Written by Karen Yeandle – Qigong Instructor and Fibromyalgia sufferer
Fibromyalgia is a condition that involves widespread pain in soft, connective tissue eg. muscles, tendons, ligaments and particularly shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. Other symptoms include sleep deprivation due to pressure being applied to joints when laying down-reduced sleep depletes brain serotonin which increases pain and a vicious circle ensues. Depleted serotonin also causes impaired memory and, for some, depression. Many sufferers report bladder weakness, IBS, unstable core temperature, jumpy legs, numbness and tingling. There are even anecdotal reports of a connection between fibromyalgia and keratoconus of the eyes.
The exact cause of FM is unknown but certain factors predispose it’s onset i.e. a combination of one or more of the following:- trauma, serious accidents/infections, psychological stress e.g. death of a loved one. It also has a genetic potential. This combination of environmental and inherited factors effects the central nervous system.
There is no diagnostic test so symptoms are looked at as a whole with a certain number being registered and other factors ruled out. Currently in the UK 2-8% of the population are affected with women affected roughly twice more than men.
Standard treatment is with opiates e.g. amitriptyline and antidepressants which also work on reducing nerve pain, along with advice to “get more sleep” (far easier said than done!) “diet change and increased exercise”.
I was ‘diagnosed’ with FM c12 years ago having seen numerous GPs and specialists over 2-3 years until one consultant put the pieces together. Like most sufferers, I was prescribed the full range, all of which left me feeling foggy and unable to fully function. I felt I had no option than to stop taking them. Although acupuncture reduced pain and inflammation, increased exercise resulted in tendonitis of both Achilles’ tendons plus golfers and tennis elbow. My sleep deteriorated as pain woke me to turn every 8-10 minutes; my IBS worsened; bladder control was impaired; I could no longer kneel or squat; I could only shower, because I had no strength in my arms or legs to bath; I couldn’t clench my fist‘s; get up or down from the floor or sprint in an emergency. Although I was fortunate not to suffer depression, I struggled to resign myself to the fact that my life was significantly limited and deteriorating.
A friend suggested Qigong for its health benefits and after extensive research I found an excellent teacher in Alda at HOM in Dawlish and started in November 2016. Qigong which includes stretching, lengthening and strengthening muscles, tendons and ligaments (amongst other physical and mental health exercises) very soon resulted in improved sleep and significantly reduced pain. Such were the notable benefits I started practicing most days and can now bend, stretch, close my hands, stand on one leg, squat and balance. Qigong has been ‘life improving’ and such is my belief it’s exceptional benefits, I further studied and qualified with the British Health Qigong Association as an instructor myself.
Recent controlled trials (Jana Sawynok & Mary E Lynch 2017) also demonstrated noteworthy effects of Qigong on FM where when practiced 30-45 minutes per day over 6-8 weeks, benefits included reduced pain; improved sleep, physical and cognitive function, memory and mood state. FM continues to be the subject of research but to date it appears the greatest success in combating the debilitating symptoms of FM is the regular practice of the wonderful health preserving benefits of Qigong!!
About the Author: Karen started Qigong 2 years ago as she with struggling with an ever-deteriorating medical condition that had been diagnosed some 10+ years previously and it had been suggested by a friend of a friend that she try the benefits of Health Qigong. With regular practice the improvement in her overall health was so significant that she decided to study further and, having been a tutor and instructed classes of an altogether different nature in her former career, she went on to qualify with the British Health Qigong Association (BHQA) in May 2018 as a Qigong Instructor herself. Karen now teaches 3 Qigong classes at Cockwood, Dawlish and Exminster, Devon.