Sunday, May 12, 2019

How Aware Are We? Fibromyalgia And Aggravating Conditions

Courtesy Celeste’s Photography©

Many things can make our fibro symptoms worse.  So, we should ask ourselves, “What am I doing, or not doing, that adds to my misery?” “How can I identify and manage perpetuating or aggravating factors?”


This blog post, Fibromyalgia Awareness And Aggravating Conditions, originally appeared May 5, 2016 on ProHealth. With ProHealth’s permission, I am sharing it in its entirety here on The Pained Ink Slayer.


May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month. And what a month it is! In many parts of the US, spring rains of April have brought an environment exploding with color and texture as saplings emerge, promising hope and feelings of rebirth.

All these things make May a wonderful month to raise awareness for fibromyalgia. We will see many campaigns across social media platforms, and we should all contribute in some way, if only to share it with someone else.  However, we should also remember, as the month begins to warm, other things need our attention.

As the season beacons us outdoors, our activity increases, as it should.  We will experience the reality of spring storms and, if we aren’t paying close attention, weather changes that can affect us. We may, and probably do, have overlapping or co-existing conditions that put us on red alert, but we must pay attention because while our emotional well-being often improves by getting outside, not all conditions bode well with sudden surges in physical activity.

Three reasons for us to remain aware:

1.     When our spirits are high, we tend to ignore warning signs of an impending problem.
2.     Managing all conditions, not just fibromyalgia, is necessary.
3.     Awareness of symptoms improves the likelihood that we get the right treatment for the right problem.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, having other rheumatic conditions increases the risk of developing fibromyalgia. Dr. Robert Bennett has suggested to me that fibromyalgia is usually accompanied by another painful disorder as outlined in the Alternative Criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia of which he is lead investigator.

While some of the following may not be directly related to FM, they should be considered as aggravating conditions if you have been diagnosed.

Aggravating and Possible Overlapping Conditions

·        AIDS/HIV infection
·        Allergy
·        Autonomic nervous system problems (neurally mediated hypotension, loss of heart rate variability)
·        Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or RSD
·        ME/CFS or Gulf War syndrome
·        Headaches, severe
·        Hypometabolism – adrenal insufficiency, insulin resistance, reactive hypoglycemia, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, thyroid resistance
·        Infection – candidiasis (yeast), viral, or bacterial
·        Inner ear dysfunction
·        Irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut syndrome
·        Mouth problems associated with fibromyalgia (dry mouth, teeth grinding, TMJ)
·        Multiple chemical sensitivity
·        Musculoskeletal problems – myofascial pain syndrome, piriformis syndrome or sciatica, plantar fasciitis, carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis
·        Neurological disorders – costochondritis, degenerative spine and/or disc disease,
·        Multiple sclerosis, neuralgia (nerve pain), peripheral neuropathy, thoracic outlet syndrome, restless leg syndrome
·        Psychological distress – anxiety and/or depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
·        Urological problems – vulvodynia, impotence in men, chronic pelvic pain, irritable bladder, endometriosis
·        Raynaud’s phenomenon or disease
·        Rheumatic disorders – ankylosing spondylitis, bursitis,  hypermobility syndrome or EDS, polymyalgia rheumatic, post-polio syndrome, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus
·        Sleep disorder

Other Aggravating Factors

·        Poor posture
·        Repetitive movement
·        Structural deformity, scoliosis, lordosis, kyphosis (one foot shorter than the other)
·        Overdoing and paradoxically under-doing – a really big one to consider as we emerge from hibernation
·        Disorganization and poor time management skills
·        Brainfog
·        Cold intolerance
·        Poorly identifying problems with medication and therapy
·        Ignoring diet
·        Thinking your symptoms will wait

While we may not be able to change overlapping or co-existing conditions, we can manage them better. After all, it is human to have room for improvement –  everyone does. And, be sure to report any new or escalating symptoms to your physician, as the treatment for other conditions are not the same as those for fibromyalgia.

We can do things to minimize the effects of a flare, such as taking it easy, avoiding known stressors, eating healthy, practicing mindfulness, moving, and identifying any important factors to avoid in the future.

I’m not going to vacuum ’til Sears makes one you can ride on.
~ Roseanne Barr ~

If you benefited from this information or have questions, please leave them in the comments below. I love learning from you.

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. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Texture Of Pain Through Poetry

"Poetry comes from the highest happiness or the deepest sorrow."
~A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

When Yellow Tundra Meets the Sky© Courtesy Celeste’s Photography

Those of us who live with chronic pain and illness understand respecting our limitations. But, there are many ways to be energetic, despite having a low physical battery. We can:

·        Be mindful.
·        Be compassionate.
·        Be grateful.
·        And, we can ALL write poetry!

Poetry has become a conduit to my most intimate inner feelings. I think that’s because I have learned to face the relevance of both anguish and joy, the reality that those of us living with chronic pain and illness know. Whether writing or reading poetry, I find there is a positive role for intervention, resolution, and learning to let go, which allows me to explore the diversion of creativity. So much is waiting to be explored.

