly fibromyalgia patients) cringe at the idea of anyone touching let alone massaging muscles. Communicating with the massage therapist can make the experience both pleasurable and helpful.

Pampering – Part of the massage experience feels good because it’s important to be good to yourself.  If massages are not comfortable, try a manicure and pedicure (not just for women anymore).  Going to a matinee, museum or having lunch with friends can  feel like a treat.

Warmth – Baths, hot compresses and heating pads, preferably moist, provide temporary relief.

Massage Foam Rollers – Using gentle pressure on targeted areas by moving the roller back and forth on the floor can be very painful in some areas at first. But even doing a few times at first, muscles are more relaxed and fascia (connective tissue that surrounds muscles and nerves) are lengthened and softer.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Unit – TENS is a pocket-size device that sends electrical impulses to block pain signals. Electrical currents are mild but can ease specific areas of pain. TENS is not helpful for migrating pain.   NOTE: Ask physician or physical therapist about TENS and how to use it properly.

Like my facebook page at:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/LB-Webb-Coach-for-people-with-Chronic-Illness-Pain/328980187115314

I can help you live a joyful life.  Contact me for a free consultation at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com

My Health My Life These Days


Even the most optimistic person can have tough days.  While I do not claim to always look at the sunny side of life, I try staying positive and happy. In many ways, my life is exactly the way I dreamed with a wonderful husband, living in the country, with dogs and a horse. But life is far from perfect and my typical attitude of making lemonade out of lemons with chronic illness simply has not worked for me lately.

The past several months have been especially difficult.  Constant aching burning pain in my hips, pelvis, wrists, and fingers override the migrating sharp pains I am now so familiar with from CFS/ME and fibromyalgia.  Light-headedness, exhaustion, and ongoing headaches topped the list of symptoms at my next doctor’s appointment when I told him that we needed to revise my treatment plan as  I was not living well.  A record number of vials are laid on the counter for my blood and I joke with the lab tech that this must be a new record.  I wait in radiology forever  and finally my spine and hips get x-rayed.   I make it to the pharmacy just in time for them to fill my new medications.  I guess I should have kept my big mouth shut.

The x-rays show wearing of my bones and the doctor orders a Dexus test to assess my bone density. Uh oh, has my ongoing vitamin d deficiency contributed to osteoporosis??

A few days later, it struck me that I was suffering from a sinus infection. I waited another week, trying homeopathic steam, Mucinex, and rest to let the virus run its course. As always, the infection settles in for a long stay and I make the call for antibiotics. Finally, my head begins to clear.

The two youngest in the house confer on how to give mom grief!

During this time, I decide that I am long overdue for an eye exam.  One morning, I leave my only set of glasses on the night stand and discover a few minutes later that the kitten played soccer with them (she plays soccer with everything she can move with her front paws these days) and kicked a goal into the mouth of our youngest dog.  I don’t know if she made the goal or missed but I am certain Hooch could not resist the new toy the kitty flung on the floor.  Fortunately, there is only one bite mark in the left lens but that is my

Thai first found us at 8 weeks with a damaged eye. She adopted my husband and our 3 dogs and tolerates me since I usually feed her and clean her litter box. It did was no time before she felt at home and into everything!

good eye.  Recently, my right eye has become very blurry.  It was time for new glasses and contact lenses.

I make an appointment and luck out as there was a cancellation that morning. While trying to do the tests, I discover that I am effectively blind in my right eye.  Everything below the center is a total blur and there is a red dot blocking my central vision.  The optometrist immediately refers me to a opthamologist – do not stop for lunch, do not worry about payment, just go!  Uh oh, this sounds like a real emergency.  Am I going to lose my eye??

Hours later, the result is that I have what’s called a retinal occlusion – blood in my retina.  I’m not in my 80’s, do not have high blood pressure, diabetes, and never had a stroke. It’s a mystery why this happened.  I must wait a month to see if it improves.  It does not.  Last week I had the first in a series of monthly medicinal injections in my eye that dissolves the blood.  It was scary, painful, but really not that big of a deal.  I don’t look forward to future shots but the alternative of not seeing out of that eye is not an option if it can be saved.  Eventually, this should clear up and the likelihood of it happening again are slim.  Yeah!

Yesterday, I had the Dexus test and I am still awaiting the results.  I want to know something definitive for a change but don’t want another diagnosis. This may not make sense for many but I lived with the ephemeral illnesses of CFS/ME and fibromyalgia for so long that I understand them.  They are part of who I am.  I am not the picture of health but I know my limitations, what to say to doctors, how to exercise, and best manage my life. A new diagnosis means new life adjustments. In fact, I am in limbo now worried about doing any exercise beyond walking for fear that it may cause more harm than good.   Will I never be able to ride a horse again for fear of falling off and breaking a fragile bone?  Have I been doing the wrong yoga moves?  What is the best exercise for osteoporosis?  Is my body now fragile?  Is there a diet for osteoporosis?  My diet of trying to eat well slipped to more comforting foods and sweets as my anxiety increased. Now my difficulty in concentration is the result of nerves instead of infection.

The good news is that while still in a holding pattern, I am moving beyond the mental paralysis that left me depressed.  My concentration levels are slowly increasing.  My wish to again find my footing in the world of helping others is beginning to take hold. This is a new beginning and the series that I recently wrote inspires me.  My life great! I am loved and I love!  For me, those are the most important things in life.  My health is okay and once I better understand what is happening in my body, I will do what is necessary to feel more alive. Yeah, it’s a bumpy ride now but that’s okay. It makes the good times that much sweeter.

