Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spoonie Mom Survival Guide; what to expect the first 12 months, and how to cope!

Being a new mom is hard, but being a new Spoonie mom can be HELLISH.  For those already struggling with fatigue and chronic pain first 3 months are especially overwhelming.  In this post, I will share my own experience as a brand-new Spoonie Mom, some of the Science behind its extreme suckage, and most importantly, how to cope!

Fourth Trimester
After my son was born,  I was so exhausted that I was functioning at only the most basic levels.    I remember several occasions where I literally fell asleep on the floor while my newborn son was playing in his "jungle gym", or laying on a blanket next to me.  I wound up sicker than I'd ever been in my life, and almost inevitably, developed PPD (Postpartum Depression).  I think I cried more than my son did!  And why not? On top of typical new mom stuff (hair falling out, pimples, extra weight, ect.), I had the extra burden of Fibromyalgia.  Due to my PPD, I do not have many pleasant memories of those first 3 months; I just remember being exhausted, anxious, and overwhelemed.  As he grew older, and began smiling and engaging with me (and sleeping more!) it got much easier.  The fourth trimester; why the first 3 months are so hard.

Postpartum Flare
When I began to wean my son after about 11 months, my health took another downward spiral.  My Fibromyalgia symptoms became severe, and on top of that, I developed Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) and Autoimmune Hepatitis.  Like many spoonie moms, I was experiencing the "postpartum flare."  Hormones released during pregnancy and nursing are often protective in AI disease; progesterone can suppress your immune system, thus suppressing autoimmune disease.  But when pregnancy or nursing stops, so does the progesterone, this abrupt change commonly causes a flare in women with AI disease.  After dropping just ONE feeding, my symptoms took an extreme nosedive.  The next morning, I awoke with joint pain so severe I could barely walk.

Nursing complications
Nursing, however, has its own drawbacks for Spoonie moms. While nursing, antibodies are transferred through breast milk to the baby, which is great for the baby of course, but can be problematic for those with weakened immune systems.  Additionally, making milk takes a massive amount of energy and bodily resources, which cause further weakening of the immune system.  While my son was under 6 months old, I didn't have problems with nursing, but he grew- a lot.  Our "Oversized Novelty Baby," was off the charts for both weight and height, while I had shrunk to about 110 pounds, less than my pre-pregnancy weight. Nursing during months 6-11 depleted my immune system to such an extent that I was sick almost perpetually for the entire 4-month period.  Finally, my doctor advised my to stop nursing for my own health.  Thus, I traded one hell (perpetual colds and infections), for another (postpartum flare).

Adorable Immune System Nuke-let

The massive changes undergone by our bodies during pregnancy and nursing often exacerbate, and even cause autoimmune disease. Quote from linked NBC article: "Of the approximately 1 million (women) investigated, 25,570 developed autoimmune diseases." 

How to survive the double-punch of having a child and having Autoimmune Disease or Fibromyalgia? Well, now that my son is almost 4, I have made about a million mistakes, and have learned quite a few things along the way.  Here are my most valuable gems of advice for new Spoonie Mamas:

Don't wait for help; ask for it. 

Get all the help you can.  Don't feel guilty; don't feel lazy. You are sick, and you both need and deserve help. I was extremely lucky; both my mother and mother-in-law are within 20 minutes of my home.  Most people, however, don't have that luxury.

  1. One option is a post-partum doula.  These wonderful women will stay at your home after your baby is born for the sole purpose of making YOU comfortable and healthy.  They will help care for the baby, but they will also help care for you.  They do, however, cost money.  
  2. Request a "meal train" from your friends.  Each friend signs up for one meal, and the meals are delivered nightly, weekly, bi-weekly-- however you'd prefer. 
  3. Ask your family, friends and neighbors for help; most people are just waiting to be asked, and would gladly lend a hand.  If you need a nap, if you're struggling and exhausted, if you need help with housework or shopping... don't suffer alone! Call someone. And let me reiterate: Do Not Feel Guilty. 

