Author Archive

Hearing Loss is Reversible

Lumomed laser restores damaged ear cells.

After working for 42 years as a florist in their small, family-owned shop in Albany, New York, Sandy* and her husband retired at the ages of 67 and 68 respectively, moved to Florida and began living what Sandy calls “the good life.’’Dr. John Lieurance of Advanced Rejuvenation in Sarasota used laser therapy to treat *Sandy’s hearing loss.

As the years rolled on, however, the good life became increasingly difficult, particularly for Sandy, who realized not long before her 80th birthday that she was experiencing the kind of hearing difficulties all too common among people her age.

“I’d be talking to someone and I’d only catch half of what they were saying,” Sandy recalls. “I’d have to ask them over and over again, what did you say? Or if I answered them wrong, they’d give me a funny look and I’d have to explain, I didn’t totally hear you.”

Sandy’s inability to carry on a conversation without constantly asking people to repeat themselves was especially frustrating for her husband, who encouraged her to have her hearing tested. Those tests revealed a hearing loss significant enough to warrant Sandy being fit for hearing aids. But Sandy soon found her hearing aids to be a nuisance.

“I was constantly turning them up higher and down lower,” Sandy complains. “It was a pain in the neck, but I had no choice, because some people talk loud and some people talk soft, so I was always having to adjust them.”

By the time she began her eighth decade of life, Sandy was resigned to the idea she’d need to wear the annoying hearing devices for the rest of her life. Then one day, Sandy’s husband picked up a copy of Florida Health Care News while waiting for an appointment in a doctor’s office.

The publication included an article about an innovative inner ear treatment designed to reverse hearing loss that is performed by John Lieurance, DC, at Advanced Rejuvenation, a regenerative medical practice in Sarasota.

“My husband showed me the article and when I read it, I thought, this sounds pretty good,” Sandy shares.I said to my husband, this is something that can really help people, so we made an appointment and went and checked it out.

Dr. Lieurance is a chiropractic neurologist and naturopath, as well as a certified provider of Lumomed sound laser therapy, which is designed to rejuvenate damaged ear cells. Treatments have been clinically shown to improve hearing loss and reduce the effects of many balance disorders and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

Sandy says that upon first meeting with Dr. Lieurance, she found him to be “very, very thorough” during her initial examination and consultation, which included a comprehensive hearing test.

“He explained everything – how the laser therapy worked and what I could expect as far as getting my hearing back,” adds Sandy, who accepted Dr. Lieurance’s recommendation to undergo the therapy, a full course of which consists of 15 thirty-
minute laser treatments on each ear.

One of a Kind

Advanced Rejuvenation is the only center in the United States approved to use Lumomed’s protocols. Dr. Lieurance had been treating hearing loss, balance disorders and tinnitus for many years through his functional chiropractic neurology practice when he heard about Lumomed from one of his patients. While in Germany, the patient received the treatment from Dr. Amon Kaiser, who has worked with lasers for more than 30 years.

“My patient got in touch and told me, Hey, this doctor is doing wonderful work in Germany for inner ear regeneration. It would be such a great adjunct to what you’re doing in Florida,”Dr. Lieurance relates.

Dr. Lieurance contacted Dr. Kaiser and traveled to Germany to study the science they had discovered and the methods for the treatment protocols.

“I was so impressed that I brought this back to Sarasota,” Dr. Lieurance states. “It’s phenomenal. I’m constantly looking for the best and most effective technologies to help people with conditions that are considered untreatable. When someone tells me, You can’t do it, it makes me want to do it even more.”

Dr. Lieurance explains the science behind Lumomed this way: Special nerve cells in the inner ear, called hair cells, allow for the perception of sound and are essential for balance. If those cells are damaged, an individual may suffer hearing loss, tinnitus or a debilitating balance disorder such as vertigo.

“We have a great deal of technology today, such as cell phones, iPods® and computers,” he expounds. “That technology, along with sirens and various machines in our environment, make different, high-pitched sounds that are very loud. As a result, the hair cells are highly stressed.

“When these cells are constantly overwhelmed by noise and stress, they cannot process energy correctly,” Dr. Lieurance continues. “With low or depleted energy, the auditory and vestibular cells in the ear lose their ability to do their jobs, and disease results, whether it’s a hearing loss, dizziness or tinnitus.”

The hair cells have their own energy source, which is adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. It is produced by structures inside the cells that act as power plants, called mitochondria. Maintaining the ears when they’re stressed requires vast amounts of energy. Without it, the cells begin to break down.