When I prepare to write, I am energized by favorite words that tempt me with their sweet nectar. I have a favorite word list in my journal, which includes famous quotes that inspire me. I find the rich texture of expression that is born from the words I choose.

I try to share at least one of my poems in April to raise awareness for poetry. The following started as an “I Am” poem.

Dear Pain, Much to Your Chagrin© by Celeste Cooper

Don’t cloud my wits—attack, bother, or nag.
You know you have nothing positive to add.
You fractured the ability to create a red flag.

Dare not threaten my spirit or make me weak,
A tender, tired body deserves not your grief,
This survivor will not stop searching relief.

Mindful of judgments you pose in my ear,
My spirit remains positive in the absence of fear.
Affirmations are the armor that protects what is dear.

So, as constant and unyielding as you try to be,
I continue to bear arms to make you retreat.
Pain, you may have my body, but you don’t have me!


...Poetry has been described as the conduit to our soul. It provides us the emotional and spiritual energy to hurtle over life’s obstacles. It heightens our senses of sight, sound, touch, and smell, and it can be delicious. It offers a feel, a texture, to all we experience and work through in our mind, because it knows no time, no era, nor limits. We can express self and circumstances through the written word…

Pick up your favorite book, a thesaurus from the dollar store, a magazine, whatever, and make a list of some of your favorite words. ...Begin your journey of inner expression—start writing ...

[Excerpt, Broken Body, Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain, SPRING DEVOTIONS ]


All our books have tips for writing for self-exploration. Poetry is one of those.

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. 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

4 Ways To Minimize Stress Vulnerability In Fibromyalgia

April is stress awareness month and I can’t think of a better time to review how stress interferes with wellness. There is a promise of new growth that encourages us to seek ways to minimize stress by managing our reactions and making better choices.

#1 Know the effects

We have all experienced the effects of stress. In fibromyalgia it can:

·        Interfere with sleep.
·        Make our pain worse.
·        Hijack our ability to cope with pain.
·        Cause autonomic nervous system problems.
·        Make comorbid or co-existing disorders harder to manage.

… and more

So, if we ask, - Does fibromyalgia make me vulnerable to stress? - The answer is yes.

#2 Identify manifestations of stress

How stress manifests itself may vary between each of us, and each of us may experience certain symptoms according to the event surround it. But, generally stress can cause or be part of:

·        Anxiety and/or depression.
·        Irritability.
·        Changes in vital signs and body temperature. This is particularly important to when dealing with the autonomic effects of fibromyalgia.
·        Increased pain.
·        Muscle tension, spasm, or dysfunction.
·        Headache.
·        Fatigue.
·        Gastrointestinal problems, like GERD or IBS.
·        Teeth grinding.
·        Disordered sleep.
·        Forgetfulness.
·        Immune system problems, like poor healing.
·        Tremors.
·        Changes in speech.

… and others that may be specific to you.

#3 Be aware of stress behaviors

While a certain amount of stress can be beneficial by temporarily improving our focus, chronic stress is a game changer. The behaviors we develop in response to chronic stress might include:

·        Fear and loss of control.
·        Impulsive behavior, such as stress eating, unnecessary spending, or taking risks.
·        Mood swings.
·        Avoidance of physical activity.
·        Inability to focus.
·        Difficulty setting and achieving goals.
·        Making poor decisions.
·        Interference in relationships.

Knowing our behavioral response to stress is important for us to set achievable goals and develop an effective plan for dealing with chronic stress.

#4 Focus on a personal strategy

Those of us living with fibromyalgia understand the consequences of stress. But, what are some things we can do to promote focus, minimize pain, improve sleep, and reduce the effects of stress gone awry.

·        Make a stress response plan with measurable action-oriented goals.
·        Make a real effort to get back to a hobby.
·        Find ways to explore nature. This is particularly helpful for me, because I can use my hobby of photography and writing poetry.
·        Celebrate accomplishments with family and friends.
·        Maintain a healthy diet.
·        Surround yourself with people who encourage one another.
·        Use mindfulness techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, creative visualization, etc.
·        Practice deep breathing.
·        Incorporate bedtime rituals to promote sleep.
·        Listen to music that has a calming effect on us.
·        Move around. When I realize I am drowning in stress, I get physical. I organize closets, clean out the refrigerator, take a walk, go through old computer files, practice Tai Chi, etc. I highly suggest this.
·        Write in our journal.
·        Get a massage or other bodywork.
·        Manage environmental triggers.
·        Find a therapist who understands chronic pain and can provide useful tools for reducing stress, like guided meditation, hypnosis, and biofeedback.

* If stress is interfering with your normal activities of daily living, it’s time to seek professional help.


"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose
one thought over another."
~ William James, American philosopher and psychologist

We can’t always control our stress triggers, particularly when living with the unpredictability of fibromyalgia, but we can control our response. The more practiced we become, the quicker balance is restored.