Join a mothers group or new moms support group

Not joining a new moms group is one of the biggest mistakes I made, looking back.  While my husband was at work during my maternity leave, I spent most days alone, at home, with my son.  I was exhausted and depressed, and I didn't have anyone that I could relate to; I was the first of my friends to have a baby, so I didn't know anyone else in my situation.  Just sitting in a room with other exhausted moms, (even non-spoonie ones!) will make you feel less alone, happier, and more understood.  It will also give you a chance to have FUN and make friends. is a great place to look for mothers groups, or if you're a brand-new mom, ask your hospital about support groups.

Let Go.  <Best funny let it go parody ever.

Your house will be messy.  You will forget appointments, to pay bills, to wash the bibs and burp cloths, and you may wear the same sweatpants for a week.  But if you need to rest, you need to rest.  I did not heed this advice;  Although I did take naps with the baby,  I also spent several hours a day frantically cleaning and organizing, desperate for control. What I didn't realize is that you're more in control when you learn to let things go.  Eventually, I learned to use diaphramatic breathing and mindfulness meditation to relax and learned to let things go. It also helped me focus on what was important; my child and my health; not the dishes in the sink. 

Call your doctor right away if you don't feel well, physically OR mentally.

If you develop new symptoms, your symptoms get worse, or you develop signs of PPD, get help ASAP.

  1. PPD sucks.  There are tons of treatment options and support resources available for women with PPD.  It is extremely common, and more so for those with chronic illness.  Don't wait!
  2. If you experience a flare or other problems while you're nursing, don't wait to call your doctor.  Chances are, they will be able to do something to make you feel better.  
  3. Don't feel guilty if you can't nurse, or have to stop nursing to take medication.  It is OK.  No one will blame you (and if they do, ignore them.) Plenty of perfectly healthy and intelligent children were never nursed at all. Yes, nursing is a wonderful bonding experience, but if its a matter of your own health and well-being, it's a no-brainer.  

Eat Well.

During this period, I ate terribly! Lots of frozen stuff and junk food.  It can be difficult to focus on diet while you're a new mom, especially when you can't even make it to the grocery store! But food should be made priority number 2:  (#1 is Sleep!). Food is medicine.  Especially if you're nursing and cannot take actual medicine!  I love this anti-inflammatory food pyramid by Dr. Weil.  I have also had luck with a gluten-free diet in relieving my fatigue and inflammation.  Here are some more great anti-inflammatory diet tips and delicious, easy and (fast!) recipes.

Sleep as much as humanly possible. 

No Brainer!

Good luck and remember, you will survive! I am living proof ; )

**Check out my new blog especially for parents with chronic illness:, and my childrens book on chronic pain, Fibromyalgia and Autoimmune Disease: "Why Does Mommy Hurt?" 

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Spoonie Parenting Survival Guide: Infants! #spoonie #mecfs #spoonie #fibromyalgia  @parentswithpain

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Joyful and pain-free days to all!

Tags: Fibromyalgia, Spoonie, Lupus, MCTD, UCTD, mother, mom, baby, infant, newborn, survival, anti-inflammatory, flare, PPD, postpartum depression. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

How Are You Feeling? A Fabulous App to Track Pain, Depression and More!

I have been using the (Free!) App How Are You Feeling for Android for over a year.  I originally downloaded to track my chronic pain from my various autoimmune diseases, because whenever my doctor asked me "So, how have you been feeling?" I really could only remember the last week or so. I wanted something that was easy, visual, and would allow me to easily see how I was feeling during a specific time range.  This app does all of that, and much more.

Quick and Easy
My favorite feature is the widget that can be installed on your home screen.  I have a terrible memory, which is totally fine for this app! Every day when I turn on my phone, the color bar is right there for me.  I just choose the color of the day (or hour, or week; its highly scalable), and enter a comment if I so desire ("Started new prescription today" or "still getting over that cold").  You make as many, or as few, entries as you want.   I usually make one entry in the morning, and one in the evening, as the way I feel is highly variable throughout the day.  Thus, I can determine at what time of day my symptoms are worse, or better!

No More Guessing. 
When I start a new therapy, treatment, or medication, I no longer have to guess as to whether its working or not; I have actual data to analyze.  For example; I recently started a new homeopathic treatment for Autoimmune disease, and I can clearly see, based on the increased number of light blue and green days, that I DO feel better.  In the past, I would have to trust my gut, or use my highly faulty fibro-brain memory- not a great data tool!

