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Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Walking with Fibromyalgia

October 20th, 2010

I am counting on some of you old hands at living with fibro to chime in on this one, okay? I believe I have had fibromyalgia for at least 15 years, and maybe for 35 years. I’ve only been diagnosed for a little over a year, though. My fibro seems to have grown a lot worse in that year as well. What I can’t tell is whether the fibro just seems worse because my Migraine disease has gotten so much better that I can actually notice the fibro now.

I think it is worse, though. Certainly the fatigue is nothing new, that’s a fifteen year old problem, which I thought was ME/CFS. It was raising the question of dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) with my headache specialist last year which led him to press my fibromyalgia tender points, and led us both to realize that it was fibro that was the issue.  since then things I’ve been experiencing for a while have “clicked,” like how a slap on the shoulder or the teasing pokes my son gives me can really hurt, for a long time. Things that used to be just mildly uncomfortable or unpleasant cause actual pain now. What is new is the feeling that my aching arms weigh a ton and are likely to fall off. This is after a day of sitting up at a desk typing.

I’m finding this disease a hard one to learn to manage. I try to keep my activity level fairly steady from day to day, but if I do get a flare I need to rest for it to go away. Then I’m back to a very inactive state and have to slowly build up all over again. I always want to do many things when I do have the energy for them, but I can cross the line to overdoing so easily.

Saturday, for example. A couple of our dearest friends were in NJ/NY for the weekend – in from Minnesota. It gave us the impetus to do a deep cleaning of the downstairs – one it had needed for a long time. But the day started at 6:30, because Adam took the PSAT today, and then we cleaned for several hours until they arrived. We had lunch and lots of talk, a too short wonderful visit of a few hours. I did take a nap after they left, but as the sun was starting to go down I was seized with the desire to be outdoors in the bright chilly Autumn day, and walk in the park. (What’s the good of living in the best spot in our little town if I don’t get out and enjoy it?) So I took a good 20 minute walk through the paths in the fields. Then I sat on the bed, propped up on pillows, blogging. There was still laundry to be done but I had expended about as much muscular effort as I should for one day (if not more). I ached a bit, but who knows how much more would have set up a flare? It’s very challenging.

- Megan Oltman

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Posted in Managing, Musings | Comments (0)

Keeping my Head Above Water

August 18th, 2009

Well, I wish I was literally swimming, rather than figuratively trying not to drown. I was just noticing how few posts there have been here, and that’s not like me. The good news is I’m managing not to have too many Migraines. I may be headed for one tonight – we’ll see. there’s a ferocious thunderstorm out right now. And the good news is I got away to my lovely cousins’ lovely beach-house on the LI Sound for the weekend, and didn’t bring much work with me.

I won’t try to hide that things have been tough. Although I am keeping busy writing and Migraine coaching and mediating and part-time lawyering, getting a daughter ready to start college in 3 weeks and a son to start high school at the same time, it’s a lot to juggle, and still get the rest I need and take care of myself the way I should to manage my Migraines. My husband has some free-lance work but needs a full-time job. Money is tight and I am a worrier. I just want to say hi. The worst thing is to go out of communication, and not let anyone know how you are. How I am is busy and worrying too much.

What’s my great coachly advice for you today? I’m working hard to take the coaching myself. Going out for a walk in the morning when I’d rather sleep in a little longer, because I know I need the endorphins from the exercise in my system, to help keep pain manageable. Because I know then I’ll drink less coffee and rest better, which will make me less triggerable. Because I know the exercise is good for keeping my anxiety levels down, and while I walk I do relaxation exercises that help me keep my nervous system less triggerable.

We do have some exciting new stuff coming at Free my Brain. We’ll be starting a Migraine Support and Coaching group on September 2nd. We’ll meet by telephone twice a month to work together on goals in managing our Migraines and improving our health. Get support from other Migraineurs and individualized coaching from me, at a fraction of the cost of one to one coaching. Look for the sign-up on the Home page, coming soon.

Right now we have a special for newsletter subscribers, where you can get 40% off of BREESE Relaxation Recordings. Check your email for the coupon code. If you’re not a current subscriber you can subscribe in the 6 Migraine Keys box in the upper right corner of the blog page, and you’ll find the coupon code on the Thank You page.

