Using the Six Steps of Healing, Susun Weed looks at WiseWoman Ways to
deal with fibromyalgia.
<I>"Dear woman," Grandmother Growth's voice seems to float in the
deepening twilight, echoing, reverberating, ringing in your ears. "Bring
me your soreness. Bring me your pain. Bring your aches to me. Bring your
burdens. Bring all you can no longer stand, can no longer bear, can no
longer carry, can no longer shoulder, can no longer be responsible for.
Give it to me. Put it down. Let us sit in council together and listen to
the stories your pain tells. Menopause is a journey which requires you to
pack light. Heavy things - bitterness, regret, vengeance, clinging to
pain - will make your travels wearisome and bring you down. Take only the
stories. Leave the rest behind. Burn the soreness in your hot flashes.
Let it leave you. This is the Change. Let it change you, dear woman; let
it change you."</I>
<B>Step 0: Do Nothing </B>
Women dealing with fibromyalgia have less pain if they sleep in a
completely dark room. If that's impossible, wear a sleep mask.
<B>Step 1: Collect Information </B>
The chronic pain disorder I called "sore all over" when I wrote this
section ten years ago is now big news. Ninety percent of the 4 million
Americans dealing with this debilitating, frustrating condition - known
as fibromyalgia - are white women, and many of them are menopausal.
Neither cause nor cure for fibromyalgia is known. It is not a disease but
a range of symptoms characterized by chronic, widespread pain on both
sides of the body, above and below the waist. (As one of my apprentices
put it: "But I don't hurt in all those places at once. The pain moves
around. I never know where it will be next.") Some women have a low fever
in addition to pain. More than half of those with fibromyalgia also
suffer from headaches, endometriosis, and/or irritable bowel syndrome.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are quite variable, making diagnosis
difficult. (Orthodox diagnosis is predicated on finding soreness at
specific trigger points.) Fibromyalgia mimics aspects of multiple
sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, hepatitis C, hypothyroidism,
lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica, and early dementia. Many women with
fibromyalgia are told their distress is "all in your mind."
It isn't in your mind (alone). Menopause can leave you feeling like
you've been beaten on. Muscles respond to hormonal changes by feeling
sore and cranky. Sleep loss can make you ache. (Non-restorative sleep is
a hallmark of fibromyalgia.) Lack of calcium (and other minerals) can
make your bones ache. Whether you are dealing with these challenges, or
the greater problem of fibromyalgia, why not give Wise Woman Ways a try?
The remedies listed here have been remarkably successful in helping many
"People with fibromyalgia aren't just sensitive to pain; they also find
loud noises, strong odors, and bright lights aversive." - Daniel Clauw,
MD, Director: Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, Georgetown
<B>Step 2: Engage the Energy </B>
• Having a support group is one of the strongest factors in keeping
fibromyalgia under control.
• Homeopathic <I>Arnica</I> is an amazing remedy for sore and aching
muscles. Daily use of homeopathic <I>Rhus toxicodendron</I> reduced pain
by 25 percent in those with fibromyalgia.
• Make a list of things you are sore (upset, angry) about. Where do
these things live in your body? With the help of an experienced
bodyworker, loosen those places. Women with fibromyalgia are very likely
to be survivors of trauma (sexual or domestic violence, alcoholism).
• Go back to your Mother. Float in the ocean. Lie belly down on the
earth. Naked. Let her ease you. Let her heal you.
• Listen to a relaxation tape. Have someone show you how to do the
yoga position called the "Corpse Pose". Learn how to bring yourself to a
deep state of inner quiet and peaceful mind.
• Hypnotherapy can help you gain some degree of mental control over
their symptoms. Cognitive behavior therapy is also helpful.
<B>Step 3: Nourish and Tonify </B>
• Consistent use of nourishing herbal infusions, especially
<B>comfrey leaf</B> and <B>stinging nettle</B>, in place of coffee, tea,
and sodas is the single most effective thing I know for mitigating and
• Gentle exercise - walks, yoga or tai chi practices - keeps muscles
from weakening and becoming more painful. Experts suggest starting with
as little as three minutes a day, and gradually building to at least four
sessions of five minutes each per day. Persist; the reward is worth it.
