I feel so frustrated and flared-up I just want to scream! Aargh!
I had to go to a "fibromyalgia evaluation" Friday, conducted by a doctor I hope I NEVER see again. Hence the reason I am currently flared-up. I had a feeling this was going to happen and I did plan accordingly. Robert drove me to the appointment, which was in downtown L.A., and I scheduled no appointments for next week, so I have plenty of time to rest and re-cooperate.
I try so hard not to let medical professionals who just don't get it about fibromyalgia and chronic pain get under my skin. But on the ride home, I just lost it. It has been a long time since I have had a tender point examination, so I forgot just how painful one is. It's also been a long time since a doctor lectured me on the "Just Do It" cure for fibromyalgia (FM), insinuating that I have not done everything I could to get better. Those of you with FM probably know what I am talking about. The lecture goes something like this:
If you just exercised every day, you would get better. Start with 10 minutes of aerobic exercise and build up to an hour a day. You will be very sore the next day and the next week, but you need to work through the pain and increase your activity time every week. You need to reset your pain threshold and the only way to do it is to create more pain in the short run. It might take a year or two, but it is only with daily exercise that you will get better.
I tried to stick up for myself. I tried to impress upon the doctor that I do exercise every day, by walking the two blocks I am able to do without seriously jeopardizing my energy envelope, creating a flare-up of my symptoms and setting the vicious cycle of post-exertional fatigue in motion. But my efforts where deflected by the comment that went something like since most of you pain is in your torso, you need to get a pair of 5 pound weights and start exercising your arms more to increase your pain threshold there.
I admit there was a time in my life when I could "Just Do It." A time when I had a membership to my local YMCA and went three times a week for one hour workouts. A time when a little pain, soreness and stiffness after a workout was really no big deal, back when "no pain, no gain" meant an entirely different thing. Those were the days when fibromyalgia and chronic pain were blissfully absent from my vocabulary.
Here is the thing. I know that exercise is important, which is why I got a dog in 2008 to encourage me to walk every day. Those first two months I walked my dog every day, twice a day, about four to six blocks total in a day. I was miserable. All I succeeded in doing was increasing my pain and fatigue symptoms. My level of function decreased from about 30% of my healthy normal to about 20% of my healthy normal. But I stuck with it, because I made a commitment to being a good dog owner.
Then I broke my foot. For a while, my sister came over and walked my dog each day while I hobbled around in a cast. Then I discovered that I could walk my dog using my mobility scooter. That discovery was like a light bulb turning on. I realized that trying to walk my dog twice a day, for four to six blocks, was just too much for me. It made my quality of life decrease as my symptoms increased. In short, I was failing to live my best life despite chronic illness.
What works for me is somethings altogether different: walking half a block, riding my mobility scooter a block, walking another block, riding for a block and a half and then walking the last half block. I am able to do this because my husband comes with me for dog walks and rides my scooter when I am walking. If I am having a bad day, I can ride more and walk less. If it is a good day, I can walk a little bit more.
So in a roundabout way, getting a dog did help me develop a habit of walking every day. I just had to modified how I walked and make it fibro-friendly. Using this approach, my level of functioning is back to around 30% and I have energy to do the other things I need and want to do each day that make living a life with chronic illness more bearable.
So you see, the "Just Do It" method doesn't work for me anymore. I am writing this blog post to put this question out to the blogosphere: does this approach work for anyone with fibromyalgia? Please leave a comment here and share your experiences. Better yet, write a blog post with your response and I will add it to the bottom of this post. Let's figure out once and for all if "Just Do It" is a pearl of wisdom or a pile of crap.