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. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Do Tight Muscles Cause You Pain? What You Should Know About Chronic Myofascial Pain

Courtesy Free Photos

This blog post, What You Should Know About Chronic Myofascial Pain, originally appeared on ProHealth, January 7, 2019. Because the article continues to garner attention, I am sharing it in its entirety here on The Pained Ink Slayer with ProHealth’s permission.

If you have questions, be sure to comment.


We have all experienced a tight muscle that causes pain and restriction of motion, such as sleeping on our neck wrong, but this is not myofascial pain syndrome (MPS). So, what is?

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

The primary job of a skeletal muscle is to provide locomotion by attaching to other muscles and to joints. When knotted up pieces of muscle fiber called trigger point/s develop, the muscle is shortened and becomes dysfunctional. Myofascial trigger points (TrPs) prevent normal contraction and relaxation of the muscle involved. These self-sustaining nodules in the hyper-irritable area of the muscle/s cause sensory, motor, and autonomic symptoms.

myofascial = pertaining to the covering (fascia) of muscle

When TrPs are not treated early and appropriately, the tug and pull of the dysfunctional muscle fibers creates stress and leads to development of TrPs in either the same muscle, compensatory muscles on the same or opposite sides of the body, or in all four quadrants of the body as our musculoskeletal system perpetually tries to adjust.


Diagnosis can be complicated if the examiner is not familiar with MPS. Myofascial disorders are generally poorly understood in the medical community. Bourgaize S, et al. (April 2018) allege MPS is confused with fibromyalgia, because both MPS and FM are prominent forms of chronic musculoskeletal pain in their literature review. This delays proper treatment.

A history of chronic myofascial pain and muscle and/or joint dysfunction is what usually gets us to the doctor. As previously noted, MPS pain and dysfunction usually occurs in more than one quadrant of the body and includes: 
  • Pain that lasts three to six months.
  • Trigger point/s that can usually be felt by the examiner.
  • A taut muscle band. (You may or may not be able to feel the TrP in the band depending on the amount of muscle contraction. There may be one or more in the same muscle.)
  • Referred pain. (A referral pattern for the TrP is consistent between patients. Pain can be well away from the primary trigger point.)
  • Twitch response of the muscle by some mechanical method (i.e.: manual pressure or needle insertion).
  • Decreased mobility related to the affected muscle.
  • Weakness in the affected muscle.

Myofascial pain syndrome is known as the great imitator for a reason. For instance, MPS involving the piriformis muscle (a small deep muscle that cuddles the sciatic nerve) may be misdiagnosed as sciatica.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome And Fibromyalgia

Many of the conditions known to cluster with FM, like severe headache, restless leg syndrome, teeth grinding, balance problems, TMJ, chronic pelvic pain, chest wall pain, and more have a myofascial component of their own. Pain specialist, Dr. Karl Hurst-Wicker, MD, explains it like this.

“There is a good deal of overlapping between MPS and fibromyalgia (FMS). Likely this is related to the consistent long-term activation of peripheral pain pathways causing central [nervous system] sensitization and other changes in the nervous system that contribute to the development of FMS. Conversely, it can work in the other direction too; a patient with a primary FMS can develop MPS, in no small part because the FMS can amplify and perseverate even minor myofascial pain and injury to the point where it can propagate and become a regional issue.” (Health Central, Fibromyalgia Centralization and Peripheral Myofascial Pain: Interview with Karl Hurst-Wicker, MD, accessed December 31, 2018)

Unlike FM, MPS is not gender prevalent. Many of the perpetuating factors are genetic, such as short upper arms, short lower legs, one leg shorter than the other, curvature of the spine, or other musculoskeletal deformities. Some metabolic dysfunctions are thought to perpetuate myofascial pain syndrome, too. People with skeletal structural defects, both inherited or the result of injury, surgery, post-polio syndrome, or poor posture, and people who experience undue stress on a muscle, including repetitive motion, can contribute to MPS.

What We Can Do

Treatments for myofascial pain syndrome include manual treatment by a certified myofascial trigger point specialist, a physical therapist or chiropractor that specializes in myofascial therapies, guided self-treatment, electrical stimulation, ultrasound guided trigger point injections by a pain specialist, and more. But, the best treatment is prevention. We should be aware of perpetuating factors, so we can avoid them or manage them.


Consistent diagnostic criteria that can be used by all healthcare professionals are needed to ensure patients get the right diagnosis and the right treatment in a timely manner. Both MPS and FM cause pain, but that pain is NOT the same. Myofascial pain is a peripheral nerve problem that can usually be isolated; FM is a central nervous system problem that causes body-wide sensitivity.

Perpetuating factors of MPS can, and do, vary among us. Some of us may have a disorder like joint hypermobility. We may have both MPS and FM. Some of us work at computers, and yes, I must remain astutely aware of my body positioning. Maybe you had a surgery that left you with scarring of tissue that puts a strain on normal movement. There are a myriad of things that can lead to development of chronic myofascial pain.  But, the important thing to remember is that trigger points are treatable, and the longer we go without addressing the problem, the greater the risk to developing trigger points that seemingly breed like rabbits and become resistant to treatment.

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. 

Celeste's Website

Celeste's Website
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