Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chronic Pain and Mental Fog Tips and Tricks

Written by Adrienne Dellwo, About.com Guide to Fibromyalgia & CFS
(About.com blog) If you had any doubt that fibromyalgia was a strange condition, this will clear it up for you -- rattle nerves are painful. Yep, if you get us frazzled, it causes real, physical pain.
On top of that, our nerves can get rattled pretty easily. Whether we're trying to multi-task (which we don't do well), dealing with visual chaos, loud noise, crowds, traffic, or fibro-fog confusion, we get rattled. And then we hurt.

Dr. Mark Pellegrino, in his book Fibromyalgia: Up Close and Personal, explains fibro fog in a way that makes a lot of sense and also seems to explain our easily rattled nerves. 

Basically, he attributes it to: low serotonin, which controls pain and relaxes the brain; low norepinephrine, which helps us focus and concentrate; and the brain's attention centers being overwhelmed with pain signals. Too much activity without enough of the stuff that deals with it ... well, it's like Lucy and Ethel on an assembly line.

To that, I'd add our disordered stress systems. We tend to have problems with the stress-hormone cortisolHPA axis, which is the system that deals with stress.

To avoid the pain that comes with rattled nerves, we can combat the problem one both fronts -- we can avoid getting rattled (when possible), and we can take steps to help our bodies deal better with it.

First, we know certain things bother us. If possible, avoid them. If that's not possible, try a different approach. Dr. Pellegrino recommends 6 things for fighting fibro fog that I believe are also good advice for these situations:
  • Write things down: Grocery lists, reminders, plans, etc. They can help you be more organized and less prone to anxiety.
  • Consistent routines: The more you stick to a routine, the less you have to think about it. That will help keep your brain from becoming too cluttered, which also helps keep you calm.
  • Relaxation: Learning to relax your mind and body is an important part of living with fibromyalgia. Techniques include deep breathing, visualization, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi.
  • Medication: SSRIs or SNRIs (Cymbalta, Savella) and drugs that calm the central nervous system (Ritalin, Provigil) can help your brain deal with the constant bombardment of pain signals that can contribute to fibro fog. When you can focus better, you're less apt to get frazzled.
  • Supplements: Dr. Pellegrino recommends 5-HTP, colostrum, ginkgo biloba, CoQ10 and vinpocetine. My personal favorites for this purpose are theanine (daily) and DHEA (when needed).
  • Don't be too hard on yourself! Do the best you can, and try not to get frustrated if you run into a problem. Accept that you're human and that you have certain limitations. (Easier said than done, I know, but it's a good goal to work toward.)
With fibromyalgia, we have all different kinds of pain. For a look at others, see 7 Types of Fibromyalgia Pain.
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