Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Science, Fibromyalgia, and Exercise


Last year I wrote about the importance of critical thinking and problem solving and casting a light on recurring theories. This year, I decided to kick off a review of the research beginning with a look at exercise and fibromyalgia.
In my 2015 blog, I asked "Can Aerobic Exercise Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms?" As I said, the answer is tricky because there is evidence that aerobic exercise can reduce symptoms, and there is evidence to suggest it can increase symptoms. So, maybe we should look at the evidence on different types of exercise, like warm water (aquatic) exercise, yoga and stretching, and aerobic exercise vs. tai chi.

Using assessment parameters we usually see when studying fibromyalgia, researchers (2008) looked at the effectiveness of aquatic (warm water) therapy compared to home based exercise therapy.  They found that both aquatic therapy and home-based exercise programs have beneficial effects. However, when considering pain management, only aquatic therapy had longer lasting effects. And, a 2015 study revealed that a pool-based aquatic aerobic exercise program was the most effective treatment when compared to isometric strength-stretching and aerobic exercise. So, can we conclude aquatic therapy is good for fibromyalgia, maybe not?

In 2014, Bidonde J, et al. concluded that there is low to moderate quality evidence to suggest that aquatic training is beneficial. And “very low to low quality evidence suggests that there are benefits of aquatic and land-based exercise, except in muscle strength (very low quality evidence favoring land)”. What are we to think? 

Ai Chi = The use of breathing techniques and progressive resistance training in water to relax and strengthen the body, based on elements of qigong and Tai chi chuan.

I personally found aquatic therapy made my myofascial pain syndrome pain much worse. Enter Ai Chi. Knowing my past experience, my physical therapist encouraged me try Ai Chi. Trusting in him, I did. It is very different and I liked it. So, it comes as no surprise to me that a 2016 pilot study found “significant differences in values such as pain perception, vitality, mental health, as well as perceived overall improvement in quality of life”. This new approach (Ai Chi), rather than aquatic strength training, may make a difference in the benefits of warm water therapies. 


Research on resistance training (isometrics, weight training, etc.) is reported by the experts to be of low quality, so I am not entertaining it here.


A 2014 Brazilian review, Effects of muscle stretching exercises in the treatment of fibromyalgia, found significant improvement in all studies regarding pain and quality of life. However, they concluded that even though it is clear that muscle stretching for fibromyalgia is important, there is a need for further studies because of the low quality of methods used and the lack of standardization for comparative analysis. This makes it difficult to know if a certain stretching technique is better.

What about yoga?

A 2011 pilot study suggests a protocol for managing fibromyalgia with yoga and meditation. While they do report positive responses, there were only 11 participants.


Side note: I do a few gentle flowing yoga poses as a warm up to tai chi. If my chest feels restricted, I get right to breathing through the child’s pose. Tree pose is my barometer for knowing when I need to work on balance before I do something stupid, like fall over for no reason, or sling my arms into walls, what I call in our BIG book, the “Bull in the China Cabinet Effect.” I have learned that holding postures will activate trigger points and cause mild-altering pain. But, stretching can feel so good; and when it’s done right, it should.

A small 2017 mindful yoga pilot study found fibromyalgia symptoms and functional deficits improved significantly, as did physical tests of strength and balance, and pain coping strategies. These findings indicate that further investigation is warranted into the effect of Mindful Yoga on neurobiological pain processing.”


Aerobic exercise is often suggested as a first line treatment for fibromyalgia. However, as recently as 2017 that could change. In a review, researchers report those of us with fibro may see little to no difference in our pain and physical function from aerobic exercise. Quote, “We downgraded the evidence owing to the small number of included trials and participants across trials, and because of issues related to unclear and high risks of bias (performance, selection, and detection biases). Aerobic exercise appears to be well tolerated (similar withdrawal rates across groups), although evidence on adverse events is scarce, so we are uncertain about its safety.” There is some research to suggest the way our body responds to exertional demands could play a role in our intolerance to aerobic exercise, such as running, biking, or other physical activities that increase our heart rate.

Balancing Rocks-Celeste's Photography
There is a great deal of evidence to suggest tai chi is beneficial for improving fibromyalgia symptoms and mobility.  Maybe that’s because our autonomic nervous system tolerates the gentle movements of tai chi better than aerobic exercise. A randomized controlled trial published on March 23, 2018 looked at the effects of tai chi training in relationship to heart rate variability, symptoms, and muscle fitness in women with fibromyalgia and suggest tai chi may be effective for improving autonomic balance, pain, fatigue, strength and flexibility in women with fibromyalgia. And, a study published March 21, 2018 found “tai chi mind-body treatment results in similar or greater improvement in symptoms than aerobic exercise”.