“Studies have shown that hair cell regeneration is possible,” Dr. Lieurance asserts. “Inner ear laser therapy is performed with specialized laser equipment set at very specific settings. The Lumomed laser showers energy into the ear in the form of photons. This energy is then used by the hair cells to repair themselves.”

Better With Each Treatment

The therapy is most effective for younger patients, who are “developing their language based on what they hear,”
Dr. Lieurance points out. “If we can fix their hearing at a young age, they don’t develop a lot of speech impediments.”

The laser, which is applied while patients wear goggles and lie on a treatment table, emits very little heat. Some people feel the sensation of sunshine, while others feel nothing.

Some patients notice an improvement in their hearing within the first few sessions, Dr. Lieurance informs. For others, it takes longer.

“After the first two treatments, I was told not to wear my hearing aids anymore,” Sandy remembers. “I should just trust that my hearing was slowly getting better, and it did get better with each treatment.”

Today, Sandy can hear as well as she did years ago. She’s living proof that it is possible to turn back time, and that hearing loss is reversible.

“If I hadn’t met up with Dr. Lieurance I would still be wearing hearing aids,” Sandy shares. “People are telling me, Your hearing is back! Your hearing is back! I am very, very happy.”

New Depression Therapies Bring Renewed Hope

College student finds relief through ketamine infusions.

William Storey remembers a childhood filled with hopelessness and loneliness instead of birthday parties and bike rides.

“I was abnormal at an age in which abnormality is very unhealthy,” states William, now 23.

William Storey suffered from emotional problems much of his life but says Dr. Pollack’s treatment has been a lifesaver, giving William hope for the future.

William Storey (right) and his father, Peter, relax during a recent visit with Robert Pollack, MD.

The abrupt and dramatic cultural change caused by his family’s move from Maine to Georgia when he was eight complicated the challenges William already faced. Over the years, he’s been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, severe depression and Asperger’s syndrome, a higher-functioning form of autism.

Generally, Asperger’s patients struggle to communicate with and relate to others. They may lack empathy and have difficulty reading other people’s moods and making friends.

During his early years in private school, William felt isolated and misunderstood, especially by classmates, and by teachers who disciplined him for “being out of control.”

He explains the mindset of those teachers this way: “I like to think of it as, This nail doesn’t seem to be fitting into this particular piece of wood quite the same way the rest of them do, so we should probably hit it more.” 

By the time he reached fourth grade, William wanted to die.

“I hated my life,” he recalls. “I hated everything.”

In seventh grade, William switched to a public school, where he thrived for two years.

“I was a straight-A student,” he notes. “I was well-liked by my teachers. I had no social problems.”

Halfway through his freshman year of high school, however, he “hit a breaking point.”

“I think a lot of it had to do with age, hormonal imbalances, feeling more ostracized from my peers,” William shares. “I had a handful of people that I was at least acquaintances with up until that point. But they stopped interacting with me as much when high school started, for their own reasons.”

He stayed behind when his classmates moved on to tenth grade. As William repeated his freshman year, his conflicts with teachers led school administrators to threaten expulsion if he caused further problems. He managed to finish ninth grade, then transferred to a “less academically rigorous” school.

“It was honestly kind of a joke,” he relates. “I barely did anything, and I still made straight A’s.”

Disappointed and frustrated, he entered an early enrollment program at the University of West Georgia. William lived in a dorm and worked on his high school studies and college classes at the same time.

“I did well the first year,” he points out. “The second year, I had similar problems to when I was in the ninth grade again. It resulted in my father pulling me out of the program and bringing me home.”

More than 18 months later, he was ready to return, but by that time, he was too old for high school. He obtained his GED, but West Georgia didn’t consider that sufficient to re-admit him until William and his family successfully appealed to the state’s board of regents.

Though back in college, he wasn’t back on track. William was desperate for consistent relief from the depression that had plagued him for much of his life, despite taking “nearly every antidepressant on the market.”

Then, last spring, William’s father called Robert Pollack, MD, a friend since their days together at Yale University, to inquire about IV ketamine infusions, a relatively new therapy for treatment-resistant depression.

Finally Feeling Better

Dr. Pollack’s Fort Myers-based practice, Psychiatric Associates of Southwest Florida, embraces newly emerging therapies based on pioneering discoveries about the brain. Those include genomic testing to determine which antidepressant might be most effective according to the patient’s genetic profile, as well as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and theta-burst stimulation (TBS). Both use magnetic pulses to rouse areas of the brain and relieve depression.

