The unfortunate of us with fibromyalgia know that things like sleep disorders, cognitive issues, and emotional problems come with chronic pain and tender point tenderness. I learned many years ago working as a registered nurse was mindfulness therapy and mindfulness techniques, which can be very useful in overcoming pain, emotional distress, and cognitive issues seen in fibromyalgia.
Often pain medications and other Western medical therapies fail for fibromyalgia patients because they don’t address the overall picture of what’s going on with this complex disease. Instead, these people need a holistic approach that involves alternative therapies and techniques that takes the entire person and all their symptoms into account. This is where mindfulness therapy can be very appropriate.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness focuses on here-and-now issues and attempts to draw away from past traumas, past issues, and worries about the future. In mindfulness, all that is happening you accept and embrace as part of the living condition. In many ways, mindfulness can reduce the common symptoms of depression and anxiety, often part and parcel of living with fibromyalgia.
Mindfulness is a tool that anyone with or without emotional difficulties can use and is an excellent life approach. It's about accepting life, not focusing on anything other than what is directly felt, heard, seen, or experienced, regardless of your current mental and emotional state.
Mindfulness therapy has been found in research studies to be extremely helpful in people who have cognitive and emotional pain syndromes, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and irritable bowel syndrome.
THE PURPOSE OF MINDFULNESS
The whole point of mindfulness and mindfulness therapy is accepting how you feel, including the physical symptoms and mental symptoms.
You can perform mindfulness moment-to-moment to focus on that which is around you and within you, rather than what has happened to you in the past or might happen to you in the future. Mindfulness is all about being nonjudgmental and accepting the feelings that exist no matter how they exist.
In mindfulness, you are allowed to have the feelings, whether they are physical or emotional feelings, and then you can let them go. It results in less rumination over the physical problems we face with fibromyalgia and the emotional trauma we may have in our minds.
Researchers have studied mindfulness therapy for people with irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome for many years. In one study, researchers combined the results of many different smaller studies. They discovered that, for the most part, mindfulness therapy could reduce stress and the perception of pain in patients who have fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (which often goes along with fibromyalgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome (which can also be part of the fibromyalgia picture).
Some of the studies conflicted with one another, but the researchers felt it was due to the multitude of ways the earlier studies were performed. Some of the older studies didn’t include adequate control groups, so the placebo effect may have taken place, allowing other therapies to be just as useful as mindfulness therapies in managing these chronic pain conditions. The study showed, in particular, an anxiety reduction when the individuals practiced the techniques used in mindfulness therapy. Anxiety is a common problem in fibromyalgia and was relieved when the study participants used mindfulness techniques compared to placebo treatments. Things like quality of life, depression, and fatigue were also lessened when they practiced mindfulness.
EFFECTIVENESS OF MINDFULNESS THERAPY
The critical factor to remember when it comes to mindfulness therapy is that acceptance is what it is all about. The symptoms themselves do not change, but your perception of and acceptance of the symptoms changes.
When we learn how to accept the symptoms for what they are, we can begin to cope better, and our quality of life improves. The depression and anxiety we experience as people living with fibromyalgia can be lessened by refusing to ruminate on them.
Remember to always speak to your doctor about your condition and any holistic methods or treatments you plan on trying.