Fibromyalgia sufferers deal with more than their fair share of pain, fatigue, and insomnia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that can cause debilitating muscle aches and pains as well as numerous other symptoms. Symptoms are often exacerbated by the emotional and physical strain that the condition causes, leaving many fibromyalgia sufferers stressed and unable to carry on with their daily routines. To help relieve your stress levels as well ease your symptoms, consider using relaxation therapy.
How Does Stress Affect the Body?
Both physical and emotional stress can really take its toll on your body. When you sense stress, your body engages in a "fight or flight" response – this means that your body has to decide whether to fight the source of its stress or escape from it. As a result, your body starts to undergo a variety of physical changes to prepare for reaction. These reactions can include:
- increased heart rate
- quick, shallow breathing
- increased blood supply
- increased blood pressure
You may even notice that you start to sweat, feel nauseated, or even want to faint as a result of your body’s reaction to stress. Fibromyalgia patients will also notice an increase in their symptom severity.
How can Relaxation Restore the Body?
By relaxing both your physical body and your mind, you can actually help to reduce the effects of stress. This is known as the relaxation response. Relaxation helps to lower blood pressure and heart rate, and also helps to slow down breathing. Additionally, it promotes oxygen flow throughout the body, helping to heal damaged areas.
Effects of Relaxation Therapy on Fibromyalgia
Relaxation therapy can also be extremely helpful in reducing the many symptoms caused by fibromyalgia. Meditation and progressive muscle relaxation techniques help to reduce insomnia and other sleep disorders. They promote the production of melanin in the body, which is essential for deep sleep.
Relaxation therapy has also been proven to moderately reduce anxiety and depression, which are also symptoms of fibromyalgia. Moreover, all relaxation therapies have proven effective in minimizing the intensity and duration of migraine headaches.
What is Relaxation Therapy?
Relaxation therapy helps to provide a person with physical, emotional, and spiritual relaxation. It actually involves numerous techniques that reduce stress and fatigue and work to invigorate the mind and body. Most relaxation techniques involve using both the body and the mind together; they often pair concentration with specific bodily movements or breathing exercise to achieve deep relaxation.
There are a number of different types of relaxation therapy including deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. Many relaxation therapy techniques can be performed at home, while others can be performed under the guidance of an instructor at a relaxation therapy clinic. Relaxation therapies are very effective because they are accessible, easy to do, and rewarding on all levels.
Classes of Relaxation Therapy
There are two main classes of relaxation therapy:
Brief Relaxation Therapy: Brief relaxation therapies require less time and skill to perform. They include: self-controlled relaxation, deep breathing and paced relaxation.
Deep Relaxation Therapy: Deep relaxation therapies take more time to learn and to perform, but can provide a more intense sense of relaxation. These therapies include: meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and autogenic training.
There are a wide variety of different techniques that can be used to help promote relaxation.
Deep breathing is one of the most basic forms of relaxation therapy. It is a type of relaxation breathing that helps to melt away stress by providing your body with more oxygen. Without oxygen your body cannot function efficiently, and you will feel very painful.
Deep breathing techniques require you to focus on your inhalation and exhalation. Sit or stand comfortably and place your hands firmly on your stomach. Slowly inhale through your nose. As you inhale, you should notice that your stomach begins to expand outwards - this is a sign that you are inhaling as much oxygen as possible. Hold your breath for a few seconds before you begin to exhale. Purse your lips and slowly release all of the air you have just taken in. Repeat for 10 minutes, three or four times daily.
Meditation is a technique that helps to relax the body and settle the mind at the same time. Meditation has been used for thousands of years to achieve spiritual and physical oneness. It is now commonly used in North America to help minimize stress and alleviate chronic pain.
One form of meditation uses focused concentration in order to achieve relaxation. Either by repeating a word or sound, or by focusing on your breathing, you can clear your mind and achieve complete relaxation. Sit in a chair or on the floor, and close your eyes. Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling or repeating a special word. Try to sit as still as possible as you focus your concentration. Aim to continue this process for about 20 minutes.
Originating in India, yoga is both a physical and mental practice that can help you to achieve complete relaxation. It is a low-impact workout, which focuses on stretching and relaxing all major muscle groups in the body. This makes yoga an excellent choice for fibromyalgia patients, as it helps to increase muscle mass and strength. Yoga relaxation therapy also teaches you how to control and monitor your own breathing, allowing you to relax and focus as you complete the workout.
There are different types of yoga, but Hatha yoga is among the most popular for fibromyalgia sufferers. Hatha yoga uses specific poses and movements to help center the mind and body. Yoga can be done in the privacy of your own home with the assistance of books or videotapes, or you can attend one of the many yoga classes that are now widely available.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is an excellent choice for fibromyalgia patients because it is so easy to do. You can do it while sitting in a chair or when lying in bed, whichever is the most comfortable for you. Progressive muscle relaxation works on all major muscle groups in the body. It helps to reduce tension and work out your muscles at the same time. Progressive muscle relaxation requires no equipment and can be done by all age-levels and abilities.
This technique reduces stress and tension by helping you to focus on particular muscles in your body. You begin by tensing the muscles in your feet. Hold this contraction for 8 seconds or so. Then release the tension and relax. Continue tensing all the major muscles in your body, right up to your head. By the time you have finished, you will be completely relaxed.