Customizable and Scalable
You can use this app to track anything; pain, mental illness, stress levels, I can see it working for almost anything that can be tracked.  I even recommended it to a developer once; to track how his application was performing; was it slow that day? was it crashing? or was it running smoothly?  Plus, it can be applied to short-term problems like a broken bone, or chronic diseases/problems.  For those using it for pain, you can choose to specifically track "pain levels" instead of just how you're "feeling".  The best part, its free!

Data is truth. 
When it comes time to analyze or look back at the data, its easy; you just zoom out and scroll to go as far back as you want; or you can choose to view each entry in a list format.

I recommend this app to anyone who is struggling to get a handle on any problem, be it health, emotions, stress, or otherwise.  Once you have the data; you have the power!

Thanks for reading!
Follow me! You can enter your email in the upper left-hand corner of the blog, where it says "follow by email", Or follow me on Facebook

Got kids? Check out my new childrens book on Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia!

wishing joyful and pain-free days to all!
~The PFM

tags: chronic pain, fibromyalgia, autoimmune, lupus, mctd, uctd, depression, anxiety, bipolar, apps, treatment, symptoms.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Top 4 Fun and Educational Toddler-Friendly Destinations in Loudoun!

Loudoun County is a mothers dream.  On top of the fabulous schools and employment options, it is a gorgeous place to live, and full of educational, fun, and high-quality activities for children.

Featured: The Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum, The Loudoun Water Museum, Loudoun County Government Activities, and Great Country Farms. 

1)  Great Country Farms

The "Corn Bin"
Imagine the biggest, coolest backyard in the whole world.  Playgrounds, tube slides, barns, animals, Corn "sand box", giant water tower for hot days... the list goes on!  In addition to the seemingly endless offering of activities, it is working farm that offers pick-your-own everything... Strawberries, asparagus, apples, potatoes... you name it!

There is no end to fun things to do at Great Country Farms.  There are acres and acres of organic produce that you can pick, hay rides, a wonderfully well-stocked general store, a delicious restaurant (can you say "apple cider donuts?").  There is a large field by the restaurant where they regularly have live music.  Down the hill, they have farm animals and even some exotic animals (like an Enu).  There is also a pretend mine where children can sieve for "gems.", a "Corn Bin" which is like a giant sand box, but with corn (its covered... great for hot summer days!) They have about 4 separate playgrounds, a couple of tricycle race tracks, a giant mister for hot days, and one of those giant bounce-on pillows. I could go on and on!! Takeaway? We love this place.

The "Cow Train"
2. Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum

I have lived in Loudoun County for 7 years.  For the first 5.5 years, I drove past a sign for the museum every day on my way home from work, and I was never tempted to go.  A farm museum?! No thanks; couldn't possibly be of interest to a suburban girl like me!  One day, my son and I were exploring Claude Moore Park.  We took a walk by the beautiful lake, and saw some historic buildings in the distance and went exploring.  Beyond the historic buildings, my son spotted some huge tractors, and we were off!  There, we stumbled upon the museum.  It was starting to rain, so I begrudgingly decided to go in.  It quickly became my absolute favorite activity in Loudoun!

My Batman at the original historic cash register
This is a diamond in the ruff of Northern Virginia; and easily one of the best childrens museums in the area.
The museum is packed full of organized, educational, and imaginative exhibits that teach children about historical farm life while they play.   The best part is the full historic general store, which is an original store that was moved into the museum.  It is large, and full of historic products, tons of realistic, chronologically accurate food,  a mail room, scales, and cash register.   My son had to be pulled from the store after playing for over an hour.  It is FABULOUS.