Free Webinar! Living Better Despite Chronic Illness – RESCHEDULED


Living Better Despite Chronic Illness!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
11 a.m. – 12 p.m. CT

Learn steps towards living a fuller and happier life even with chronic illness & pain.

Steps include:

  • – Having a trusting health team;
  • – Adjusting your lifestyle and setting new life goals;
  • – The Web of Life – Balancing all aspects of your life;
  • – The value of a support system;
  • – Changing your attitude from ‘can’t’ to ‘will’!

While free, space is limited.   Please register today at the link below:

 

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/348230853

 

 

 Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) – a headset is recommended.  Or, call in using your telephone.

Dial             +1 (805) 309-0027      
Access Code: 348-230-853
Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting

Meeting ID: 348-230-853

 

Exploring Alternative Health Care


 

Below is an article I recently wrote for the website, VitalityLink.com.  Some topics may sound familiar to readers but they are worth repeating.

 

As a life coach for people with chronic illness, and a sufferer of CFS/ME and fibromyalgia for decades, I am an advocate for alternative therapy. I benefit from a variety of practices over the years. I have worked with wonderful practitioners and lunatics. Some treatments helped, others wasted my money. Researching what treatments may help your particular symptoms and finding practitioners who are knowledgeable of your illness are important when managing your health. One resource, VitalityLink.com, can save you the frustrations I experienced when beginning my journey into alternative health.

When diagnosed with chronic illness, realization that life will never be the same is much like mourning the loss of a loved one. Most sufferers experience the stages of grief as described by Kubler-Ross:

Relief – I am not crazy and there really is something physically wrong with me.
Denial – I’ll just take some pills, try alternative medicine, and then I’ll be back to normal.
Anger – Why me?
Depression – Frustration and hopelessness that life will never be the same.
Acceptance – Ok, my life has changed but I can make new dreams, live joyfully and with purpose.
As a life coach for sufferers of chronic illness and pain, my goal with each client is to help work through the mourning process and develop plans of action where dreams become reality.

I support my clients’ exploration into integrative medicine. Integrative medicine involves western as well as alternative treatment. I do not recommend using alternative therapy out of desperation or in lieu of western medicine. I also urge all who suffer from ongoing illness and pain to take personal responsibility for better health. The following process encourages successful health management:

  • Research various treatments and discover what therapy may best help symptoms. What kinds of therapy are you comfortable trying? There are so many alternative therapies, it may seem overwhelming. VitalityLink is one resource that can help guide you through the myriad of treatments and practitioners.
  • Find a physician you trust. With chronic illness, a positive relationship with your doctor is important as it will be a long term partnership. I consider a good doctor one who listens to you, explains the reasons for tests, and is hesitant to make a diagnosis until they receive test results. It does not matter if you find  a general practitioner or specialist. For example, when I was finally diagnosed years ago, my GP referred me to a rheumatologist. When first meeting me, Dr. S refused to diagnose me for several months as he first needed to rule out other possibilities such as Lyme disease, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. After diagnosis, he admitted he could not cure me and supported my exploration into alternative treatments. Dr. S is still my hero. Most alternative practitioners do not offer the necessary tests for proper diagnosis. Even if a non-traditional health professional can offer some diagnostic tests, insurance probably won’t cover them.
  • Sometimes taking prescription medicine is necessary. For example, no alternative treatments can cure hypothyroidism. I stopped taking synthroid years ago when told by a herbalist that it was unnecessary with his prescribed herbs. He was wrong and is no longer in practice.
  • Find out what treatments are right for your condition. VitalityLink facilitates this process by filtering your symptoms or illness.
  • Learn practitioner backgrounds. Is licensing required in your state for the treatment you seek? Are they experienced in working with patients with your illness? I recommend getting references when possible. VitalityLink reviews and testimonials are helpful sources.
  • Not all treatments work the same for everyone and improvement times may vary. Talk to practitioners about how long it may take until you notice improvement. Also, is treatment expected to provide short-term or long-term improvement to your health?
  • If you are not comfortable with one practitioner, find another one. Like a physician, it is important that you trust all members of your health care team.
  • There is no such thing as a miracle cure. Be wary of anyone who promises that their treatment will cure you. Do research online before spending a lot of money on the next great medical miracle.
  • A variety of wellness options are usually necessary to improve health, including: dietary changes, vitamins and supplements, stretches and exercise, prescription medication, and alternative treatments. Again, talk and listen to your health care team.
  • Lifestyle changes are often necessary when diagnosed with a chronic illness. A life coach who understands chronic illness will support you during the emotional roller coaster of chronic illness, listen to frustrations, and work with you to create action plans that make your new life fulfilling.
  • Many alternative health care treatments are gaining widespread acceptance. many hospitals use acupuncture now for blocking pain, insurance covers some massage therapies, and meditation and relaxation techniques are part of many psychology practices. By considering the above suggestions, integrative health care can make you feel better.

Never give up! Life changes happen and can actually be even better after diagnosis.

I can help you to live a full and joyful life despite chronic illness.  

Contact me for a free, no commitment exploration session at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com

 

Sun Therapy for Fibro, Fibromyalgia Network


Sun Therapy for Fibro, Fibromyalgia Network.

Vitamin D deficiencies are not uncommon for fibro sufferers.  As I mention  in the article’s comments, sometimes sun therapy is not enough.  Ask your doctor to test your blood for vitamin d, b12, and folic acid.  It is possible that supplements will be needed.  Also, 500 mg of Magnesium every day has been recommended by neurologists, rheumatologists, and my doctor.