Disclaimer: I'm not a medical doctor and I cannot diagnose and/or treat anyone for anything. Information provided is based solely on my own research and experience working with people.
Wow, it has been while since I've posted a Sunday blog!
I was compelled to write this because I've been meeting a lot of people lately with what I call unexplained pain conditions. Yes it's a thing.
I've worked with several people with these conditions over the years. Some have received a Fibromyalgia diagnosis from their doctor. Some have been told that they suffer from some other type of autoimmune disorder. Some have been given no answers at all.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but they all seem to have these things in common:
1.Sensitivity to touch.
2.Chronic joint pain and overall body pain.
3.Extreme fatigue which comes and goes. Their lives are separated into "good days" and "bad days".
What brings these symptoms on in the first place? I really don't know. Times of high stress or low grade stress on the body long term are theories that I've come up with simply from what clients have shared with me. But once the stress situations have been resolved, the pain symptoms remain. I am hopeful that someone smarter than me will eventually figure it out.
The research that has been done does show that exercise is a beneficial therapy for those with fibromyalgia . In fact, most of my clients with fibromyalgia and unexplained pain have had exercise suggested to them by their doctors.
Most are reluctant to try, however, and I can totally see why. The fear of causing a flare up is real.
Sometimes people do give exercise a whirl, only to have it exacerbate their symptoms, rather than help.
This can cause confusion and frustration. If exercise is good for me, you may wonder, why does it make me feel like crap?
Here's the deal: the issue is not exercise. The solution lies in the type of exercise that you are doing. The right type of exercise should make "good days" more frequent, while lessening the amount of "bad days". It should also give you more energy and ease muscular pain.
So of course your next question would probably be about what type of exercise you should be doing. But that is more difficult to answer. It varies from person to person.
However, I have managed to put together a list of considerations, based on clients that I've worked with that have had the most success with improving their symptoms. These clients' symptoms have ranged from moderate to severe.1. Above all, don't try to exercise like "everyone else". This is perhaps the most important thing to remember. Although your friends, family, and colleagues may just be trying to be helpful by making suggestions about what successful exercise programming should look like, one size does not fit all. What works amazingly well for them may be devastating for you
2. That brings me to my next point, take it slow. Your body is more stress sensitive than most, so it's important to ease into a new workout program. The goal is to find that sweet spot where we challenge the body enough to see positive changes without challenging it so much that we cause a flare up.
You are probably wondering how that looks. I recommend starting with 3-4 exercises, 6-8 reps each. Do 2-3 rounds, taking long breaks in between sets. Watch for signs that your body is fatiguing, such as shakiness or joint wobbling, and stop to rest when you experience them. Don't work again until they subside. Keep your sessions short, from 20 to 30 minutes (including rest) is ideal.
3. Certain exercise positioning may make you feel nauseous or dizzy, for example, lying flat on the floor. Avoid these positions when choosing your exercises. There are always multiple ways to work any muscle group. Find the one most comfortable for you. As you progress through your program and get stronger you may be able to tolerate different positioning, but comfort is key when first starting out.
4. Make sure the exercises you choose are movement based. This means bringing your joints through their full range of motion, and do not involve pushing or pulling a great deal of weight or resistance. This means starting out with the lightest dumbbell or the thinnest resistance band, even if you think you could do more
5. And finally, be patient. Progress, however slow, is progress. Please don't get frustrated if you don't experience incredible results right away. And please don't get discouraged when you are unable to do certain things. Trust me, you are not alone. Just find what you are able to do and remain consistent with it. Success will come, I promise.If you are still confused, find a coach with experience and a proven track record of success with working with people with similar symptoms as you. Your coach will help you design the right program tailored to your needs and goals, provide encouragement, and even hold you accountable when needed.
Here's a video with an example of a workout I might start you out with. Give it a try and let me know how you do!