There is an indoor barn where children can collect eggs, dress up like a farmer, milk a cow, and ride/care for pretend horses.  Additionally, there are several high quality child-size tractors with a large open space for playing.
Having a blast with the animals
The main museum is also phenomenal.  It is full of interesting artifacts and information.  In the back of the main museum section, there is another surprise for kids; a replica of a turn-of-the-century kitchen.  It is a hands on exhibit where children can experience what kitchen life was like circa 1920.
The price is a steal; $3 for kids and $5 for adults.  I have taken my family again and again.  It is perfect for rainy/cold days, as there is plenty of space for running around and playing.  The staff is attentive and considerate.   Outside the museum, you will find a historic town with several original buildings, which is also fabulous   There is also a very nice gift shop with educational toys and locally made products.  On Sundays (11:30), Mr "Knick Knack" is there as well!

This is the highest quality childrens museum in the area. I  honestly have no idea why they don't market it as a childrens museum (like on that sign!)  The national childrens museum at the National Harbor is abysmal  and other museums are over an hour away.  You will have a much better time here, and spend less money, while learning about local Loudoun history and farming.  Enjoy!

3) Loudoun County Government Sponsored Childrens Activites

Easter Bunny Event at Claude Moore Community Center
This isn't technically a destination, but there is no better resource for childrens  activities.  Loudoun County is rich.   This year, it is listed as the richest county, with the median income at $ 119,000.  What does that mean for us?  Fabulous government-sponsored activities! And I mean Top Notch.  The Community and Recreation Centers are state-of-the art and offer an amazing variety of classes, from Tai-Chi to Cooking.  For kiddos, there are a huge variety of high-quality CHEAP classes.  The prices are magnitudes lower than similar classes offered by the business community.   Toddlers can take art, sports, music, and everything in between.  In addition, they offer regular, very fun, special activities like moon-bounce parties, balloon parties, carnivals, ect.  My favorite offering is called "Parents Night Out", which entails dropping your kids off for 3.5 hours to have fun with moonbounces, games, and pizza, while you date your spouse; for $14!

4) Loudoun Water Museum

Hi Fishies!
Lately, Jimmy has been asking lots of questions like "Who is making the rain come down?" and "Where does rain come from?" He has a book on the water cycle, and we've explained it a billion times, but he still wanted to know who, exactly, was making the rain.  Then an idea popped into my head.. of course!  The Loudoun Water plant has a childrens exhibit, best of all, its free!  I visited once before he was born, and remembered a lot of interesting, hands on fun for kids.  So on a rainy afternoon, I packed him into the car and off we went.

First, we said hi to all of the beautiful fishies.  The 2 fish tanks at the museum are filled with 'reclaimed' water; as are the faucets and toilets in the facility.

 For older kids and adults, there is a large exhibit on the first floor that explains the entire process of reclaiming and cleaning Loudouns water supply.  Jimmy enjoyed the model Loudoun Water facility, which shows the potomac river, aquaries, and all of the cleaning and processing facilities.  He also loved the "Whats under the ground" display, which showed cross-sections of all of the different pipes buried in our ground; electric, phone; cable; sewage (it was a nice 'pee pee' yellow color haha, reclaimed water, fresh water, and a few others.  He, of course, liked the 'pee pee' water the best.  Wonderful side note; after that exhibit,  he was practically begging me to go to the potty!

Upstairs, kids can explore a home, stripped to show the water pipes and appliances in the home.  Again, the potty was his favorite.  He followed the pipe from the potty all the way out to the sewer line.

 The largest display, upstairs, follows the water from its first entrance to the facility from a sewer line, all the way to nice, fresh, potable water (ending with a fish tank).  Each step has interactive visual displays, buttons, and demonstrations of the filtration processess, which the kids can spin.  In this picture, he is pushing the 'grit cleanser' button for the 40th time.  It shows how rocks and debris are literally spun out of the water.  I think the staff was getting annoyed, because it sounds like a dirt devil on steroids.


My favorite exhibit teaches kids about how THEY and corporations use water in their daily lives.  There is a game where kids can guesss things like "How many gallons of water does it take to grow beans for one cup of coffee? (35), or how many gallons of water does it take to produce one car? (32,000!).  There is also an educational exhibit on dangerous chemicals (bleach, paint, cleaners, ect.), and exactly what happens when you pour them down the drain.. 

