Chronic Pain Relief Tips for Every Budget
This week’s post is all about pain solutions for every budget. Everything from what Lady Gaga’s doing to what you can do for free to manage your pain.
If there’s one thing fibro folks know better than anything, it’s chronic widespread pain.
By chronic we mean that the symptom lasts at least 3 months, and by widespread we mean that the pain is not localized to one part of the body – but manifests all throughout. That’s why one of the diagnostic criteria of the tender point exam is 11 of 18 painful points – it’s to determine if the pain is in fact widespread.
This chronic pain, more than anything else, is the hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia.
In The Fibro Manual by Dr. Liptan, she mentions three types of pain: flu-like aching, muscle tenderness, and body-wide hypersensitivity.
Flu-like aching is caused by high levels of inflammatory chemicals in the bloodstream.
Muscle tenderness is due to tension and inflammation in the fascia, the connective tissue between muscles.
And body-wide hypersensitivity is caused by overly active nerves all throughout the body. That’s what makes that tap on your arm feel like a punch.
The tips we’re going to mention here address all three types of pain.
Splurge with an Infrared Sauna!
Let’s start with our splurge item: the Infrared Sauna! Sounds fancy, right? Well, maybe you’ve seen Lady Gaga’s Instagram post where she’s in her home infrared sauna wrapped in a silver blanket. You don’t have to be a pop superstar to afford this treatment option, but it is still very expensive.
Unlike a traditional Finnish style sauna, an infrared sauna heats surfaces, not the air in the room. This means it can function at a much lower temperature, which makes it a lot more tolerable for people with fibromyalgia.
There are two types of IR saunas – near infrared and far infrared. The far infrared type is more expensive, but also more effective at reducing fibromyalgia pain.
Though the science isn’t fully in yet, it’s believed to have an inflammation-lowering effect and helps to remove toxins, foreign proteins, and microbes from the body. It also improves mitochondrial activity in cells, which boosts metabolism efficiency. All of these are frequent problems with fibromyalgia.
While you can use these saunas at specialty spas for about $1 per minute, this gets expensive fast if you find it benefits you and you want to keep going back. In the long term, if you own your own home, you might consider purchasing one of your own. The initial purchase would be about $2500-$5000 and then the recurring electrical costs to operate. But even then, it would pay for itself after about one hundred 45-minute spa sessions, which is about one year if you use it 3 times per week.
High End: Myofascial Release Therapy
Let’s move on to our high end pain relief treatment option: myofascial release therapy, or MFR for short. This is a type of massage that focuses on gently stretching the fascia, which is the connective tissue encasing your muscles.
The fascia are extremely tight in fibro patients due to the continuous activation of the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system. This results in tissue inflammation and painful knots called trigger points. There is also an excess of immune cells and collagen.
With MFR, a trained massage therapist gently stretches and releases the tension in the fascia. This is different than traditional Swedish massage that focuses more on the muscles themselves. Fibro folks report tremendous results after a few dozen MFR sessions – and not just for pain reduction, but for improved sleep quality as well.
The great part is that the relief has been shown to last for many months after the last session has ended! Dr. Liptan recommends going once or twice a week for 8 weeks – which is typical for other types of physical therapy – and then as needed after that to help with flare-ups. You can also prolong the benefits by using foam rollers or balls regularly at home.
Myofascial release therapy costs about $125 per 75-minute session. If you go once a week for 8 weeks, that ends up costing about $1000 for the full course. But after that the costs are much lower since it will be on an as-needed basis.
Mid-Range Option: CBD Oil
For mid-range budgets, one of the hottest new treatments for fibro pain relief is CBD Oil. CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a cannabis-based medical extract. Yes, that means it comes from same family of plants as marijuana – but don’t worry, CBD oil is legal in all 50 US states and won’t get you high. It’s derived from industrial hemp which only contains trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC.
CBD has very strong anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it very effective at reducing fibro pain.
Unlike opiates, cannabinoids don’t cause a dependence to build up that make the pain worse if you stop taking them – so CBD is considered an alternative to things like tramadol and oxycodone.
So how do you use CBD oil? Well, the most common way is to dissolve it under your tongue using a dropper. However, you can also smoke it, vape it, eat it, and apply it topically.
In terms of dosing, it’s best to start small and gradually increase. The most common dose is 25 mg taken twice per day. With pricing averaging $60/gram for the oil, this works out to an average cost of $6 per day or $186 per month if you are taking it daily.
Budget Option: Avoiding Foods with MSG
Finally we have our budget option, which is avoiding foods with MSG! MSG stands for monosodium glutamate, and it’s used as a food preservative and flavor enhancer. It’s also considered a pain enhancer, as if those of us with fibro needed more pain in our lives.
You might’ve heard that MSG is common in Chinese food, but it’s a lot more pervasive than that. Packaged and processed foods are the biggest offender. This includes things like potato chips, ranch dressing, salty snacks, cold cuts, and frozen dinners. To truly avoid it in the grocery store, you’re going to need to start reading labels. And to complicate things further, it’s not always listed as “monosodium glutamate”, but it might be listed under these names: glutamic acid, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, or yeast extract.
It’s also common at restaurants when eating out. Seasonings on fried foods are the biggest culprits when it comes to MSG – so be extra careful when ordering things like chicken nuggets and french fries. Your best bet is to ask your server about it, but unfortunately they might not even know.
There is no direct cost to avoiding MSG in your diet, though it may mean giving up some of your favorite snacks in order to do so!
Wrapping it all up
There are a lot of ways to reduce fibro pain and these are just a few ideas to get you started. We’ll focus on all of these treatments in their posts, so stay tuned for those when they come out.
To quickly recap:
- Far infrared sauna if you have cash to burn
- Myofascial release therapy as a solid investment in managing your pain
- CBD oil as a cost-effective mid-range option; and
- Avoiding MSG as a budget option
What have you found is the most cost-effective way to reduce your fibro pain? Have you tried any of the four treatments mentioned here? What were your results?
• The Fibro Manual by Dr. Ginevra Liptain (2016) http://www.drliptan.com/book/