Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Favorite Fibromyalgia Coping Strategy

What is my favorite fibromyalgia coping strategy? The lovely daisy graphic at the bottom of my posts column is a clue ... it is making my life more fibro-friendly!

Fibro-friendly is the term I've coined for the process I've learned to make every day activities doable for someone like me, someone who lives with the chronic pain and chronic fatigue of fibromyalgia on a daily basis. Allow me to tell you the story of how I was taught to make my life more fibro-friendly..

I was introduced to the concept of fibro-friendly when I enrolled in the Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in April 2006. Teaching me how to accomplish this goal was Judy, an occupational therapist. Over the next six weeks, she explored with the group what activities where difficult for us to do and suggested strategies to make them easier. I came away from the program with an assignment: to make growing a vegetable garden fibro-friendly.

With Judy's suggestions, I rose to the challenge and became hooked on container gardening. It began with purchasing lightweight containers and potting soil at my local hardware store and asking my husband to help me set the containers up on the patio. On that same trip, I also purchased a heavy duty 5 gallon plastic paint pail to store tools inside and a bucket seat for the pail so it could serve double-duty as a gardening seat (see the picture above.)

Once the containers were set up and accessible from a seated position, nothing could stop me from getting my hands dirty. Using the skills of pacing and planning, I established a regular gardening routine and worked in the my container garden, pacing myself 15 minutes at a time. Since gardening is a seasonal activity, I have learned to identify specific gardening goals each month and break down big activities like soil preparation, seed starting, transplanting, mulching, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting into smaller, doable weekly steps.

With successful completion of this project, confidence in my new title as Ms. Fibro-Friendly emerged.

I want to teach you how to be fibro-friendly too. So in addition to sharing my success story, I took the time to make a list of some of the occupational therapy strategies Judy taught me. Here is a sample of the techniques involved in making life more fibro-friendly:

  • adaptive equipment - from medical supplies like rolling walkers, shower benches, PikStiks and mobility scooters to ordinary helpers like step stools, chairs, a recliner and a lap desk
  • assistive technology - the speech recognition software that makes it possible for me to blog and write (Dragon NaturallySpeaking); the Logitech MX Air Mouse that I can hold in my hand and point at the computer screen
  • self-care skills - pacing, planning, resting and setting limits
  • body positioning - knowing that reclining is more restful than sitting and sitting is more restful that standing
  • activity modification - sitting while gardening, showering, cooking and cleaning; making meals using the oven or a crock pot instead of standing at the stove; using a mobility scooter while grocery shopping; exercising while lying on the bed
Learning to make daily life more fibro-friendly was a huge benefit that I reaped from attending an in-person pain rehabilitation program. To continued my education, I followed up by enrolling in the CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self Help program online. I found this online program very helpful in reinforcing the principles I learned and encouraging me to continue to apply these concepts to my real-world life.

For those of you who do not have access to an in-person program, I highly recommend the CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self Help program to teach, support and encourage you.

But here is the real secret: I believe that you can apply these principles and make life with any chronic illness more friendly, no matter what obstacles your chronic illness presents. So I challenge you to make your life more ___-friendly too.

Leave me a comment and share your success stories.

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1 comment

Margaret Almon said...

I appreciate your taking the time to talk about adapting your world to be more fibro-friendly! I agree these guidelines can apply to any chronic illness, and also to those, like myself, who do a lot of repetitive motions, and who need to be mindful of preventing damage.