Category Archives: Chronic Pain Conditions

Chronic Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits (Guest Post)

Empty wheelchair in snowNote from Annie: Today’s post is a guest post from Molly Clarke, and I think it’ll offer some answers to questions a lot of Dolls have about Social Security Disability – enjoy!

Chronic Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

When most people think of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, they imagine someone unable to work because of a serious physical disability – loss of motion, inability to walk, or life-threatening diseases.  However, many individuals who need disability benefits have conditions that aren’t necessarily visible to outsiders.

A common reason why people apply for disability benefits is because they suffer from chronic pain. If you can no longer work due to chronic pain, you may be eligible for SSD benefits. The following article will give you a brief overview of the benefits available to you and will provide you with the information needed to begin the process.

Disability Benefit Programs

The two different disability benefit programs—SSDI and SSI—are governed by the Social Security Administration. Each of these programs is very different and has separate eligibility requirements.

SSDI—Social Security Disability Insurance—is funded by taxes that workers pay into the system. Therefore, eligibility for SSDI is determined by an applicant’s work history and the amount of Social Security taxes he or she has paid. Learn more about qualifying for SSDI here.

SSI, the second program that offers disability benefits, stands for Supplemental Security Income. SSI is offered to elderly and disabled individuals who earn very little income. SSI is a needs-based program and the SSA uses very strict financial regulations to determine an applicant’s eligibility. SSI has no work history or tax related requirements. For this reason, SSI is the best option for children or young adults who haven’t had the opportunity to pay into the system. Learn more about qualifying for SSI here.

Social Security Disability Blue Book Requirements

In addition to meeting the previously mentioned technical requirements, SSD applicants must also meet very specific medical criteria. These medical criteria can be found in the SSA’s blue book—the official guide of potentially disabling conditions. The blue book lists many different disabilities and impairments. Under each listing are the specific medical requirements that an applicant must meet in order to qualify.

Unfortunately, chronic pain is not listed in the blue book. To qualify for disability benefits with chronic pain you must have a documented, “medically determinable” condition. Essentially this means that you must qualify based on the condition or illness that causes your chronic pain, rather than the symptom itself. Because chronic pain can be caused by a number of conditions, it is suggested that you go through the blue book listings and search for the condition that best matches your symptoms. This may include the following listings: neurological disorders, somatoform disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, back injury, chronic renal disease or inflammatory arthritis.

You can find all blue book listings on the SSA’s website, here.

If your chronic pain is not caused by a listed impairment, you do have other options. If you can prove, using medical evidence that your symptoms make it impossible for you to maintain employment, you may be able to qualify under something called a Medical Vocational Allowance. To determine whether or not you qualify under a Medical Vocational Allowance the SSA will evaluate you to determine the location, frequency, intensity and duration of your pain, and how it affects your day-to-day life.

Social Security Compassionate Allowances

The processing time for an initial SSD application is often several months. The SSA realizes that individuals with severely disabling conditions may not be able to wait that long to receive benefits. For this reason, they allow people with inherently disabling conditions to qualify for benefits in as little as ten days. This is known as a compassionate allowance. View all conditions that qualify for compassionate allowance processing here.

Preparing for the Process

Prior to submitting your application for SSD benefits, it is important that you are thoroughly prepared. This includes collecting the necessary medical documentation to support your claim. Your application should include records of the following:

  • Your diagnosis
  • Hospitalizations and other medical appointments
  • Treatments and your response to them
  • Any lab tests or diagnostic images
  • Written statements from your doctors

Once you collect this information, it is also important to collect documentation of your finances and employment history. When you are ready to begin the process, you can complete your application online or in person at your local Social Security office.

It is important that you realize how difficult the application process may be. In fact, many initial applications are denied. If this happens to you, it is important that you don’t give up. You are allowed to appeal this decision. Once you are awarded benefits, you will be able to focus on your health and wellbeing rather than stressing about your finances.

About the Guest Author:
Molly Clarke is the Social Media Coordinator for Social Security Disability Help and contributes regularly to the Social Security Disability Help blog. You can reach her via email at mac@ssd-help.org.

Photo credit: Kid Vincent via photopin cc

Have You Checked the Children? Pediatric Chronic Pain More Prevalent Than Previously Thought

Young boy with a headacheBad news, parents: chronic pain in kids turns out to be more prevalent than was previously assumed Worse yet? The numbers of kids reporting chronic pain are increasing.

A recent study was published in the December 2011 journal Pain by Dr. Carl L. von Baeyer of the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Psychology that looked at several surveys of reported chronic pain in children. (See “Interpreting the high prevalance of pediatric chronic pain revealed in community surveys” abstract.)

Examining the results of over 40 child pain studies from 1991 to the present, the researchers found that girls experience more chronic pain conditions than boys, and as affected children grow older, the pain tends to increase.

The most common kind of pediatric chronic pain? Headaches (23 percent of kids aged 7 to 18), but abdominal, back and muscle pain were also common.

“(R)esults of this review indicate that persistent and recurrent chronic pain is overwhelmingly prevalent in children and adolescents and should be recognized as a major health concern in this population.”

When Did Your Chronic Pain Really Begin?

Officially, I was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease and worsening scoliosis in November 1999, and with fibromyalgia in February 2000. Yet, I remember quite vividly several episodes of pain in my adolescence that felt an awful lot like the fibromyalgia flare-ups I periodically experience now. The deep-seated ache, especially on the tops of my shoulders and in my lower back and hips, is pretty unmistakeable, even 30-odd years later.

At the time, of course, my mother and I were told it was “growing pains.” At 5’10” I’d obviously done quite a bit of growing, but growing up shouldn’t hurt.

I know that now of course … but at the time? It seemed reasonable to a teenager, especially one who spent almost every day in dance class or theater rehearsals.

I didn’t really put it together at the time. It took my late mom’s revelation, four years past diagnosis, that she too had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia to trigger my memories. Thinking about a potential genetic link had my mind wandering over the history of my life with my mom, and her mother as well, looking for clues.

And that’s when the memories came: moments of such deep and bone-crushing fatigue that I could barely get to the bed, moments of intense flu-like pain that wouldn’t let me get out of bed …

Did I have fibromyalgia as a child? I’ll never know for sure. It seems more than possible in hindsight, but short of a time machine, there’s not much available to me now that can confirm it.