It’s important for anyone with chronic pain to keep moving. And, when it comes to fibromyalgia, it appears the positive results are more likely if the practice of mindfulness is included with exercise.

Additional Reading:

A Year of Fibro: Musings, Writings, and Opinions, May 2016. A recap of my writings on fibromyalgia

In healing,

Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Learn more about Celeste’s books here. Subscribe to posts by using the information in the upper right hand corner or use the share buttons to share with others. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

9 Reasons Tai Chi Reduces Pain and Promotes Health

Resource Shutterstock

The ancient Chinese dance-like practice of tai chi is a meditative movement form that provides many health benefits, and there is evidence that it helps people living with chronic pain conditions.

“Tai chi should be called "medication in motion.”


Bill Douglas, author of the best-selling tai chi book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tai Chi and Qigong”, developer of the Kansas University “Stress Reduction Program,” and founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is considered a Tai Chi and Qigong expert. In an interview, Bill tells Dr. Andrew Weil—on benefits— “students often comment about feeling a great sense of well-being, a sense of 'being here and now' rather than scattered and anxious. I’ve heard students say after a class that they feel like they just had a day at the spa.” He also tells Dr. Weil, "Many students also talk about relief from chronic pain."
Tai Chi:

1.     relieves stress
2.     promotes muscle health
3.     promotes flexibility
4.     gently stretches tender, contracted muscles
5.     promotes strength and improves joint function
6.     circulates lymph fluid important to boosting immune function
7.     improves balance
8.     provides positive feedback to our brain
9.     moves our focus away from pain

A 2016 meta analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials found tai chi is a viable complementary and alternative medicine for chronic pain conditions. And, a recent study (March 21, 2018) suggests tai chi is at least as beneficial for fibromyalgia as aerobic exercise, possibly more. 


The several styles of tai chi are named after the surname of their founder. The oldest style is Chen. Tai Chi Chen consists of low stances and powerful movements. The Yang family first became involved in the study of Tai Chi Chuan, which is the most common form of tai chi practiced in the west. Other forms include Wu, Hoa, and Sun style, though the Hoa style is seldom practiced today. You may also find combination styles of tai chi, which incorporate movements from more than one approach.  

chi= qi = ki = prana: Traditional Chinese medicine refers to our vital energy force as chi or qi. Japanese call it ki, and it is known as prana in the ayurvedic medical tradition of India.

Each tai chi style has something different to offer based on the teacher’s approach. 


It's important that we know what type of tai chi is right for us. Our choice should align with our physical abilities and goals and never feel stressful, quite the opposite. 

Each tai chi movement has purpose and a symbolic meaning. For instance, as we sink into our body we are opening our joints and relieving stress while building strength. The slow purposeful and graceful movements of tai chi give us the opportunity to make a mental and spiritual connection with our body and let the healing energy of chi heal our body, mind, and spirit. 

Easy Tai Chi Lesson from Bill Douglas

It’s important to experience movement and meditation for our health and practicing Tai Chi is a great way to do both. It is less likely to trigger a flare and it helps those of us with physical limitations stay as active and healthy as possible. Tai chi is one of my personal tools to combat physical and mental stress.

See what I have to say about tai chi in an interview I did for US News and World Report in "9 Strategies for Coping with Fibromyalgia."


Bill Douglas, wrote the foreword to our book (co-author Jeff Miller, PhD) Broken Body Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain, Winter Devotions and he had this to say  inside the cover of our book Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain: The Mind-Body Connection:

“This integrative holistic approach to these conditions is what is needed throughout medicine today. Empowering us to become part of our own health and healing process is such a powerful approach to these conditions or any others. I applaud the authors, and hope they inspire others to follow their lead.

Additional Reading

In healing,

Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Learn more about Celeste’s books here. Subscribe to posts by using the information in the upper right hand corner or use the share buttons to share with others. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Balancing Pain and Illness through Poetry

All Eyes to the Sun © Celeste’s Photography

"Poetry is writing about yourself waiting to see what will show up, the words are the finger points of your soul.”

