Fibromyalgia and over-exercising: no focused attention

“Besides focused attention, other factors that enhance neuroplasticity include aerobic exercise, novelty and emotional arousal”, Daniel J. Siegal

I have been absent from writing on his site for over two months because I did not practice what I preach. While I have been an advocate of neuroplasticity, that is, the power to change our brains, I have not heeded that which I know to be an approach that is safe for those of us with fibromyalgia. In fact, aerobic exercise, novelty and emotional arousal are the three key ingredients of a health lifestyle for those of us with chronic pain. Focused attention is therefore paramount for us; we need to be constantly in touch with the changing circuits of the mind. Mindfulness meditation is one of the key links to focussed attention,  to living in the moment. But, it is the combination of the four elements cited above that present a balance for those of us with the overstimulated nervous system that challenges us daily.

Following an almost daily routine of a body scan/mindfulness meditation practice, exercising moderately every day, I thought I had the system down pat. Then, I began a new exercise regime, that is, I wanted to prove to myself I could use a treadmill, and in fact, go faster every few days, with more uphill gradations. It was indeed a ‘novelty’ for me as I had never been on a treadmill before. I became proud of my new exercise capabilities. Then, suddenly disaster struck. I developed excruciating pain in my left hip/buttock/leg. A spiral downhill to pain, inability to sit, stand, walk without extreme discomfort led to discontinuing mindfulness meditation and complete absorption with bodily pain. I became a couch potato with different diagnoses from different health care providers: bursitis, torn buttock muscles, herniated disk, femoral anterior gliding syndrome, probably needing a hip replacement. None actually focussed on my fibromyalgia.

Four shots of cortisone later, including one in the x-ray department with an injection directly into the ball joint, massages, physiotherapy appointments, medications that included hydromorphone, among others, have been the bane of my existence this spring. Planned trips cancelled as even a short car ride would only activated the pain. I became a social isolate.

What began as a novelty, aerobic achievement, and emotionally an activity that became meaningful to me became my downfall. I was too distracted to meditate. I cried, groaned, whined and could not get over the sense of hopelessness that pervaded me and those around me. Will I need a hip replacement? I am slowly lifting myself out of the abyss while the last cortisone treatment lasts for a few more weeks (hopefully). I can’t help but blame myself for this over extending of my capabilities. I over-exercised, did not pay attention to the messages from my body and now this crisis of movement is haunting me. For those of us with chronic pain we must be diligent about forcing the body to do that which it is not accustomed to doing and can only cause more pain. “No pain, no gain” is a motto which should be cast aside!

I have found a team of a physiotherapist and massage therapist with whom I am in agreement about the protocol for me to help regain strength. Based upon the principles of Somatics, which uses the concept of pandiculation ( dynamic stretching which has a neurological effect) to override muscle reactivity/guarding, I contract the muscles then slowly contract them more than they are  already engaged, lengthen, and then relax them. Repetition gives the control back to me so I can relax and move more freely.

The first physiotherapist I saw did not know how to treat me but applied a heating pad and ultra sound. Of course neither of these worked. Finally, I visited a clinic where both the physiotherapist and massage therapist practice Hanna Somatic Education and it is there I have settled.It is my brain that needs to change as it is from there that the pain evolves. It is from the website ‘adiemusfree’ where I obtain much of the information regarding pain. I have written about this elsewhere, but in the meantime I cannot sit for long so I must sign off.

I urge the readers to read what can be most helpful regarding pain from Hanna Somatic and ‘adiemusfree’. It is their approach, rather than the bio-mechanical model which has not helped  me over the years, dealing with chronic pain. In the meantime be kind to your body, pay attention, do not over- extend your exercise regime.


6 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia and over-exercising: no focused attention

  1. Dee

    Thank you for the article. I have to be very careful not to push myself as well.
    One new thing I started this summer is walking barefoot in the lake with my dog and spending 3 hours there on sat and Sun. It is helping me to feel more connected to my body and gives me good stimulation of my nervous system instead of having just pain. I read a book about sensory defensiveness called…too loud too bright too fast too tight and it talks briefly of fibromyalgia. Interesting read if you have a chance.

  2. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Thanks Lois: When will I ever learn to live quietly in the moment? I am always in a hurry to do more to get there (wherever that may be) faster? I wonder if all of us with fibromyalgia have similar personalities? I an grateful for your support, Regards, Barbara

  3. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Thank you Dee: I researched sensory defensiveness and found it to be the same as the highly sensitive person. Those of us engaged in debate on the central nervous system and our hypersensitivity to stimulation are on what seems to be the right path to uncovering the nature of this dis-ease! I appreciated your comments and I now have visions of you and your dog walking the lake. It certainly is a tranquil image! Thank you for your comments,
    Best wishes,

  4. Dee

    I have that tendency as well, life in the fast lane. Walking my dog on the beach is a new thing for me. Never would I have made time for that before the fibromyalgia. It seemed lazy and unproductive to plan stuff like that into my day. I wouldn’t be accomplishing anything! Luckily I have a good friend who although I always considered her lazy, has helped to teach me some of her self indulgent ways and the importance of soothing myself not pushing myself. Im curious too if this is a common trait. Dee

  5. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Ah, Dee! Soothing oneself is such a lovely phrase. I believe that too often we women are more concerned about soothing others and neglecting ourselves!
    Keep on doing things that make you feel good and avoid the criticism of yourself as lazy or unproductive. We were too productive, ambitious, hard working…whatever our personal traits that overwhelmed us and caused so much of our physical pain. The image of you walking the dog on the beach is such a wonderful one!

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