So when did your chronic pain really begin? And for the moms and dads out there, are you worried about your kids “inheriting” your condition? Share your experiences below!

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Craig Dingle

Resource Helps ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia Patients Find Good Doctors

I’ve just updated the resources pages for Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS with a new entry: the Co-Cure Good Doctor Lists.

This page lists doctors suggested by other patients with fibro and ME/CFS (or chronic fatigue syndrome, as some still call it), by U.S. state and not-a-few other countries. The theory is similar to Angie’s List, the site that lists service providers with customer-written reviews — the doctor who is referred by other patients is more likely to actually be a good choice for women with these conditions.

That said, some of the doctors on the lists were self-referred — in other words, they submitted their own names with the affirmation that they were “fibro-friendly” or “ME/CFS-friendly” and had significant experience treating patients with these illnesses. All self-referred doctors have a note to that effect beside their entries.

There’s a reason I found and decided to add this resource to Trauma Dolls, and it’s not a pretty story. But it’s a story that needs to be shared. Share it I will — tomorrow. (It’s taken me several days to process what happened sufficiently to write about it cogently.)

‘Til then, take a look at the Co-Cure Good Doc list, and see if your primary care provider is listed — or if, perhaps, there’s a better choice for you out there in your community.

Pain In the Butt: Relief for Sciatica

Woman in pain from sciatica

A little lower ... sciatica can be debilitating but it can also be relieved with yoga.

Over on Twitter, I’ve noticed a few conversations about “back pain” — that actually turn out to be … well, how can I say this delicately? … more of a pain in the posterior, than in the back.

That, my Doll friends, is (most likely) sciatica.

And despite what you might think if you’ve never actually experienced it, sciatica is not just some old person’s disease that’s more funny than seriously painful.

Sciatica can be a debilitating, constant pain that interferes with your life in a big way. I know this from bitter personal experience.

But there are some things you can do to relieve that awful pain. Some of them don’t even require a prescription!

What Is Sciatica?

First, let’s make sure we understand what sciatica is. Running down the length of each of your legs, from the middle of the butt cheek all the way down to the heel, is a long nerve called the sciatic nerve.

When that nerve gets irritated or compressed, either due to a structural problem (like scoliosis or a ruptured disk in your spine), you experience the wonderful world of sciatica. Sciatica can also be caused by a tight piriformis muscle.

Even if a tight piriformis isn’t to blame, though, stretching that muscle can relieve the sciatica (more on that later).

Sometimes that pain will run all the way down the leg, possibly even interfering with your ability to walk or stand for long periods. Sometimes, it will remain in the gluteus maximus area. It might hit one side or the other, or both, depending on the cause of the irritation.

What to Try First When You Experience Sciatic Pain

Of course, the standard disclaimers apply: I am not a doctor, and you should absolutely NOT take anything in this article as medical advice. Please talk to your own doctor first.

What I’m about to divulge is a narrative of the things I tried when I was pregnant and couldn’t take any medication stronger than Tylenol(tm).

The Single Best Yoga Pose for Sciatica

I won’t make you read the whole article for my best trick: a modified yoga pose I call “Threading the Needle.”

  1. Lie down on your back, with your knees bent. You might want to use a pillow for your head and neck.
  2. Slowly bring your left knee to your chest and straighten your right leg almost all the way. NOTE: it’s really important not to straighten it completely, even if you can do so comfortably. For some reason, it’s that “almost straight” posture of the right leg that really gets the left piriformis going. Hold that pose for 30-60 seconds, breathing deeply the entire time.
  3. Now, bring the right knee back up to a bent position and simultaneously lower your left leg, so both your knees are bent.
  4. Next, again bring your left knee to the chest, but this time, you’re going to cross your left leg over the right, resting the left outside ankle about three inches above your right knee. Gently stretch the inner thighs by pressing the left leg away from your torso, using the ankle on the knee as leverage. Do NOT strain here!
  5. Now, here’s the really kick-butt part: with both hands, grab your right thigh. If it’s possible for you, grasp your hands behind the leg. If not, just grab hold on either side.
  6. Now, slowly, and without straining, pull your right leg up closer to your torso, with the left leg still resting on the right. Hold it for 30-60 seconds, breathing deeply continuously.

After you’ve stretched the left piriformis, gently take the left leg off the right, lower your legs to the ground and shake them out a little. Then reverse the entire sequence on the other side.

If you know what you’re doing with yoga, you can also try this pose, King Pigeon pose. It accomplishes the same thing — stretching the piriformis — but goes much deeper.

Please do NOT try this unless you’ve done yoga for awhile and you know what you’re doing!! This is NOT a beginner pose.

Conservative Treatment Options for Sciatic Pain

In addition to the yoga sequence above, you can try the following options at home. Remember that sciatica is most likely not going to vanish overnight. It will require consistent attention over the course of several days before you see significant relief, in all likelihood. Don’t give up!

  • Ice massage: Take a styrofoam cup and fill it full with water, then stick the whole thing in the freezer. After it’s frozen solid, remove the cup, tear off a one and a half inch band around the top of the cup, and use the exposed ice to massage the skin around the most painful part (usually the middle of the butt cheek). Use as much pressure as you can comfortably. (This is a great one to ask your significant other to do!)
  • NSAIDs: The basic problem behind sciatica is usually an inflammation of some sort, so NSAIDs do work. Just be careful to take them only as directed, and never exceed the maximum dosage, as serious side effects could result.
  • Posture Check: Every so often, remind yourself to check and adjust your posture. Envision creating additional space between your vertebrae, stretching the spine on a vertical axis both upwards and downwards gently.
  • St. John’s Wort and Turmeric are two herbs/supplements that have produced mild relief from pain for me and others. Turmeric actually has some science to back up its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Acupuncture and acupressure have both helped others. I have to admit, acupuncture never worked for me, and any direct pressure on the trigger areas for the sciatic pain just made things worse for me. But you might consider giving them a try for additional relief.

When to Go to the Doctor for Sciatica Pain

If you’ve been dealing with sciatica pain, trying these conservative approaches for a few months without success, you may want to think about going to see a doctor for a possible evaluation for surgical intervention, assuming your sciatica is caused by a ruptured disk as mine was.

I dealt with sciatica for nine months before considering surgery — of course, I was pregnant at the time, so surgery wasn’t an option for me then.