The best part of the day was that when we left, Jimmy asked "mommy, can you play a water song?' (He often requests random songs on the radio.  I said "umm, sure!" and put on Pandora.  I almost crashed when "in the sea" came on.  The lyrics were about waves crashing in the Ocean.  One line was "I dreamed this song for you."  Coincidence? Maybe, but it was a fabulous finishing touch to the outing.  On the way home, we stopped at a local park (Ashburn/"Dinosaur" Park), for some real life water experience. We hiked and threw rocks in the stream.  Jimmy blew my mind by proudly explaining how the stream water would turn into clouds soon to make rain, and how all of the tree roots he was tripping over let the trees 'drink' water.  He wasn't the only proud one :)  Well, until he jumped into the stream up to his knees, in some brand new sneakers.  Sigh.   You can take a 3 year old to a Water Museum, but you can't make him think.  

Loudoun Water is located at 44865 Loudoun Water Way, Ashburn, VA 20146

....I don't believe I will ever be leaving Loudoun County; its too awesome!

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Top educational and family friendly activities in #loudoun! @potomacfallsmom

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Got kids? Check out my new childrens book on Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia!


Tags: loudoun county, ashburn, reston, herndon, sterling, toddler friendly activities, indoor activities for kids, children

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Puppets: The magical tantrum solution!

We are all familiar with the uncanny ability of toddlers to completely tune out their mothers voice, or respond to requests with explosive melt-downs. Requests that he use the potty or go to bed are especially chaotic.  Tonight, I tried something new, and it has blown my mind.... Puppets, my friends.  Puppets.

The Elephant That Saved Bedtime

Lately, he's been lugging around an adorable stuffed elephant, which he simply calls "Elephant."  This evening, when I said "its almost time for bed honey!" He burst into tears.  My mind went into overdrive-  I was exhausted.  It was Sunday night, and I had a couch and book waiting for me.  Please... not tonight!  From the recesses of my ancestral mommy brain, a wonderful spark ignited.  I grabbed the nearest stuffed animal,  increased the pitch of my voice, and began.  Enter Mr. Elephant:

Mr. Elephant: "Oh boy! I can't wait to see your room! Can you show me?"

Child: "OK!, Come on! I have a race car bed!"

Mr. Elephant: "You DO!?!?! WOW!!! COOL!!"

Child:  "Yeah, its really cool." (walking up the stairs, with none of the typical sobbing)

Elephant: "I’ve never brushed my teeth before, have you?"

Child: "YES!, Come on! I have superhero toothbrush!” (
Child continued discussing superheros with the elephant as I surreptitiously applied toothpaste to the brush and began brushing his teeth)

Child: "Sometimes I don't like when my mom brushes my teeth." (Whoa! He's confessing to the elephant! This is solid gold.)

Mr. Elephant: "Oh, I'm sorry! Your mommy told me that brushing your teeth makes them clean, and prevents yucky cavities.  Cavities hurt!"

Child:  "Yeah, cavities are really bad!" (done brushing, rinsing, no tears so far.  Inner goddess beaming)

Mr. Elephant: "Is THAT your Potty?!? Cool! I wish I knew how to use the potty!"

Child: "I'll show you! Its easy! I can pee standing up!"  (Holy Jesus, this is insane.)

Mr. Elephant: "Wow! You're good at that! Let's wash our hands!"

Child: "Ok! you have to use soap to get rid of the germs." (LOVE how he's giving advice to the elephant)

Mr. Elephant: "Can I see your room now?!"

Child: "OK! come on! I have monster truck pajamas!"

Mr. Elephant: "Wow they are awesome! Can you put them on by yourself?!"

Child: "Yes! This is what people wear to bed." (He proceeded to explain each step to the elephant)

Mr. Elephant: "Can I sleep in your cool bed tonight?!"

Child: "Yes! You can sleep on my monster truck pillow!"

Mr. Elephant: "Oh boy!"

Daddy entered at that point to read him a book.  My son was beaming with pride at all that he accomplished, and how much he had taught his new friend.  He owned bedtime, for once in his life.  He showed someone else how the big kids do it, and he did it right.  His eyes were glowing, and he went to sleep with a smile on his face, clutching the magical elephant.

I am still in shock at the power of imagination; the joyful innocence of it all.  The magical way in which his belief in the elephant gave HIM control at bedtime, and allowed him to feel like the "Big one".  Which is all toddlers really want.  They want control and power, just like adults.  They want to be heard. 