And though I haven’t gotten over here to write very much, I have been writing articles on Law, Migraines, Disability and Work for Health Central’s My Migraine Connection. Feel free to check them out – I wrote most recently about Work & Disability: Don’t Fall Through the Cracks.

I hope you’re keeping your heads above water too. Expect more from me soon. Let me know how you’re doing, in the meantime! Say hi, let’s keep up the communication. Okay?

- Megan

Swimming image courtesy of David Joyce; rain shower image courtesy of AlmazUK.

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Posted in Communicating, Managing | Comments (3)

Move a Muscle, Change a Thought

June 12th, 2009

Move a Muscle, Change a Thought. I first heard that in a self-help program many years ago. It’s easy to stay stuck in a certain way of thinking, to stay down and confused and immobilized when we stay in the same place, looking at the same things. Get up, move, do something different, move a muscle, change a thought. There is now all kinds of scientific evidence to back up this idea, of the benefits of physical activity and exercise. I’m not just talking about working out or even taking a walk, though. Just do something to shift, move, change your perspective, take some action, get something moving.

This is as true for those of us with Migraine disease and chronic illness as it is for anyone else. Maybe more so. When we are in chronic or frequent pain it’s hard to act on this. I don’t deny it. But as hard as it is, it’s very important. It may be that walking to the mailbox is as far as you can go. It may be that sitting up for an hour instead of lying down is a major challenge. Do it, if you possibly can. We need accomplishment in our lives to make our lives feel worthwhile to us. We need goals, even tiny ones. We need to feel we are contributing, even if the extent of the contribution is to wash 3 of the dirty dishes. There will be those times when we cannot do anything but endure our pain, or when attending to our healing is all we should do, but when it is not one of those times, it is time to be doing something.

We also need the shift in perspective. When you stay in one place for a long time, your world can close in. You can’t see your way out of problems. Moving your body changes what your eyes see, it helps your blood flow, it helps you breathe more fully, and it opens up your thinking.

I just completed the set of BREESE relaxation recordings which are available on the products page here on Free my Brain. The final BREESE Breathing recording teaches a breathing and movement technique I use to help get the breath and blood moving and the whole body relaxed. You can use this when you have mild head pain, or in the post-drome phase after a Migraine to start moving again and aiding your recovery.

Another technique taught me long ago is to take a green break. Plants produce the oxygen we need to survive, they also produce negative ions which soothe us. Get outdoors and be with a green growing thing. If you can’t get out, spend a few minutes with a house plant. When all else fails, look out a window at something green, or even look at a picture of trees, fields, the natural world. Get up, leave the house, cross the room, or even roll over and contemplate something green. Let your worries flow out of you into the green growing world. Just as plants use our carbon dioxide, the waste from our breath, to produce oxygen, let the waste of our minds, our worry and anxiety, flow out into the natural world and be transformed.

Life rewards action. There’s another great saying, and I don’t know where I first heard it, but I have found it to be true, for me and for the people I work with. Here in New Jersey we have had several weeks of almost non-stop rain. It is gray, damp and chilly, except when it’s gray, damp and muggy. Although I don’t trigger at every barometric pressure change like some Migraineurs, I did eventually get a Migraine over the past few days. It was very hard to get up and move. But once the active pain phase had passed, and during a break in the clouds, when it was just drizzling instead of down-pouring, I went out for a walk. I walked gently, doing my relaxation breathing in rhythm with my steps. I came back more optimistic, with the fog of post-drome beginning to lift. I played a game with my kids; I began writing this piece.

Do what you can to get in action. Little actions can make a big difference. Roll over, shift your perspective. Move a muscle, change a thought. Let me know how I can help!

- Megan

Walk in the light image courtesy of H. Koppdelaney; Rain shower image courtesy of AlmazUK.

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Keeping the Faith

May 18th, 2009

I haven’t posted in a bit and I find myself feeling a little guilty about it.  The past few weeks have been busy, but that’s not unusual, and they have contained several Migraines, but that’s not unusual either.  My life is more complex than I like.  If I was my own coaching client I might advise myself to simplify.  Since I can’t get outside my own head sufficiently I don’t know what I would suggest cutting out.  The fact is that times are tough economically, and my family is not exempt from that, and I have several businesses to keep up with, a family, a house, and several chronic illnesses, and it’s a lot.