The microdiskectomy that was performed by my neurosurgeon on the L4/L5 ruptured disk area was a complete success for me. I woke up from the anesthesia in the hospital and was immediately aware that I was pain-free (well, at least from the sciatica).

But something like 20% of people who undergo this surgery for relief from sciatic pain due to ruptured disks do not experience significant relief, according to my neurosurgeon.

It’s something to be aware of, but I don’t believe you should immediately discount surgery out of fear based on anecdotal evidence. (Just like I don’t think you should press for surgery out of hope based on anecdotal evidence, from me or anyone else.)

As I always say, do your own research, get the facts, and talk with your doctor.

Sciatica: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Either way, surgery or no, you can kick sciatica in the butt.

Just make sure you take care not to reinjure yourself, because once sciatica occurs, you’re more likely to experience it again in the future.

 

Link Between Ultra-Flexibility and Migraines Discovered

Picture of a Woman With a Migraine

Migraines: Not your ordinary headache ...

“Hi, Annie. I’m Migraine. Nice to Meet You …”

I never had migraines until last summer. After a particularly stressful series of events one day, this blinding, throbbing pain began tormenting me.

I took three Excedrin, crawled into bed, turned out the lights, and covered my forehead and eyes with a cold wet cloth. A few hours later, the pain had faded enough to allow me to get vertical again. It happened two more times last fall, each incident separated by a few months.

Then last week, my eleven-year-old daughter, in obvious distress, began reciting an all-too-familiar list of symptoms—her head hurt, she felt sick to her stomach, light hurt her eyes, and sounds were too loud.

Before these personal experiences, I didn’t really give much thought to migraines as a source of chronic pain, I confess. Now, I’m in tiger mama mode, researching juvenile migraines and scheduling a visit to my daughter’s doctor.

(There’s another post for another day: why do we race into overdrive when it’s our family members in pain, but we often put up with our own pain?)

Stretchy Body, Stretchy Blood Vessels?

And that’s how I found this piece from MSNBC.com: “Ultra flexible? You’re at triple risk for migraines” (Reuters). It reports on a recent study performed by Dr. Vincent Martin, professor at Ohio’s University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, which showed that women with joint hypermobility syndrome are up to three times more likely to experience migraines than their less flexible counterparts.

Joint hypermobility syndrome isn’t really a pain condition—it normally requires no treatment. (A more severe form called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) But it can be an indicator of what Martin calls “stacks” of other medical conditions that do cause pain, such as fibromyalgia, chronic neck pain, and sleep disturbances—and, apparently, migraines.

Martin’s working hypothesis was that JHMS, marked by “extra-stretchy” collagen in joints, could also be an indicator for increased risk of migraines. This is because the collagen (a crucial component in body structures like joints and blood vessels) should be overly elastic throughout the body. And if that’s true, the collagen in the blood vessels would also be overly elastic—and that, researchers already believed, is associated with chronic migraines.

Martin’s Findings: 75% Increased Risk of Migraines in Hyper-Flexible Women

Martin expected an increased risk but the actual results surprised him. The rate of migraine occurrence in the control group was 43%, but in the test group, the rate shot up to 75%. After factoring in age and medication usage, this figure translated to three times the risk for migraines for women with joint hypermobility syndrome, who also experienced migraines more than twice as often, with an increased occurrence of aura.

Researchers had long suspected a link between JHMS and migraines. Dr. Blair Grubb, a professor at the University of Toledo Medical Center, said “It’s one of those things where everybody knew it, and somebody just got around to publishing it.”

Of course, as we know, that “publishing” part is pretty critical in order to support further studies and advances in treatment.

Migraines and Trauma Dolls

Do you have migraines? Tell me what you do to make yourself feel better in the comments!

I’m especially interested in hearing from moms of young children who experience migraines.  I got a few great tips from Twitter the other day (I’ll be asking Princess’s doc about Maxalt, and we’re looking into nutritional changes as well—thanks, tweeps!) but information is power, Dolls, so let’s share!

The Chronic Pain/Prescription Drug Bad News Tsunami

Picture of Large Ocean Wave Breaking Near Shore

There’s a retrenchment going on in the war on chronic Pain (CP). I’ve noticed it with some dismay over the last several months or so, and this week it finally hit me: folks, we’ve got a full-blown insurgency on our hands. Or counter-insurgency. Whichever? I guess it depends on your perspective, as does so much these days. Are we — the ones calling for more assertive treatment of CP, including better access to pain medications — the insurgents? (Personally, I’ve always been fond of “partisans.” Or “Resistance.” I look good in a beret.)

Well, whichever, indeed, because labels don’t mean a damn thing when we’re getting hit by the mass media tsunami. And how could you have missed it, really? Don’t you know? Prescription pain drugs are evil!

Sigh.

Am I overreacting? Consider the items that popped across my Google alerts just this past week:

  • Pain Medicine News: Study: PCPs Often Underestimate Opioid Abuse Risk — free log-in required, and it’s worth it, honestly. (I’m kind of in awe of this one. Despite numerous studies and statistics to the contrary, we’re going to conclude that MOST — that is, a majority! — of CP patients are at moderate risk of addiction to opioids if prescribed them. Uh-huh.)
  • News & Observer: (NC) Sheriffs want lists of patients using painkillers (Oh, yes. That’s a brilliant idea. Yep, no need to worry about local government overreaching or privacy implications with this plan. At all. And like the study in the item above, it comes from my home state of North Carolina. Whiskey-tango-foxtrot, Tarheels?)
  • London Free Press: Police-doctor crackdown eyed in fight against Oxycontin scourge (Great. Now it’s a “scourge.” Hyperbole much, LFP?)
  • And, drumroll please — my favorite, from something called “the Salem News” (Oregon/Pacific NW): “Pain classified as a disease? Please, give us a break.” A lovely little op-ed full of sunshine and roses for the CP’d population from a self-described “Activist for Victims of OxyContin” named Marianne Skolek (inappropriate capitalization is hers, not mine). She’s also a nurse and a paralegal. (Not sure how that works.)

It’s enough to make a sane CP blogger/activist (note the lack of capitalization, Marianne?) get a little depressed. Excuse me – a little more depressed, since everyone knows we’re already, all of us, bawling buckets of messiness, right?

LORD. I’ve been rolling my eyes all week, so hard that I’ve got a perpetual headache. And – what’s this, Marianne? A CP patient experiencing pain who doesn’t run to the nearest pharmacological stewpot?  Yeah, that’s right. Guess what. I’m not alone. Guess what else? It’s MOST of us who don’t overmedicate.