~Sandford Lyne, author of Writing Poetry from the Inside Out

Maintaining forward momentum in the face of pain, fatigue, and unpredictable symptoms can be challenging. In our book Broken Body, Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain, SPRING DEVOTIONS, we talk about inner expression through poetry and how it can help us cope with pain and fatigue. All our books have tips for writing for self-exploration. Poetry is one of those.




Poetry is often thought of as the conduit to our soul. For me, writing poetry heightens my senses and provides an alternative path that promotes mindfulness. The words I chose give my thoughts texture, making them palpable, at least to me. Writing poetry provides a beautiful detour, because unlike physical pain and illness, there are no boundaries, no limitations. We have unabashed freedom to explore and express ourselves using colors, shapes, and concepts we might not otherwise. 

I am in awe of the power of randomly chosen words and their ability to bring me peace. Whether I am working through a difficult situation or embracing the wonders of the world, I know when I'm done, I am connected to an inner being I only know through poetry.

I wrote a blog on how to write “I am” poem, which you can use as a template to write your own.



I love it when the words fly, coming together effortlessly, but that isn't always the case — at times — I have to put my words aside or work from a different angle. But that's why I love to do it.

I wrote this poem staring with four random words: truth, bird, broken, observe. It went through several transformations before I felt a deep meaning for myself. Some of my poems don't make a word of sense to others, but they don't need to. They are mine, just as your will be yours.

This Is My Truth © by Celeste Cooper

Like a bird with a broken wing,
I can stray off course, my flight pattern disrupted.
Wounded from the fall, I will not judge, because
As a wise owl, I observe, I accept, I understand—
Before I take flight, I need time to mend, plan a new course.
This is my truth.

Imperfection as clear as a broken mirror,
Though broken, goals are transformed.
Seedlings forced into maturity will not thrive.
Accepting that mistakes are the seed, I cultivate.
The broken mirror affords a self-reflection of reality.
This is my truth.

I falter, sometimes wretchedly, but enlightened.
Sweet is the nectar of success—not synonymous to perfection.
Erupting from deep inside a reminder from Edison,
"I did not fail; I found 10,000 ways that won't work."
I accept my imperfections—only then—can I take flight.
This is my truth.

I hope you will pick up a pencil and a piece of paper. Write down some of your favorite words, you can find them in crossword puzzles, a good book, the dictionary, or make them up; that's the beauty of it. Let your mind float and your hands glide across the paper as the words guide you to a new place, a place hopefully free of pain and illness, but if you need to work that out, you can go there too by observing until it dissipates in the background. Just do it.

In healing,
Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

“Listen closely; I hear the sweet sound of existence.”

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Learn more about Celeste’s books here. Subscribe to posts by using the information in the upper right hand corner or use the share buttons to share with others.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pained Ink Slayer Series: Mindfulness and Chronic Pain

Delicate Strength©  Celeste's Photography

Coping strategies can vary among each of us. I write and advocate as a way of coping. I am open to learning anything that will help me avoid the pitfalls of negative thinking and one of those is to live in the moment, to be mindful.


When things seem out of perspective, I realize the importance of focusing, living in the moment, being aware of my surroundings, and giving my body the loving care it needs. Mindfulness is a learned ability to live in the moment without judgment or fret over intruding thoughts. It’s about visualizing details without becoming emotionally involved. For instance, to breathe mindfully is to use all my senses, the sound and feel of air traveling over passageways, the smell of my surroundings, and I can see the crisp air of fall because of my breath. I realize the beauty of a flower is the sum of its minute detail, aspects that can only be captured by getting close. If I am lucky, I will catch a honeybee sipping on its sweet nectar. I would never get that snapshot if I let fear of being stung overcome my desire to capture the moment.


Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives.
It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment.
~Jon Kabat-Zinn, Molecular Biologist, University Teacher, Writer, and Physician


It takes practice, but we can learn to be mindful of our pain without judging it. After all, it is our body crying out for attention, love, and caring, not ridicule and disturbing dialogue or worry. Denying the reality of it or catastrophizing it will only make it worse. So, why not use pain as a teaching tool for focused redirection creating an environment that helps us live fully.​


Mindfulness reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, and promotes relaxation. This is extremely important to those of us living with chronic pain because we unconsciously assume postures and hold muscles in an effort to guard against pain. Only when we become aware can we train ourselves not to react to it emotionally. Over time, we recognize the powerful energy mindfulness has in our lives and change happens. Will mindfulness make the disease that causes our pain go away? No, but it certainly changes our perception in the moment.