Since 2015, Dr. Pollack has also used ketamine, an anesthesia drug introduced in the 1960s that can alleviate suicidal thoughts and act more quickly than many antidepressants. He estimates that 72 to 75 percent of his patients treated with ketamine have had a positive response.

William traveled to Fort Myers for a series of six infusions over two weeks. Following each 30- to 45-minute procedure, it took him a short while to get his bearings.

“I was very woozy, then I went to the hotel where we were staying, got food and I was fine the rest of the day,” he asserts. “Within two weeks of the initial treatment, there was a definite change. I was far less harsh on myself. I was far less miserable.”

When his depression was at its most devastating, William wouldn’t leave home or interact with anyone.

“By the third treatment, he shook my hand and said, Good morning,” Dr. Pollack reports. “I’ve known him a long time, and that’s a first. People with Asperger’s don’t usually gain a lot of social skills. But William now sits here and laughs. He tells jokes.”

Preventing a “Ruined Life”

William calls Dr. Pollack “a godsend” whose scientific approach is “radically different” from the many other mental health professionals William has seen over the years. He recommends keeping “an open mind about some of the more experimental treatments, because everything has to start experimentally.”

William’s new regimen has him taking fewer medications, which has allowed him to lose weight. He returns once a month for booster infusions. While still “a bit anti-social,” William says he’s getting better and eventually may overcome it.

A student of philosophy, he’s also well on his way to completing his four-year degree at West Georgia in Carrollton, where he has his own apartment and is looking ahead to a career. Teaching is a possibility; so is the legal profession.

“There are so many paths, and I’m not really sure which one I’m supposed to go on yet,” William states. “But I’m also not too bothered by that because at least I’m aware that there is a way forward.”

He’s eager to share his story because he wants people to know how much he and others like him have suffered, he says.

“The way kids with autism tend to be treated, at least in the area I grew up in, is damning,” William declares. “It results in lost lives. Even if they may not end up as suicidal as I was, it really warps a person. It makes it very hard to move on, to be productive, to be happy. And it seems as though people just don’t care, and that really saddens me.

“Misunderstanding may be the cause, but at the same time, I have trouble differentiating between misunderstanding and willful ignorance, because the end result is still a ruined life.”

Brighter days are ahead for those living in darkness, William affirms, and life is worth living.

“There is hope for the future,” he concludes, “that I certainly did not feel a year ago.”

It’s National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

June 26th, 2018

Migraines are not “all in your head,” and the pain is not only real but may have serious consequences for your life and bank account.

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, a time to support those whose lives are often made unbearable by chronic migraines that can be difficult to treat, even with prescription medication.

An estimated 36 million Americans suffer from migraines, but only one of every three talks to a doctor about them, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

A migraine is an inherited neurological disorder in which specific areas of the brain become overexcited, the foundation defines. Sufferers are more susceptible to “triggers” that raise their risk of having a migraine attack.

Those triggers include hormonal fluctuations, weather changes, bright lights, specific smells or foods, alcohol, poor sleep and high stress.

A chronic migraine recurs 15 or more days a month for at least three months and has the features of a migraine at least eight days out of the month, according to the Chronic Migraine Awareness organization.

“Chronic migraine poses a greater impact on the patient’s life than episodic migraine, including lower household income levels, less ability to do chores and more missed workdays,” according to the tax-exempt group’s blog.

The World Health Organization considers migraines one of the 10 most disabling medical illnesses globally, with chronic migraines impacting patients even more severely.

Migraines cost the United States more than $20 billion each year, the American Migraine Foundation reports. That includes direct medical expenses such as doctor visits and medications and indirect expenses such as missed workdays.

“But the burden doesn’t stop there. Those afflicted with migraines are more likely to have depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, other pain conditions and fatigue,” according to the foundation.

“People who have a history of experiencing an aura phase (migraine with changes in vision) have been shown to be at an increased risk for stroke and heart attack,” the foundation adds.

How do you know if you’re suffering from a migraine as opposed to a garden-variety headache? Consider these migraine symptoms:

  • A headache with moderate to severe pain;
  • A headache that worsens with physical activity
  • A throbbing headache that’s often worse on one side of the head;
  • A headache that leads to missed school, work or other activities;
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound or smells during the headache;
  • A headache that lasts four to 48 hours if left untreated.

If your migraines are negatively impacting your quality of life, and over-the-counter medications don’t help, visit your primary care provider, who may refer you to a neurologist or a headache specialist.

For more information on migraines, visit americanmigrainefoundation.org or https://chronicmigraineawareness.blog/.