Except people like Marianne and the sensationalist authors of the above pieces and the scowling big-daddy sheriffs of North Carolina don’t want to see that. They want to see the scourge, the tsunami. Sure, they’ll wrap it all up in soft, caring words but underneath it all is the sense of disdain and superiority over anyone weak enough to want to take a pill to alleviate their CP.

And at the heart of that, ladies and gentlemen, is the blessing of never having had to deal with it yourself. Once you cross over into this great land of All Pain, All the Time? You are changed. Perpetually and inexorably and profoundly changed.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Not even Marianne or the sheriffs. Now, it seems as though Marianne had a daughter who died from an Oxycontin overdose. That’s tragic, and incredibly sad. It should not have happened.

Oxycontin is a drug. It’s a potent one, to be sure, but it’s not the devil. Nor are the people who make it, nor are the people who take it.

You want a devil? Look around at the them vs us world you’ve created, every time you urge the public to believe that prescription pain medication will absolutely, definitively kill them, no doubt.

Look long and hard at the prosecutions of good and caring doctors who – horrors! – use the medications as they’re supposed to be used: to relieve their patients’ pain.

Hell, just look at the criminalization of drug use — not dealing, mind you but merely use! We’re going to put people whose only crime was using a drug in jail. No, that makes no sense to me. You know who belongs in jail? Murderers. Rapists. Thieves. Politicians who steal or take kickbacks. Dealers. You know who doesn’t? Drug users or abusers. That? Is a sickness. Want to know how I know? Because a lot of really smart people got together and SAID SO.

Yeah, that’s what our overcrowded prisons need: throw a bunch of mentally ill people in GenPop because they’re mentally ill.

But. All right. The people have apparently spoken. (Though I’m not giving up on that yet.) Let’s just put that aside for a bit. What’s going on here, in this tidal wave of Crisis! Prescription Medication Abuse (can’t you just see the blazing CNN graphic and hear the specially-composed Intro of Doom now?), is something I’d thought reasonable people had put to bed awhile back:

We are not required to live our lives in pain. We’re just not.

But if this scare-mongering continues, then – well, as much as I hate the role of Cassandra, mark my words, folks: We will none of us have access to the prescriptions that can save our lives.

So, it’s Pain Awareness Month, you may have heard. Isn’t it time we all spoke up? Shouldn’t there be someone saying this stuff in a more public forum? I wrote to a contact at APF to share that Marianne op-ed this week. The response I got indicated that they just don’t even respond to her anymore. I can’t say I blame them. She’s obviously a little self-important and if the best platform she can manage is the “Salem News” website, then – well, whatever.

But shouldn’t the din of voices clamoring about “Pharmageddon” and “sheeple being led astray” (Oh, God, can I just make a new rule right now? No more made up words. And if you do make up a word, it has to at least be clever. “Pharmageddon” and “sheeple”? Do not qualify) — shouldn’t there be at least an equivalent counter-chorus? Somewhere?

It’s enough to give a CP girl a headache.

And note: I’m not even reaching for the Tylenol(tm).

Want to swim in the tsunami? Here you go, courtesy of Zemanta:

Enhanced by Zemanta

Canada Doesn’t Fund Fibro Research – But Won’t Take Fibromite’s Donated Blood?

OK, what’s up with this, Canada?

A lot of that stems from the fact that fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities aren’t recognized as chronic illnesses, Bested notes, and consequently receive no funding for research. Nor do they figure well in resident training.“At the government level, they’re invisible.”

Yet last month, Canada became the first country in the world to ban blood donations from people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in the wake of groundbreaking study published in the prestigious journal Science, advocates point out. U.S. researchers discovered a human retrovirus, XMRV, that could be linked to CFS. The move was a precautionary measure as it’s feared the virus, which closely resembles the AIDS virus, could be transmitted through blood transfusions. Australia followed suite a few weeks later.

“We can’t get funding because we’re not considered a chronic illness, and yet they won’t take our blood,” Saraiva says.
“We’re dealing with powerful, wealthy insurance companies who have a bottom line,” Samosas says. “A lot of people have had horrendous cases in court with CPP and fight for years.

Clinical depression often blamed before diagnosis of fibromyalgia, Healthzone (Canada)

Seriously, what gives? How about we drag you kicking and screaming into the 21st century? With all the talk about how the Canadian system is a model national health care policy, can we not live in the Middle Ages here?

I seriously doubt the U.S. is much better in its level of funding of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain research but here’s the thing: chronic pain costs money. A lot of it. Add up the doctor’s bills, the prescription costs, the lost time and productivity for businesses whose employees suffer from it … you’re looking at a big number.

Fibro and chronic pain conditions are not a “lifestyle choice.They’re debilitating diseases, and it’s time to stop treating those of us with these conditions as if we’re lying liars who lie and just want to sit on our asses all day eating bon-bons. I don’t know a single fibro sufferer who wouldn’t give her or his right arm to be able to work and live like they used to again.

So shut up, already, and be nicer to us. It could be you in this position one day.

The Kerala “Cure”: Do We Have to Travel to India to Feel Better?

Clay Pot With Lotus Flowers Floating on Water

Read this and tell me you don’t want to go. Right. NOW:

The monsoon expends the last of its energy in the Indian state of Kerala, leaving plump raindrops on hibiscus flowers and puddles in the red mud roads. The air is thick but not oppressive, and I begin to understand the words of the local doctor, who says that monsoon season—nature’s own megacleanser—is the best time for treatment. Sipping sweet water from a tender coconut, I feel radiant from an hour-long herbal oil massage. The stiffness in my neck, which I once accepted as a necessary evil of urban living, has disappeared. Listening to the waves rolling up on the shore, I realize why this place, Kerala, is part of my treatment, too.

This, from “Taking the Cure in Kerala” from YogaJournal, makes me long for a round-trip ticket and a few weeks off. (Please note, after my frequent rants here and on Twitter against folks claiming to have the “cure” for fibromyalgia and other incurable chronic pain conditions, that I’m pretty sure they don’t mean “cure” in the Western medicine context but in the “damn, I feel nine kinds of better” sense.)

This made me think: is this what we’re all up against? Is THIS what we have to do to get better for real and for good?