From our book, Broken Body, Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain, Summer Devotions edition©:

·        Take a couple of deep breaths.
·        Focus on the colors, shapes, smells.
·        Identify and release thought projects. 
·        Appreciate that your mind is clear.
·        Fill it up with the present moment.
·        Enjoy being present


Living mindfully promotes awareness, acceptance,
lenience with self and others, and tolerance of change.


Get as comfortable as possible in a place where you can keep distractions at bay for about 20 minutes.

1.     Begin by doing a body check for discomfort, numbness, weakness, or pain. Without judgment, color each area with a hue that reflects the disease you feel. I (Jeff ) use orange for aches, blue for numbness, grey for weakness, and red for acute pain. If you are aware that a disease will occur if you move, or don’t move, add it in as if it were already present. Whatever system of ouchies and colors you pick will work just fine.
2.     Begin breathing as deeply as practical and keep the body map in your mind’s eye. Accept this map as “where we start”.
3.     With every breath note the intensity of the colors fading a bit. Note how some colors fade quickly, some more slowly, some completely, others less so. Which might change and in what way? Focus on the colors and how they shift. As your mind wanders off task, bring it back gently to breathing and observing.
4.     When you sense the fading has reached its peak, begin visualizing warm, gentle rain that blurs the colors beautifully like a soft watercolor painting. Enjoy what you have created; residual pain is always interesting.
5.     Close by affirming your intention to observe and learn from these sensations

There are many good books and many stress reduction programs available on mindfulness and meditation; I have a repertoire of them. One of my favorites is Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In my meditation playlist, I have guided meditation and mindfulness exercises by Deepak Chopra and music like Meditation Movement from Charles Lam, which encourages me to get up and rock out some T’ai Chi, another favorite coping mechanism of mine.

Additional reading:
Making the Best of AFFIRMATIONS by The Pained Ink Slayer
Pained Ink Slayer Series: Avoiding Lockdown

In healing,
Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

“Listen closely; I hear the sweet sound of existence.”

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Learn more about Celeste’s books here. Subscribe to posts by using the information in the upper right hand corner or use the share buttons to share with others.

All blogs and comments are based on the author's opinions and are not meant to replace medical advice.  

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Never Again Will I Travel Without My Oska® PEMF Device

Most of you know I am a firm believer that Oska®, a portable convenient pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) devise, works to minimize my pain—so—why on earth would I NOT follow my own advice? I learned a valuable lesson that I need to share with you so you don’t make the same mistake.

As I have stated in previous posts, I happen to be one of the folks that must stay on a maintenance program that requires everyday use. I knew this, but I was doing so well I thought I could surely do without it for one week while on a relaxing vacation. WRONG! I forgot (not once, but twice, now) how much pain my body could be forced to endure until it WOKE up like a sleeping giant full of rest and waiting for me to mess up. I have been put in my place.

Oska, I am home.

If Oska isn’t helping, please learn from my experience.

·        Some of us require constant diligent care.
·        Something I knew, but forgot, is that Oska Pulse goes through four different protocols within each 30-minute session. Each protocol has a unique purpose to target various cellular components. The final protocol is also the most important (and proprietary), which is why we should complete a session in its entirety.

If you are considering Oska, please remember these things.


No two of us are the same. My dad had a noticeable difference right away, but as I said, I was more resistant. My progress was gradual, but the relapse sure wasn’t, and the giant was anything but gentle. Lesson learned, Oska, I won’t leave you hanging over the back of my recliner again!

Oska offers a 30-day free trial period. Learn more about at the Oska Pulse at

Be sure to use my #sponsor code CCRN60 at check out to get a $55 discount if you pay in full. This discount is only available at the OskaWellness website.

Additional Information:

·        Oska Pulse is clinically proven.  Study published by Practical Pain Management.
Shurman, J., Wiederhold, BK., Kasendorf, R., Qian, J., Miller, I., Wiederhold, MD. Treating Chronic Pain Using the Oska Pulse Device: A Double Blind Clinical Trial Using Placebo. Practical Pain Management. 2018 Feb.

·        Other PEMF Peer-Reviewed Studies

In healing,
Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

I may be a warped mass, 

but when you place me at the top of a sleep grade 

and give me a swift kick, I gain momentum.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Learn more about Celeste’s books here. Subscribe to posts by using the information in the upper right hand corner or use the share buttons to share with others.

All blogs and comments are based on the author's opinions and are not meant to replace medical advice.  

Celeste's Website

Celeste's Website
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