I do know, though, what works.  I know I need enough sleep, though when I feel like I didn’t really have any fun time all day, it’s hard to put down my novel or turn off the tv, or tell my darling daughter (who is 18 and likes to talk late in the evening) I need to go to bed.  I know I need a walk or some exercise in the morning, though when I haven’t slept well it feels like I need the extra bit of sleep more, and when work awaits it’s hard to remember that I will focus better and have a better attitude if I exercise first.  I know I sometimes need a nap after lunch if I want to avoid a Migraine or fatigue.  I know there’s no point in sitting at my desk trying to force myself to focus if my brain won’t do it – a break: a brief walk, a brief snooze, a ten minute clean-up in the house or office, any of these will refresh me and help me return my focus, and time spent trying to force myself is time wasted.  I know at 5:30 I need to leave my desk and focus on my home and family.

I have to confess, though, that knowledge is not the same as action.  I know all these things, but I don’t always do all these things, especially in the face of my anxiety – over finance, over my illnesses, over my daughter leaving home in 4 months, you name it.  Doing the right thing, when I don’t feel like it.  Now that takes faith.

Some days we get up, and we have no energy.  Saturday was like that for me; weather triggers have become much more prominent for me this year and thunderstorms were threatening all day on Saturday.  I felt oppressed – I was in Migraine pro-drome all day.  And so (with some encouragement from my wise husband) I went for a walk.  I did not want to go for a walk.  I wanted to crawl under a rock.  The exercise helped to restore my perspective, raise my endorphin level, and give me the energy I needed to enjoy the day. Going for that walk was an act of faith.

Keep the faith! What do you need to do to keep yourself on track, even when you don’t feel like it?

- Megan


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Exercise and Migraine Prevention: Take Two

July 10th, 2008

I promised to get you some more evidence to answer the question: Does exercise aid in Migraine prevention?  And in the interim, this news cropped up:  The Journal Headache recently published a review of eight studies and four case reports of exercise as migraine therapy.  Dr. Volker Busch of the University of Regensburg, Germany, reviewed the studies, and found that

“most studies did not find a significant reduction of headache attacks or duration due to regular exercise. Six of the studies demonstrated a reduction of pain intensity during the intervention.”

Read full coverage at My Migraine Connection.  Please note, though, that the answer is not “No.”  The answer Dr. Busch’s review provides is that: 1) in the studies reviewed, there was not a significant reduction in number or duration of migraines; and 2) there is not yet sufficient evidence to state with certainty whether or not exercise helps.

Does this mean we give up on exercise?  No!  I gave you my little piece of anecdotal evidence a few weeks ago in the post Exercise for Migraine Prevention.  My update since that time?  I have exercised 27 of the last 30 days.  I have had 3 migraines in that time.  Contrast that with an average of 6.5 migraines per month for the last 7 months, with sporadic exercise.  It’s not scientific evidence of anything, mind you.  All I can tell you is that exercise is making me feel good!

What does exercise do for us?

Read more on the benefits of exercise from migraine blogger James Cottrill at Relieve-Migraine-Headache.

It stands to reason, I believe, that exercise might reduce migraine frequency or severity.  I can’t promise you, of course, that it will do that for you.  Migraine is, among other things, an outcome of a sensitive, highly reactive nervous system.  Whatever we can do that makes us stronger, healthier, more relaxed, more stress-hardy, ought to make our systems less reactive.

Most of us are also aware of the problem of exercise-generated migraines.  The key is to take it slow and gentle.  A couple of great articles on how to work in some exercise without setting off migraine are Teri Robert’s 10 Ways for Migraineurs to Sneak in Some Exercise, and Ellen Schnakenburg’s Moving and Exercising and Migraine.  Also remember to drink lots of water and avoid hot sun if it’s a problem for you.

I don’t have medical studies to back me up here!  But medicine is art as well as science, and I’ll tell you that all my doctors are telling me I need to get regular exercise!  So don’t let “it’s not proven” mean “why bother?”

- Megan
Breezy, clear, sun getting lower – time for a walk!

What does that sailboat image have to do with it?  That was my daughter’s first solo sail – she was getting some great exercise!

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Exercise for Migraine Prevention

June 19th, 2008

When the wonderful May Migraine and Headache Blog Carnival came out on the topic, “How to integrate exercise into a life filled with migraines,” I was in the midst of my month and a half of viruses, flu and bronchitis, and having several migraines a week, and I couldn’t bring myself to write about exercise, let alone do it.  So I submitted a post on Calming Down the Migraine Brain, with relaxation exercises, which are also a good thing!