Except – I already know the answer. The answer is “no.” Traveling to exotic locales and subjecting ourselves to round-the-clock spa treatments and yoga classes is not required to achieve health and wellbeing.

What is required, though, is just as out-of-reach, if you look at (A) what we as chronic pain patients know and measure that against (B) what we as chronic pain patients do.

Simply put: we know we need to change our lifestyles. But we don’t.

That’s the sad truth, folks. We all know we have to stop grinding ourselves down into a fine powdery version of our vital selves. We know we have to exercise – to move, often and every day. We know we have to cut out our bullshit and get real with ourselves and our current conditions. We know we have to meditate. We know we have to turn our backs on the sugary, chemical-laden crap in our diets and embrace organic and low-on-the-food-chain vegetables, fruits, and lean protein.

We know this stuff!

And we’re not DOING IT!

What’s the answer, then? If it isn’t a question of knowledge but of action — of actually making the changes we know we need to make — then how are we supposed to proceed here?

There’s something very romantic and enticing about “taking the cure in Kerala” — about making the grand gesture, fleeing our sad, sick lives and making wholesale change in a brand new, exotic locale.

But there’s just one problem with that (well, besides the pure impracticality for most of us and the exorbitant expense): it’s a lie. And it sets us up for failure when we inevitably return home.

It’s a lie because it suggests that the grand gesture is required — that nothing short of this kind of Eat, Pray, Love – style adventure will heal us. And that’s not true.

And it’s setting us up for failure because — well, damn, because it’s easy to put ourselves into low gear and embrace healthy living when we’re being massaged every day and don’t have to feed the kids every night.

What happens when we get back home? How successful will you be maintaining that glow of health and those new healthy habits when the pressures of daily life start clamoring for your stretched-thin attention?

Don’t wait for your ticket to Kerala to get better, is what I’m saying. Create Kerala where you are. Right now. Right this second.

Also? If you get a ticket to Kerala, can I come, too? I’m not crazy.

Staying Well This Flu Season When You Have Fibromyalgia or Any Other Chronic Pain Condition