Puppets are a useful tool for all tantrum-inspiring moments of toddlerdom, not just bedtime; Leaving the playground, meals, naptime, sharing, sibling rivalry, anytime, you name it. Puppet awesomeness example #2:  

Scene: Dinner.  Tired and hungry child refuses to come to table unless allowed to bring each and every one of his 18 monster trucks with him.  

Mood: Fear permeates the air. Parents heart rate begins to rise.  

Child: “I wanna eat dinner with my trucks! no!!!!” (as we attempt to pick him up and put him in his seat.)

The monster-jam obsessed kiddo was in a full fledged, red-faced, limb-swinging tantrum. Desperate, I grabbed the only stuffed animal in my line of sight. Enter Mr. Teddy and the magic of puppets.  Dinner thus progressed magically, wonderfully and without further incident.  Just the way I like it.


Resources and Tips for Using Puppets with your Toddlers

A great article on why puppets work, and how to use them well:  (Source:

More tips:

  1. Choose a puppet or stuffed animal that your child loves. 
  2. Change your voice enough so that its easier for the child to imagine they're talking to someone else.  
  3. Use a different personality; innocent, curious, excited, and fun.  
  4. Ask questions to make your child feel in control like "How do you do that?" "What is that?" ect. 
  5.  Talk to the puppet yourself, "Would you like a carrot too, (puppets name)?"
  6. The puppet should require that the same household rules be followed as you, and the puppet should always listen to mommy/daddy as well.
  7. If your child doesn't respond, try again! Different puppet, different voice, different setting.  
  8. Children under the age of 5 are most likely to respond to puppets. 
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The Magical Tantrum Solution: Puppets! #parentingtips #toddlers #parenthood @potomacfallsmom

Thanks for reading! 
Please follow me:  You can enter your email in the upper left-hand corner of the blog, where it says "follow by email", Or follow me on Facebook

wishing joyful and pain-free days to all! 
~The PFM

Tags: Parenting, parenthood, son, toddlers, children, bedtime, potty-training, puppets, parenting tips, tantrums

Saturday, February 15, 2014

My favorite products to reduce PAIN and feel better, today!

Hello fellow spoonies and CP'ers! I have been living, and parenting, with chronic pain due to autoimmune disease for over 8 years.  I have tried pretty much everything.  Here is a list of my favorite, tried & true methods for pain reduction and relief.  Some temporary, some for long-term relief.  I hope some of them work for you as well!  Wishing many pain-free days (or at least minutes) to you all! ~PFM

1) Spoonk 

While traveling in San Francisco, an interesting spa product caught my eye.  It promised reduction in pain, insomnia, and other things.  It is designed to be an acupressure mat,  and claims to stimulate multiple acupressure points at once.   For me, it has become an ideal "emergency" pain reliever.  Why it works: It increases blood flow to the areas being stimulated, and the multiple pressure points block all other nerve signals-- like PAIN!

The Spoonk hurts, but only at first!  After about 5-10 minutes, you drift into a dream-like state of blissful comfort.  When I am having a BAD pain day, and can't sleep, I lay on my spoonk for about 20-30 minutes.  I lay with my knees under a pillow, with direct skin contact on the spoonk.  Usually, I fall asleep  within 15 minutes. Technically, you're not supposed to sleep on it, but remove it before drifting off.  But when I do fall asleep, I wake up after about an hour, the effect wears off and the pressure points become painful again.  If that happens, I just remove it and drift back to sleep.  I. LOVE. THIS.

2) Comfort-U pillow

I bought this when I was pregnant and still use it every night; my son is almost four.   What else can I say? This thing is amazing.  You can adjust it in any way you want to support whichever parts of your body you need.  Sometimes I prop up my knees and neck, sometimes I sleep on my side.  When I'm sick, I pull up the two legs against the backboard, and have a comfortable "nest" to read, check email, or maybe write a blog post ; )

3) Voltaren gel

This is a prescription gel which is basically topical ibuprofen (advil).  It is amazing in so many ways... you just have to put it where it hurts, it does not upset your stomach, and it works fast!  I rub this on my lower back, shoulders, joints, ect., and it cuts the pain in half.  Obviously, ask your doctor about this one!