What a Pain

April 24th, 2018

Diagnosing and Treating Sciatica.

  • When you stand, does pain shoot from your lower back, down your thigh and maybe to your knee?
  • Do you have tingling, numbness, weakness or difficulty moving your leg or foot?
  • Does one side of your buttocks constantly ache?
  • Do you have hip pain?
  • Does your discomfort worsen when you bend at the waist, cough, sneeze or sit?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from sciatica.

This common condition, which often shows up in middle age, involves irritation to or inflammation of the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve starts from nerve roots in the spinal cord in the low back and extends through the buttocks to send nerve endings down the lower limb.

Sciatica – not to be confused with other back pain – is often caused by a herniated disc in the lower back pressing on or pinching the sciatic nerve. Other causes include spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal; nerve irritation from adjacent bone; tumors; infections; arthritis; injury; pregnancy; or prolonged sitting on an object such as a wallet in a back pocket.

Sometimes, no direct cause of sciatica can be found.

Doctors diagnose sciatica by conducting a physical exam and taking the patient’s symptoms and medical history into consideration. Sometimes, x-rays and other tests such as a CT scan, an MRI and an electromyogram are used as well.

Pain management specialists, chiropractors, orthopedists, rheumatologists, internists, general practitioners, physical therapists and massage therapists are among the health care professionals who evaluate and treat sciatica. It can last for days or weeks, or it can become a chronic ailment.

Traditionally, bed rest was the recommended treatment for sciatica. But how realistic is that approach? Many people, especially those who have jobs, children or other responsibilities, don’t have the luxury of lying around and doing nothing for weeks.

And there’s no guarantee that lying low will ease a bout of sciatica. One study by a research team in the Netherlands showed that patients who rested for three months showed a level of improvement equal to those who practiced “watchful waiting” during that period. The two groups also had similar rates of absenteeism from work and of surgical intervention.

Stock photo from istockphoto.com.So, what can you do to ease the agony of sciatica? Don’t expect to find a lasting solution from over-the-counter pain medications, heating pads, cold packs or dietary supplements. They either don’t help or provide only temporary relief.

Chiropractic adjustments performed over multiple sessions can be effective. TENS units, which send stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands, are sometimes useful, too.

Physical therapy, as well as low back conditioning and stretching exercises, are other options, as are muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, prescription medications, acupuncture and activity restrictions. For those whose sciatica results from nerve compression at the lower spine, surgery sometimes is required.

Once patients recover from sciatica, they need to use common sense and a healthy lifestyle to prevent it from coming back. That means exercising regularly, maintaining proper posture and bending at the knees while lifting heavy objects.

Early Cancer Diagnosis Can Save Lives

March 1st, 2018

Getting regular wellness checkups at the doctor is like doing preventive maintenance on your car. If you wait until you know something’s wrong, fixing it becomes much more complicated.Early Cancer Diagnosis Can Save Lives

Let’s say you never change your oil regularly as recommended. You’re subjecting your engine to more wear and tear than necessary and taking the risk of a catastrophic failure.

Our bodies react much the same way if we don’t give them proper care. Someone who is having symptoms but won’t go to the doctor for fear of getting bad news is a lot like the motorist who ignores the check engine light. The solution could be as simple as tightening your car’s gas cap or as costly as replacing the catalytic converter. But you won’t know until you check it out.

Women are used to having annual gynecology exams and mammograms, which can help alert their doctor to the presence of various cancers and other health issues. But how many men get a regular physical and prostate screening?

Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable malignancies if caught early. The cancer begins in tissues of the prostate gland, which produces semen and is located just below the bladder.

By age 50, about half of all men experience small changes in the size and shape of the cells in the prostate. It’s a normal part of the aging process. But sometimes those changes are a sign of prostate cancer. A doctor’s exam and diagnostic tests can help distinguish the difference.

Because the prostate gland is so close to the bladder and the urethra, the tube through which men release urine from their body, prostate cancer may be accompanied by various urinary symptoms. For example, a tumor may press on and narrow the urethra, making it difficult to urinate or hindering the ability to start and stop the flow.

Here are other urinary symptoms of prostate cancer:

  • Burning or pain during urination;
  • More frequent urge to urinate at night;
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Blood in the urine.

Additional symptoms of prostate cancer are: blood in the semen; erectile dysfunction; swelling in the legs or pelvic area; and numbness or pain in the hips, legs or feet.