It was the sickest I’ve ever been.
The first Monday in December of 2003 started off fairly ordinary, but quickly devolved into a medical nightmare. I remember getting up at 4:30, as is my custom, and sitting in meditation for half an hour, after my morning dose of tramadol. The theory is that while I meditate, the tramadol and the acetaminophen I take with it begin to reach higher levels of effectiveness and by the time I’m done meditating, I can engage in my daily yoga practice.
But that day, when the half hour meditation was up, I just felt awful. No improvement — even slightly worse than I usually do right before a regularly scheduled tramadol dose. Almost immediately, my young child awoke crying — unusual for her. I quickly determined that she was running a low fever, and had a few scattered red spots across her arms.
Thinking “chicken pox,” I called in sick to work and took her to the pediatrician. But by the time the doctor came into the room, it was pretty obvious that the sick person in the room wasn’t my daughter — it was me. I hurt all over, as people with fibromyalgia uusally do, but this was as intense as any bad flareup I’ve ever experienced, maybe more so. And I absolutely knew without doubt that I had a pretty high fever.
By the time we were discharged, I was keenly uncomfortable with putting my daughter in the back seat of a car that I was in charge of at that point. I called my husband, who had already left for work — he in turn called my brother who came to pick us up. I went home and crawled into bed as soon as my mother showed up to take care of my daughter.
By that evening, my fever had climbed to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was hallucinating. Alternating doses every two hours of acetaminophen and Motrin were doing little to break that fever, and I was in so much pain and discomfort that sleep was impossible. Instead, I lay in some twilight fugue state between fully conscious and … something else entirely.
In the morning, my mother suggested she take me to the doctor’s office for tamiflu.
That’s when the insanity really started, by the way — quickly:
* my mother passed out in the waiting room due to a undiagnosed cardiac problem;
* since I couldn’t go with her to the emergency room due to my flu, my brother accompanied her;
* while waiting with her in the ER, my brother’s arm began to swell up;
* my husband came home to take care of us and the dog threw up on him.
Funny in retrospect, because we all survived — but at the time … wow. No fun.  And my flu symptoms — the worst of them, I mean (the pain and the really high fever) — lasted for five days, despite taking tamiflu religiously.
In short, this was the absolute sickest I’ve ever been.  And just how sick I’d been was driven home dramatically and tragically when I returned to work the following week to find out that a colleague’s secretary had died two days before — from the flu.and
As if the pain from fibro and degenerative disk disease weren’t enough!
It’s important for all of us to keep ourselves healthy — the flu is a serious illness. But that’s especially true for those of us who live with chronic pain conditions. And if the yearly flu season weren’t enough, now we have to consider H1N1 as well.
Here are some tips to keep yourself from catching the flu — any variety — this season.
Better Hygiene Practices Can Prevent a Lot of Illnesses
* Wash hands frequently.
* Antibacterial gel.
* Keep cleaning wipes handy for kitchen and bathroom
* Don’t forget to wipe down phones and doorknobs — also computer keyboards, your trackball or mouse, the alarm clock
* Get a separate toothpaste tube for each person in the house.
* Learn to love paper towels.
* Get creative with daily activities. Push elevator buttons with a pen. Turn off the lights with your elbow. Wear gloves when at the ATM or shopping with a credit card or debit card at the grocery store.
Diet Can Improve Your Immune Function
While there’s no magic food that can prevent the common cold or flu, research does tend to indicate that a healthful diet, combined with some specific foods known to have beneficial health effects can help you increase your immune system’s ability to fight off diseases.
* Yogurt: Shift workers who consumed a drink containing Lactobacillus reuteri, a probiotic that appears to stimulate infection-fighting white blood cells, were 33 percent less likely to take sick days than those who took a placebo, according to an 80-day Swedish study published in Environmental Health. But beware, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of 10 books on nutrition: “Some companies make up probiotic names to put on their label.” She suggests looking for yogurt that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus as well as Bifidus and L. rhamnosus. “They’re even more effective when combined,” she says.
* Garlic: According to a study published in Advances in Therapy, subjects who swallowed a garlic capsule for 12 winter weeks were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold; those who did suffered for 3 1/2 days less. Garlic contains allicin, a potent bacteria fighter, and other infection-fighting compounds, and Somer believes it’s even more effective in food form. She suggests adding one to three cooked cloves to your food each day.
* Black tea: Drinking 5 cups a day for 2 weeks can turn your immune system’s T cells into “Hulk cells” that produce 10 times more interferon, a protein that battles cold and flu infections, according to a Harvard study. Don’t like black tea? The green variety will also do the trick. If you can’t stomach drinking that much, you can still get added protection with fewer cups.
* Mushrooms: They contain more than 300 compounds that rev up immunity, in part by escalating the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and making them more aggressive. Shiitake, maitake, and reishi varieties contain the most immune-boosting chemicals, but plain old button mushrooms will also do the job.
* Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, herring, and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which increase activity of phagocytes — cells that fight flu by eating up bacteria — according to a study by Britain’s Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Medicine. They also contain selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines, proteins that help clear viruses. Other research shows that omega-3s increase airflow and protect lungs from colds and respiratory infections. In fact, says Somer, DHA and EPA (the two main forms of omega-3s) benefit the immune system at the most basic level, enabling cell membranes to efficiently absorb nutrients and remove toxins.
Supplement Your Diet Wisely to Fight Off the Flu
Personally, it’s my belief that some folks put way too much faith in supplements. It’s universally considered more beneficial by researchers to get your vitamins and nutrients from food, instead of pills.
Even with Vitamin D, which isn’t easy to get a full dose of with a normal diet, your body can produce what you need with just a few minutes of sunlight daily (without sunscreen, so exercise caution, and if you have or might be susceptible to skin cancers, take a supplement and skip the sun). Each glass of milk contains about 100 IU of D, and the recommended daily allowance (RDA) in the US is 400 IU. Most reliable experts recommend about 1,000; you can take higher levels, but be warned that toxicity kicks in around the 50,000 IU level.
In addition to Vitamin D, you might want to think about upping your intake of the following nutrients and vitamins:
* Omega-3 fatty acids. Purified fish oil capsules with at least 1 g combined of EPA and DHA are best.
* Cold-fX. Yes, I’m usually skeptical, too, but read on: “Subjects who took two daily capsules of Cold-fX (available online), a supplement containing North American ginseng extract, caught half as many colds as a group taking a placebo, according to a study done by the Center for Immunotherapy of Cancer and Infectious Diseases at the University of Connecticut. When they did get sick, their symptoms lasted less than half as long. This particular ginseng variety contains compounds that increase white blood cells and interleukins, proteins the immune system relies on.” – from
* Zinc, when you have a cold or feel one coming on. Again, from ___: “The research on this mineral has been conflicting. Still, ’30 mg taken at the very start of a cold will shorten it by about half a day,’ says David L. Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. But don’t overdo it. While even a slight deficiency in zinc, which is needed to produce white blood cells, can increase your risk of infection, more than 50 mg daily can suppress your immune system and block absorption of other essential minerals.”
Mom Was Right: Get Your Sleep (and Exercise) to Boost Your Immunity
Nobody’s suggesting you take a daily hour-long aerobics class (though, God, I’d really like to be able to do that). But about half an hour of walking a day can have a therapeutic effect on your body’s ability to fight off and decrease stress, which impairs immune function.
Additionally, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, regular physical activity — as long as it’s not extreme — lowers your overall risk of upper-respiratory infections.
Snooze for at least 7 hours a night. “A single night of sleep deprivation can depress your immune system,” says Katz. After 153 healthy men and women were exposed to a cold virus, those who had slept more than 7 hours each night during the preceding 14 days reduced their risk of contracting the rhinovirus by up to 300 percent, according to a 2009 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. And get some solid shut-eye the night before your shot. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, when healthy men were limited to 4 hours of sleep before getting a vaccination, they developed only half the normal number of antibodies.
Try tai chi. When women ages 55 to 65 practiced tai chi for an hour 4 times a week, Shanghai University of Sport researchers saw the women’s levels of two different disease-fighting cells jump by nearly 32 percent over 4 months. Start practicing a week before your flu shot and you can boost its effectiveness by as much as 17 percent, found a University of Illinois study. To get started, try Element Tai Chi for Beginners ($15; collagevideo.com).
Party on — moderately. People who are socially active get fewer colds, even when intentionally exposed to the cold virus. Researchers postulate that frequent socializers tend to be more positive and maintain high-quality emotional ties, both of which strengthen immunity.
1. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze. Okay.  Everyone knows to do this…right?  Then why do I still see so many people just letting their sneezes loose?  Use a tissue or napkin and throw it away immediately afterwards.  If a tissue isn’t available, sneeze into the inside of your elbow—not in your hands.
2. Wash your hands regularly. Another reminder you can never hear too many times.  Use soap and water, or an alcohol based hand cleaner.  Washing hands is especially important after sneezing or coughing, before handling food, or after spending time in a public place.
3. Don’t touch your face. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes.  This is hard to do, but at least try to be aware if you’re doing it often.  See above and wash frequently if you can’t keep your hands off yourself.
4. Get some sleep. Having a regular and appropriate sleep schedule is one of the best ways of keeping your immune system strong and staying healthy.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours per night for adults.
5. Be wary of surfaces—clean them regularly. Tables, chairs, countertops, desks, computer keyboards, doorknobs…pretty much everything you touch on a regular basis.  Most common household disinfectants should work fine to keep them germ-free.
6. Exercise. A sure way to make sure your body is strong and ready to fight infection is to stay active.  Make exercise a part of your daily routine to cleanse toxins from your body and release stress.
7. Eat well. Maintain a diet full of immune boosting foods and high in Antioxidants, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
8. Drink well. Have plenty of water to flush toxins from your system.  Vitamin-C rich fruit juice is a good choice as well.  Avoid alcohol—it’s an immune suppressant.
9. Stay away from sick people. A few feet should do it.  Just stay far enough away from sick friends to be out of range of saliva, snot, and other potential disease carrying fluids.
10. Get help when you need it. If you start experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, coughing, sneezing, chills, body aches, etc., call your doctor.  Do your co-workers or classmates, and yourself, a favor by staying home for at least 24 hours—except to see a doctor.
11. Stay calm. There’s likely to be plenty of swine flu coverage in the media over the next few months, but nothing does your body more of a disservice than unnecessary stress and panic.  If we’re smart, cautious, and relaxed, we have little reason to fear.

It was the sickest I’ve ever been.