• Regular consumption of yogurt also proves very helpful for those
with fibromyalgia. Perhaps it is due to yogurt's ability to strengthen
and nourish immunity; some suspect fibromyalgia is a result of immune
• Magnesium is a critical nutrient for preventing pain in muscles and
connective tissues. Legumes, whole grains, leafy greens and nourishing
herbal infusions - like nettle and oatstraw - are the best sources.
• Moxibustion is also known as needleless acupuncture. Safe and easy
to do at home by yourself, moxibustion gives fast relief from sore joints
and aching muscles. It not only relieves pain but tonifies, decreasing
future pain and gradually effecting a "cure." You can buy a moxa "cigar"
at an Oriental pharmacy or health food store. Bring the glowing end of
the moxa (after lighting it) near the painful area and move it around in
small slow spirals until the heat becomes too intense. (This may take a
few minutes or many.) Pain relief is usually immediate and often lasts
for twelve or more hours.
<B>Step 4: Stimulate/Sedate </B>
• Tinctures of willow bark or spirea (1-2 dropperfuls/1-2 ml is a
dose) are highly recommended as important green allies by women dealing
• St. Joan's wort tincture - not capsules, not the tea - is a
powerful ally for women with fibromyalgia. It is one of the best muscle
relaxants I have ever used. A 25-30 drop dose not only stops but also
prevents muscle aches. I have used it as frequently as every twenty
minutes (for ten doses) when the occasion has necessitated it. St. Joan's
wort prevents soreness when taken after exercise; and even better if
taken before. I take a dose every hour while on an airplane to prevent
muscle aches and jetlag.
• Regular massage from an experienced therapist stimulates the
circulation of blood and energy, relieves pain, reduces fatigue, and
eases stiffness. Avoid deep tissue massage; it increases pain. Light
strokes and gentle myofascial releases are more helpful. Chiropractic
manipulations are of little benefit.
• Massage with heated stones and other heat treatments works wonders
for some women. For others, cold treatments work better (but not too
cold, and not for too long either, please).
• Ginger compresses, hot or cold, stir up circulation and mobilize
the body's own healing agents to take action and ease your pain. I grate
several ounces of fresh ginger into simmering water, cook it gently for
ten minutes, then soak a cloth in the liquid and use that as an
application to the sore area.
• The National Institute of Health lists fibromyalgia as one of the
few conditions that acupuncture can relieve.
• If lying down sleep makes the pain worse, slip into something
relaxing: valerian, skullcap, or St. Joan's wort tinctures, up to a
dropperful/1 ml of any one, repeated twice if needed.
<B>Step 5a: Use Supplements</B>
• A study found little benefit from those with fibromyalgia taking
either SAM-e or 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan - a precursor to serotonin).
Do not use 5-HTP if you are taking St. Joan's/John's wort.
• Lack of sleep can quickly aggravate symptoms of fibromyalgia. (See
Step 0.) If sleep confounds you, melatonin at bedtime, the lowest dose
you can get, may help.
<B>Step 5b: Use Drugs </B>
• Essential oil of lavender was recommended by several women who have
dealt with fibromyalgia for many years. Dilute with jojoba or olive oil
and use as a rub.
• Orthodox treatment of fibromyalgia relies heavily on drugs,
primarily antispasmodics, antidepressants and muscle-relaxants. But
Celebrex, Vioxx, Valteran, amitriptyline (Elavil), fluoxetine (Prozac),
vanlafaxine (Effecor), trazadone (Desyrel), alprazolam (Xanax), and
cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) can adversely affect the liver and disrupt the
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen do not
reduce fibromyalgia pain for most women.
• Tramadol (Ultram) is a drug which addresses both the altered brain
chemicals and the pain signals of those with fibromyalgia.
<B>Step 6: Break and Enter </B>
• Beware invasive diagnostic tests. Many women report enduring
endless rounds of tests trying to put a name to their pains with no
success and at the price of physical, mental, and emotional distress.
• Injections of lidocaine, a drug that temporarily numbs nerves, are
effective in relieving fibromyalgia pain for some women. Injections of
capsaicin (from cayenne) relieve pain by destroying nerve endings.
<center>If you liked this article by Susun S. Weed, you will want <I>New
Menopausal Years, the Wise Woman Way</I> available from
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