If left unchecked, prostate cancer may spread, or metastasize, to nearby bones or tissues. One sign that this has happened may be bone pain that won’t go away or that leads to fractures.

Prostate cancer can often be detected in its early stages by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, in a man’s blood. Or a doctor may perform a digital rectal exam by inserting a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland for any hard or lumpy areas.

Unfortunately, neither of those initial tests for prostate cancer is perfect. A man with a mildly elevated PSA may not have prostate cancer, while a patient with prostate cancer may have a normal PSA reading. The digital exam isn’t foolproof, either, because it only assesses the back part of the prostate gland. A biopsy of tissue from the prostate may be needed to confirm, or deny, a preliminary diagnosis.

Thus, there’s still a debate over the value of regular prostate cancer screenings because of the risk of overtreating malignancies that may not be fatal. However, researchers have concluded that preventive screening can reduce a man’s risk of dying from the disease.

And there’s no disputing that catching any cancer in its early stages is the best medicine.

“Silent thief” Steals Sight From Millions

February 6th, 2018

Millions of Americans are being robbed of their vision, and many of them don’t even know it.

They have glaucoma, often called “the silent thief of sight” because it can cause irreparable harm before the patient notices any vision loss, which can’t be reversed. The disease is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and can occur at any age, although it’s more common among older adults.

January was National Glaucoma Awareness Month, so now is a great time to become familiar with the condition, what causes it and what can be done to treat it.

Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, a bundle of more than a million nerve fibers carrying information from the retina to the brain. The retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of each eye, is vital to good vision.

The two main types of glaucoma are open-angle and angle-closure, which refers to the drainage angle where the iris (the colored part of the eye) meets the cornea (the outer covering). Open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma, accounting for at least 90 percent of the cases.

Both forms of the disease are caused by increased pressure inside the eye resulting from impaired drainage of the clear fluid flowing in and out of the eye to nourish nearby tissues. The fluid can build up when the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time (open-angle glaucoma) or are blocked completely (angle-closure).

Open-angle glaucoma is a slow-developing, lifelong condition, and symptoms and damage aren’t noticed in its early stages. As the disease progresses, patients may develop patchy blind spots or tunnel vision.

Angle-closure glaucoma can cause eye pressure to increase within hours, demands immediate medical attention and can result from other conditions, such as cataracts or tumors. Symptoms may include severe headache, eye pain, redness, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision and halos appearing around lights.

Not everyone whose eye pressure increases will develop glaucoma because some people can tolerate higher levels than others. A comprehensive exam can determine what level of eye pressure is normal for each patient.

Also, there’s a form of glaucoma called low-tension or normal-tension that can develop without increased eye pressure.

Immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay the disease from worsening, which is why early diagnosis is so important. Drops or pills can help lower eye pressure, either by causing the eye to produce less fluid or by helping it drain.

An outpatient laser procedure can open the drainage holes in the eye, allowing the fluid to drain better. Another option is conventional surgery that involves making an incision into the eye’s drainage system to create new channels for a more normal flow of fluid. Shunts or stents also can be implanted in the eye to increase the flow.

Consult an eye care professional for more information on diagnosing and treating glaucoma.

Wear Red on Feb. 2 to Support Women’s Heart Health

February 1st, 2018

Supporters of the Go Red for Women movement hope to see a sea of scarlet on Feb. 2 as part of the American Heart Association‘s national effort to end heart disease and stroke in women.

The annual observance was created in 2004 and adopted the red dress as its symbol. The campaign advocates for more research and awareness of the often-overlooked fact that heart disease isn’t just a health hazard for older men. It’s the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year.

While chest pain, shortness of breath and cold sweats are obvious symptoms, a heart attack can happen without the person even knowing it. Those suffering a so-called “silent” heart attack sometimes pass off their symptoms as indigestion, the flu, asthma, anxiety, a strained muscle or some other condition.

What’s more, they may feel discomfort in their jaw, upper back or arms instead of their chest. Fatigue that’s prolonged, excessive and can’t be explained also may be a symptom of a silent heart attack.

Scarring and damage to the heart from such an attack can put the patient at greater risk of other heart issues.

A silent heart attack happens when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries and blocks the flow of blood. Risk factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and age.

Everyone knows what feels normal for them, so people should listen to their bodies and consult a doctor if something isn’t right. Those who suspect they’re having a heart attack should stay calm, call 911 immediately and be vocal when they get to the hospital about what’s going on. If they can’t speak up for themselves, they should bring along someone who will do it for them.