4) Epsom salt bath with Eucalyptus essential oil

Instantaneous pain relief and relaxation.  You can get bags or cartons of epsom salt at any grocery or pharmacy, it is very cheap!  I usually run a hot bath, pour in 2 cups of epsom salt, and 1/2 tsp of eucalyptus oil.

Why it works:  Epsom salts increase your potassium and other natural salts, which are critical to proper muscle function.  Eucalyptus oil causes a cooling sensation and helps block pain signals, and the warm water relaxes your muscles.

*Be sure to use LOTS of moisturizer after the bath (My favorite is baby oil gel)

5) Omega 3

3 is the magic number! Lets start with Omega: 
We have all heard that Omega 3 fatty acids are good for us; but people with chronic pain, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions can benefit more than others.  I take Omega 3 every day, and if I miss more than 2 days, there is a noticeable increase in my joint pain.   My favorite is "Garden of Life"

Why it works: Omega 3s interact with your cellular proteins, stimulating a range of antioxidant and, more importantly, anti-inflammatory effects. (source: Science Daily

6) Raw D3

Why it works:  Vitamin D does 2 important things for people with autoimmune disease; It gives your immune system a huge boost, reducing infections, colds, and viruses that can leave us bed-ridden.  Additionally, recent, highly-publicized research has shown that Vitamin D can reduce pain and fatigue in Fibromyalgia, Lupus, and other autoimmune diseases. (Source: Science Daily)

"Vitamin Code" Garden of Life raw D3 is amazing.  It is made from dozens of vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, and other plants to create the perfect blend of food-based, easily absorbable D3.  I don't go a day without my D3.  I used to get a cold or other virus about once a month, which lasted 2 weeks, thus I was sick 50% of the time, on top of my FM and MCTD, ugh.  After starting D3, my infection rate has been cut in 1/2.

7) Heating pad/Stick on heat

Why it works:  Heat relaxes your muscles, while blocking pain signals at the same time. (Your brain is busy processing the feeling of heat, and the pain signals are less likely to get through).

When I have a long car trip, bad day at work, or have to fly,  I use those stick-on heating pads available at pharmacies, like "Thermacare".

For back pain: 
Lay the heating pad on a firm pillow, length-wise to cover your neck, shoulders, and back (Big dudes may need 2 ; ).  Prop yourself up so you're sitting up and leaning against the heating pad (You should not lay on a heating pad).  Put another pillow under your knees.

8) Proper shoe inserts

If you have back pain, proper shoe inserts are crucial!  I have "high arches" as well as as chronic back, hip, and knee pain.  I recently bought arched supports (and a pair of cute ankle books :)) at Comfort One, a shoe store that caries Healthy shoes for back/foot/hip/knee pain.   Ask your doctor for a recommendation. 
No, these are not "Healthy" shoes ; ) 
why it works:  Proper inserts help align your spine, and provide proper back, foot, knee and hip support to reduce joint pain. 

9) Start an anti-inflammatory and/or gluten-free diet! 

Gluten, as well as sugar and saturated fat can do the opposite of what we want; they INCREASE inflammation.  Skipping or reducing these foods can greatly improve pain, and reduce fatigue.     

I live by this anti-inflammatory food pyramid by Dr. Weil.   You can also view other blog posts I've written on my own (wonderful) experiences with an anti-inflammatory diet. 

Thanks for reading! I hope that some of these tips and ideas will help you in your own quest to reduce pain, fatigue, and inflammation. 

I hope everyone feels like her now ; ) Good luck! 
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wishing joyful and pain-free days to all! 
~The PFM

**Check out my new blog especially for parents with chronic illness:, and my childrens book on chronic pain, Fibromyalgia and Autoimmune Disease: "Why Does Mommy Hurt?" 

Tags: Fibromyalgia, Spoonie, Lupus, inflammation, arthritis, chronic pain, health, gluten-free, anti-inflammatory, diet, lower back, pain. Multiple Sclerosis, Crohns, Ulcerative colitis. Mixed connective tissue disease.