The first Monday in December of 2003 started off fairly ordinary, but quickly devolved into a medical nightmare. I remember getting up at 4:30, as is my custom, and sitting in meditation for half an hour, after my morning dose of tramadol. The theory is that while I meditate, the tramadol and the acetaminophen I take with it begin to reach higher levels of effectiveness and by the time I’m done meditating, I can engage in my daily yoga practice.

But that day, when the half hour meditation was up, I just felt awful. No improvement — even slightly worse than I usually do right before a regularly scheduled tramadol dose. Almost immediately, my young child awoke crying — unusual for her. I quickly determined that she was running a low fever, and had a few scattered red spots across her arms.

Thinking she might have chicken pox, I called in sick to work and took her to the pediatrician. But by the time the doctor came into the room, it was pretty obvious that the sick person in the room wasn’t my daughter — it was me. I hurt all over, as people with fibromyalgia uusally do, but this was as intense as any bad flareup I’ve ever experienced, maybe more so. And I absolutely knew without doubt that I had a pretty high fever.

By the time we were discharged (without the chicken pox, thank goodness), I was keenly uncomfortable with putting my daughter in the back seat of a car that I was in charge of at that point. I called my husband, who had already left for work — he in turn called my brother who came to pick us up. I went home and crawled into bed as soon as my mother showed up to take care of my daughter.

By that evening, my fever had climbed to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was hallucinating. Alternating doses every two hours of acetaminophen and Motrin were doing little to break that fever, and I was in so much pain and discomfort that sleep was impossible. Instead, I lay in some twilight fugue state between fully conscious and … something else entirely.

In the morning, my mother suggested she take me to the doctor’s office for tamiflu. That’s when the insanity really started, by the way — quickly:

  • my mother passed out in the waiting room due to a undiagnosed cardiac problem;
  • since I couldn’t go with her to the emergency room due to my flu, my brother accompanied her;
  • while waiting with her in the ER, my brother’s arm began to swell up;
  • my husband came home to take care of us and the dog threw up on him.

Funny in retrospect, because we all survived — but at the time … wow. No fun.  And my flu symptoms — the worst of them, I mean (the pain and the really high fever) — lasted for five days, despite taking tamiflu religiously.

In short, this was the absolute sickest I’ve ever been.  And just how sick I’d been was driven home dramatically and tragically when I returned to work the following week to find out that a colleague’s secretary had died two days before — from the flu.

As if the pain from fibro and degenerative disk disease weren’t enough!

It’s important for all of us to keep ourselves healthy — the flu is a serious illness. But that’s especially true for those of us who live with chronic pain conditions. And if the yearly flu season weren’t enough, now we have to consider H1N1 as well.

Here are some tips to keep yourself from catching the flu — any variety — this season.

Better Hygiene Practices Can Prevent a Lot of Illnesses

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Antibacterial gel — keep it handy at all times.
  • Keep cleaning wipes handy for kitchen and bathroom. Wipe down all surfaces you regularly touch.
  • Don’t forget to wipe down phones and doorknobs — also computer keyboards, your trackball or mouse, the alarm clock — anything you or your family touch frequently.
  • Get a separate toothpaste tube for each person in the house to cut down on germs transferred by touching toothbrush to the tip of the tube.
  • Learn to love paper towels. Use them instead of washable towels and sponges.
  • Get creative with daily activities. Push elevator buttons with a pen. Turn off the lights with your elbow. Wear gloves when at the ATM or shopping with a credit card or debit card at the grocery store.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.

Diet Can Improve Your Immune Function

While there’s no magic food that can prevent the common cold or flu, research does tend to indicate that a healthful diet, combined with some specific foods known to have beneficial health effects can help you increase your immune system’s ability to fight off diseases.

  • Yogurt: A recent Swedish study published in Environmental Health showed that probiotic-drink-swilling workers took a third fewer sick days than their colleagues who downed a placebo version. Look for labels that specify Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidus and L. rhamnosus.
  • Garlic: A key ingredient in garlic — allicin — is a strong antibacterial. Aim for a few cloves added to your food daily.
  • Black tea and green tea: If you can handle it, imbibe up to 5 cups each day instead of coffee. A Harvard study showed that doing so increases interferon levels up to 10 times the normal level. Interferon, of course, is a protein that helps protect your body against certain infections, including colds and the flu.
  • Mushrooms: These little suckers are powerhouses of immunity-increasing action. Some resources suggest that the shiitake, maitake, and reishi varieties do the most good. The regular white capped button variety will work, too.
  • Salmon, mackerel, and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help increase your body’s  ability to fight off bacteria and protect against respiratory infections.

Supplement Your Diet Wisely to Fight Off the Flu

Personally, it’s my belief that some folks put way too much faith in supplements. It’s universally considered more beneficial by researchers to get your vitamins and nutrients from food, instead of pills.

Even with Vitamin D, which isn’t easy to get a full dose of with a normal diet, your body can produce what you need with just a few minutes of sunlight daily (without sunscreen, so exercise caution, and if you have or might be susceptible to skin cancers, take a supplement and skip the sun). Each glass of milk contains about 100 IU of D, and the recommended daily allowance (RDA) in the US is 400 IU. Most reliable experts recommend about 1,000; you can take higher levels, but be warned that toxicity kicks in around the 50,000 IU level.

In addition to Vitamin D, you might want to think about upping your intake of the following nutrients and vitamins:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Purified fish oil capsules with at least 1 g combined of EPA and DHA are best. If you just can’t stand those fatty fish, look for these.
  • Cold-fX. Yes, I’m usually skeptical, too, but this one apparently works.
  • Zinc, when you have a cold or feel one coming on. Also has some skepticism and mixed results behind it, but worth a try.

Mom Was Right: Get Your Sleep (and Exercise) to Boost Your Immunity

Nobody’s suggesting you take a daily hour-long aerobics class (though, God, I’d really like to be able to do that). But about half an hour of walking a day can have a therapeutic effect on your body’s ability to fight off and decrease stress, which impairs immune function.

Additionally, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, getting moderate, daily exercise can reduce your chances of developing upper-respiratory infections. Just don’t overdo it; extreme exercise apparently weakens your immune response.

Along with that, you might want to consider trying tai chi. According to researchers at Shanghai University of Sport, women between 55 and 65 who engaged in an hour-long tai chi practice session four times a week, their levels of illness-destroying cells increased over 30 percent over a four-month period. Those results were supported by another study at the University of Illinois, which found that people who took up tai chi a week before getting a flu vaccination improved the shot’s efficacy by over 15 percent.