Another health challenge for both women and men is atherosclerosis, often called hardening of the arteries. It’s caused by a buildup of plaque – cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and fatty substances – in the inner lining of an artery. Atherosclerosis typically starts in childhood and often progresses as people age.

Family history, high cholesterol and blood pressure, smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle and diabetes can increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis.

Plaque is especially dangerous when it becomes fragile and ruptures, causing blood clots to form. Those can break off and travel elsewhere in the body. Clots can cause a heart attack or a stroke if they block blood vessels to the heart or brain.

Knowledge is power, and 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes, the heart association says.

On Feb. 2, and throughout the year, women are encouraged to “go red” by following an exercise routine, eating more healthful foods, visiting a doctor for a regular checkup or tests when necessary and educating others about heart health.

For more information, go online to www.goredforwomen.org.

Coping with Chronic Fibromyalgia Symptoms

December 3rd, 2017

Body aches are often an unfortunate but normal part of aging. But the widespread, chronic pain that comes with fibromyalgia can be debilitating, robbing our “golden years” of much of their luster.Fibromyalgia

Late in her life, my maternal grandmother, who died in December 2000, often complained that her legs hurt. At that time, fibromyalgia wasn’t part of the discussion, so we dismissed her discomfort as a side effect of her Parkinson’s disease and/or an unfortunate consequence of living into her 90s.

Today, as I struggle with fibromyalgia and watch my mother do the same, I’m left to wonder if my grandmother suffered with the disorder as well, and perhaps her own mother before her.

Fibromyalgia once was little more than a catch-all diagnosis when doctors couldn’t find an obvious physical cause for tenderness and stiffness of muscles and associated connective tissue. What’s more, many in the medical community, and in society at large, didn’t accept fibromyalgia as a legitimate ailment.

Imagine suffering with near-constant pain, along with other equally troubling symptoms, and being told by doctors, family and friends that it was all in your head.

Now, thanks to television commercials and other advertising touting medications commonly prescribed for fibromyalgia, the word has become part of our national vocabulary, and most people have at least heard of it.

In addition to the pain, which frequently worsens at night, robbing the patient of much-needed rest, those with fibromyalgia typically become fatigued quickly and endure headaches, restless leg syndrome, brain “fog,” depression, sensitivity to touch, muscle spasms, digestive issues and other symptoms. It can be like having a flu that won’t go away.

My muscles get so knotted that I can feel the bulges beneath my skin. I become quite stiff and can’t sit for long periods. Just getting out of bed can be agony on the worst days.

After I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia sometime before 2008, I fell into a funk, I’m not proud to say, and let my malady rule my life. My work performance surely suffered, as did my personal relationships.

When I was downsized out of my journalism job, I focused for much too long on being sick instead of on what direction to take my professional life next. I became a classic couch potato.

Then I landed a part-time position as a recess supervisor at an elementary school, which forced me to get out of my recliner and start moving – and living – again.

Today, I’m an active volunteer at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where I give presentations and tours, do community outreach, and help rescue marine animals in distress. While my body often balks at being so physical – walking too many steps to count, standing for hours and occasionally helping capture manatees weighing hundreds of pounds – I’m convinced that being sedentary is worse for my health and well-being.

My eating habits aren’t as healthful as they ought to be, and there are periods during which I don’t exercise as regularly as I should. But I’d like to share a few of my tried-and-true strategies for coping with fibromyalgia.

  • Attitude is key. If you think you’re sick and useless, you will be.
  • Hot water helps. If you don’t have a spa with massage jets, a long soak in the bathtub or a hot shower can do wonders for knotted muscles and creaky joints.
  • Hand-held massage devices are OK. But getting a massage by hand is better because you can relax and enjoy it. And buying a massage chair that does more than just vibrate – one that kneads and rolls along your body – is a good investment.
  • Take medication when needed, but don’t pop pills if you can tough it out. And don’t exceed recommended dosages. I’ve found best results from naproxen, an over-the-counter pain reliever. I tried two medications commonly prescribed for fibromyalgia, but neither was very effective, at least for me, and one left my brain so foggy I had memory difficulties.
  • Get as much sleep as possible.
  • Make time for hobbies and time spent with people whose company you enjoy. Laughter is great medicine, and it’s free and unlimited.
  • Give yourself a break. But don’t fall back on your pain as an all-purpose excuse for frequent inaction.
  • Use your time and talents to help others. Volunteering is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s given me a renewed sense of purpose, improved my social life, helped me feel better about myself and, most importantly, filled a need in my community. Figure out what you love and get involved.
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