With the June 30, 2009 vote by the Federal Drug Administration advisory committee to eliminate prescription acetaminophen-combination painkillers, Fibromyalgia patients have to be concerned. Concerns of abuse, addiction, and even cases of death, led to their recommendation to ban prescription painkillers like vicodin and percocet. The committee also voted to lower the maximum dose of over-the-counter painkillers with acetaminophen, like Tylenol and Excedrin, due to a rise in cases of liver damage. According to the FDA, acetaminophen remains the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S.
It is too soon to know what, if any, impact this will actually have. The FDA is not required to follow the committee’s recommendation, although historically they do. At the very least it is a good time to consider what options you have to prepare for the possible ban. Prescription painkillers will always be available in some form. With complaints of chronic pain on an epidemic rise, drug companies will see to it. But prescription painkillers need not be the only option for Fibromyalgia pain treatment.
So what can I do to ease my pain naturally?
I am glad you asked! In the midst of a severe Fibromyalgia flare-up, there may be nothing as quick to bring relief as good old – insert your painkiller of choice here, but for daily maintenance and preventative health care, natural is best.
Foods & Herbs
Your food should be your first medicine. In a previous post I listed the many toxic foods to avoid if you have Fibromyalgia. Now lets take a look at foods and herbs beneficial for pain management.
Essential fatty acids are a must. EFAs like Omega-3s are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesize, and must be obtained through diet. Omega-3s have a natural anti-inflammatory quality along with a whole complex of other health benefits. Research indicates that omega-3s may be better absorbed from food than supplements.
Wild salmon is a great source of Omega-3s, as are other fatty fish like albacore tuna, halibut, and sardines. Not a fan of fish? Flaxseed oil and Canola oil are good choices too. Or how about walnuts? Try a sprinkle of walnuts on spinach salad for a nutritious and delicious double dose of essential fatty acids. Summer squash, cauliflower, and broccolli are all very good sources as well.
Herbal remedies also aid in pain relief. Natural pain relief — like herbal medicine, is an increasingly popular way to manage pain.
- Turmeric is gaining great recognition as a natural painkiller. Why not try sprinkling some on that piece of salmon you are grilling up?
- Fresh ginger helps with inflammation.
- Capsaicin applied topically may be beneficial for relieving pain.
- Feverfew has been found useful for treating migraines.
- Ginseng is listed by the American Pain Foundation as beneficial for Fibromyalgia pain treatment.
If you are serious about trying herbal remedies for pain relief, I advise that you consult with your physician or a licensed herbalist who understands how powerful these herbs can be.
Soak on it
More and more research indicates that Fibromyalgia patients suffer from magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is extremely important to many functions in the body, and a deficiency can cause several of the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia. There are great benefits in taking an Epsom salt bath, rich in hydrated magnesium sulfate, which is easily absorbed through the skin.
As listed on the Epsom Salt Industry Council website, here are some of the health benefits to be had from an epsom salt bath:
- Flushes toxins and heavy metals from the cells, easing muscle pain and helping the body to eliminate harmful substances.
- Relieves stress. Excess adrenaline and stress are believed to drain magnesium, a natural stress reliever, from the body. Magnesium is necessary for the body to bind adequate amounts of serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of well being and relaxation.
- Reduces inflammation to relieve pain and muscle cramps.
- Improves oxygen use.
- Improves absorption of nutrients.
- Improves formation of joint proteins, brain tissue and mucin proteins.
- Prevents or eases migraine headaches.
I don’t think we could ask much more from a simple bath! Epsom salt baths are so relaxing and therapeutic, I recommend you take two or three a week – more if your level of pain dictates. Before bed is a great time, as you will find yourself so relaxed by the natural serotonin boost, you will be able to gently drift off into a restorative sleep.
Yoga, Qigong, meditation and many other mind-body practices teach the healing properties of purposeful breathing. Conscious breathing can actually change your body chemistry by increasing oxygen supply to your cells and prompting the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain killers. Deep breathing relaxes the muscles and calms the mind.
In her book Yoga for Fibromyalgia, Shoosh Lettick Crotzer teaches The Healing Breath technique. To practice this, begin in a seated pose with your feet flat on the floor and your arms resting lightly on your thighs. Close your eyes, follow the directions below, and let your breath heal.
Inhale and exhale slowly, focusing on how the air feels as it passes through your nose, into your body, and back out. Think of your breath as the gift of life – prana: life force. Let it feel soothing as it flows inside. If you have general pain, visualize this healing breath filling your whole body. If your pain is more specific, on inhalations, bring the breath directly to your pain. Then, for either type of pain, let each new inhalation bring energy to expand and soften, cleanse and release, rejuvenate. With the exhalations, let the tensions and heaviness of your pain flow out with the breath. Breathe slowly, and continue until you feel quiet, heavy, and more relaxed. Come out of the pose when you are ready. Notice the difference you have made in yourself.
Mindful breathing will bring you more in-tune with your body. It is something we should all practice everyday, regardless of our level of pain.
Good Health Requires Mindfulness
Self care is critical in the management of Fibromyalgia. There is no magic pill that will reverse all of the symptoms we live with. There never will be. So instead of waiting for the magic bullet, we should focus on simple and manageable things we can do to help improve our health and wellbeing. It may take a great combination of holistic and natural remedies, combined with the care of our doctors, to really achieve optimal results. Be your own best health advocate and practice the Healing Breath technique, cook yourself some salmon for dinner, and then take a relaxing epsom salt bath. You are worth the effort.