Whatever amount of sleep is right for you (and it varies for all of us), get it every night. Be hard-headed and insist on it. Take this seriously, because healthy, deep, sufficient sleep is critical for chronic pain patients in any event. It will also improve your immune system’s efficacy. A 2009 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine showed up to 300% reduction in risk of contracting rhinovirus for those who slept more than 7 hours regularly.

If You Do Get Sick, Here’s What to Do

If you do get sick, follow Mom’s orders: stay home. Call your doctor, but do not go to work or school. This is how disease spreads! Do your coworkers and yourself a favor — stay home and rest. Drink liquids — water, Gatorade, juices as able (cut them with water if you have a hard time swallowing the full-strength stuff when you’re sick).

And despite the “swine flu” hysteria in the press, don’t freak out. Staying calm can help your body regulate its normal stress levels and improve your ability to stay well over the flu season months. Don’t buy into the hype. Just be smart, and arm yourself with knowledge from trustworthy sources. (Anyone who starts a post or tweet or comment with “my aunt says” or “according to experts” but won’t name those experts? Proceed with caution, people!)

Stay well, and remember to thrive — not just survive!

A Summertime Meditation to Relieve Chronic Pain

Here’s a simple little meditation that’s incredibly powerful at helping your body release chronic pain and heal itself. It draws on the power of two of summer’s most iconic elements: the sun’s rays and the ocean’s waves.

Why Meditation Coupled With Visualization Works To Relieve Chronic Pain

Many of us resist the advice to meditate when it comes to managing our chronic pain. Yet meditation can have profoundly beneficial physical effects when it comes to our body’s ability to heal itself. When you couple meditation with visualization — the practice of envisioning certain scenes or images — you can ramp up the healing power of meditation.

Why do we resist meditation? I think it’s because it “smells” like “it’s all in your head.” Yet the connection between the body and mind is just beginning to be understood in Western medicine. Studies have shown that our brains’ entrenched beliefs can and do have powerful impacts on our health; witness the many studies that show placebos often work, even if they’re nothing more than sugar pills.

Meditation works on so many levels. First, it relaxes your body physically. Especially with fibromyalgia, our muscles have “memories” that bring them back to a painfully tense state time and again. Meditation can retrain those muscles over time to relax, which can ease the pain levels tremendously. Secondly, it works to reduce overall physical stress levels, lowering the amounts of hormones that in large quantities wreak havoc with our body’s systems. Finally, it feels good — and we can all us as much of that as we can get.

Preparing to Meditate

You need no special training or equipment to meditate. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing (except driving a car!), you can meditate. But for the best results, try this meditation when you’re alone. You can be outside or inside, although outside would be very helpful for this particular meditation.

If you are lucky enough to have access to a beach, that’s ideal. But even if you can’t get to the ocean, you can bring the water’s healing powers to you, wherever you are. Look for a pool, or failing that, use a bathtub or even an indoor fountain.

Wear comfortable clothes (unless you’re in the pool or beach, in which case a swimsuit is best, or in the tub, in which case no clothing is necessary). Make sure you won’t be disturbed for half an hour or so.

If you’re using a tub, fill it with warm but not hot water. Add some Epsom or sea salt to the water, to make it as close to the real thing as possible. If you’re in a pool, float on your back if possible, or simply sit comfortably on a step in the shallow end, letting the water cover your feet and ankles. At the beach? Anywhere will do, but if you can move your chair, or just sit on the sand, in the surf, that’s ideal.

Lastly, if you’re outside, make sure you put on sunblock! We’ll be working with the power of the sun to heal — but we all know the sun’s rays can be dangerous to unprotected skin, too. So, lather the white stuff on, and make sure you hit the areas that we always forget — the ears, the tops of feet and toes, the scalp.

Ready?

The Summer Sun-And-Waves Meditation

Begin by relaxing your body. Focus your awareness on each part of your body, starting with your toes, moving up to your feet, your ankles, your calves, and so on, until you reach the top of your head. At each point, pause and gently (silently) tell that part of your body to relax. Continue up your body until you reach the top of your head. Relax your eyes, your mouth, your forehead, your scalp.

When you’re thoroughly relaxed, focus on the sound of the waves coming in and going out. If you’re not actually at the beach, that’s OK — just call that sound to mind. (If you have a CD or sound machine that can recreate waves, great! If not, just use your imagination and memory.) Just focus on the waves for several minutes.

Now, turn your awareness to the warmth of the sun beating down on your body. Again, even if you’re not outside, it’s OK — just visualize the sun’s rays enveloping your body in warmth. See them in your mind’s eye as golden rays of pure healing energy.

Now, begin to direct those rays in your mind’s eye to the parts of your body that hurt. One at a time, “move” the rays of golden light to target a painful area. Let the rays do their job — visualize them sinking in (only the good parts, of course — the sunblock’s taking care of the bad stuff) and working magic on the tissue, the fascia, the very cells that make up your painful muscles. After awhile, you’ll feel a distinct tingle in each area. That’s your cue that you can move on to the next painful area.

When you’ve moved the sun’s rays over every painful area, and felt that little tingle in each one, now it’s time to move on to the water portion. Bring your attention gently back to the waves — listen to the sounds of the waves coming in and going out. Really listen — note every single nuance in sound between the coming and the going until you can hear each difference distinctly.

Now, imagine that the ocean’s waves are bringing in health and wellbeing, and then they’re picking up all the bad stuff in your body that causes pain as they take that bad stuff back out to sea. Way out there somewhere is a magic well where all the “bad stuff” is deposited and transformed into healthful energy. The waves pick up that energy and bring it back in to you, in a never-ending cycle of healing. Stay with this image for as long as you can, feeling the waves bring you health and vitality and take away your pain.

After ten or fifteen minutes or so (or however long you wish to perform the meditation, mindful always of the need to reapply sunblock if you’re outside), bring your attention slowly back to your body and your surroundings. Slowly stretch, blink a few times, and massage your hands and shoulders to bring yourself back to full waking consciousness. You might feel like you just dozed off for a bit — and if you did, that’s great! Sleep heals, too. (Just make sure you don’t fall asleep in the sun without someone to rouse you in case you sleep too long.)

I’d love to hear your reactions to this meditation. Did you try it? Do you use a meditation or visualization sequence that’s different? Share it in the comments!

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