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in regular exercise and I know I’m better off when I do it.  There’s just a nasty chicken and egg dilemma when you are too sick to get moving.  Another familiar dilemma for me is when I’m too stressed and worried to allow myself to drop everything and exercise, even though I know the exercise will reduce my stress and make me more effective at doing the stuff I’m worried about!

Sorry if the title was a bit of a come-on, I am not going to write a post today full of science on why exercise helps prevent migraines.  I promise to pull the research together and write that post soon.  Today I will give you an anecdotal, personal short-term success story.

It’s probably too soon to say this, but I have exercised every day for the last eight, and in that time I have had only one very mild migraine. Lately, this is big success for me as I have been having 5 -
8 migraines per month. Since I started recovering from the bronchitis, I’ve been walking every day, and stretching most days.   Look at where I have to walk – right outside my door!  The beautiful field does make it somewhat easier.

I know there are other factors: the weather has been mostly good; I have been taking it very easy as I have been recovering from being sick.  I have really put my worries on hold and the stress level has been pretty low.  How did I do that?  I was too sick to even think, let alone worry, and I just gave myself over to recovering.  I prayed a lot.  I did my relaxation exercises when I had enough brain to focus on them.  It probably didn’t hurt at all that Danny and I had just decided to let go of a business that was giving us enormous stress with very little return. I also have been almost entirely without caffeine – I didn’t want it
when I was sick and so I broke the habit and see no need to go back.  I also know it has only been eight days – not a statistically significant sample!

Despite all of those factors, which surely contributed to calming my migraine brain, and the short time period, I think the exercise has been preventing migraines.  It’s hard to describe, but I just have a sense of my system being calmer.  I feel good!  I started on the first day I felt well enough to even sit up out of bed – on that day I walked 7 minutes, at a geriatric pace.  I have increased it every day.   Eight days later I’m walking 45 minutes at a brisk pace.

While there’s not much evidence showing that exercise has a direct bearing on Migraine prevention, doctors remind us that regular exercise raises our endorphin levels, which makes us more resistant to pain.

Doctors tell us again and again we need to exercise and there’s tons of science behind it. But it’s hard to
remember that when my head hurts, or I’m exhausted or stressed out, or it’s blistering hot out.   I’m planning to get the elliptical machine fixed for rainy or blistering hot days.  I’m also planning to get up and out early before the heat settles in, or go out around sun-down.  If you all would remind me, it would help over-ride my built-in forgetters.

- Megan
Let’s go for a walk!

Race Walk image courtesy of Kris Krug

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May Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival is up!

May 13th, 2008

Please go check out the May 12, 2008, edition of the Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival.  The carnival is posted at Somebody Heal Me.  The theme of this month’s carnival is “How to integrate exercise into a life filled with migraines.”

There are lots of great entries on how to keep active, and then quite a few on other topics, including “exercises” in relaxing and calming our systems – a wonderful juxtaposition of inner and outer fitness!   I contributed one of the “inner” ones, as I’ve been quite challenged on the “outer”[ front lately.  The good news is that I am very encouraged by the posts in this carnival – read them – they will help!

Submit your blog article to the June 2008 edition of the Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival using the carnival submission form or by sending entries directly to Diana by e-mail.

The June 2008 theme will be “How to Have a Fun, Healthy Vacation in Spite of your Migraines.” Entries are due by midnight on Friday, June 6th (the end of the day).  Look for the June carnival to appear on Monday, June 9th.

- Megan

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May Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival

May 5th, 2008

Better late than never, courtesy of the spectacular Diana Lee – let me remind you:

Entries for
the May 2008 Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival on the theme
of “Migraines & Exercise: How do you remain active”
are due by the end of the day on Friday, May 9th.particularly useful, educational or inspirational for headache and migraine sufferers are also welcome. Posts may be submitted through the form on the carnival website or directly to me by e-mail (I’ll forward them to this month’s host)..You can get more information about the carnival at this link: Headache & Migraine Blog Carnival.
Also, please let Diana Lee know if you’d like to be added to the e-mail list
for the carnival, if you’re interested in hosting a future edition or
if you have suggestions for future themes.

Posts that relate to the May carnival’s theme will receive preference. Entries on topics that are

The April carnival will be posted on Monday, May 12th at Atomic City

- Megan

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