Saturday, 30 April 2011

Using 140 characters to chart my symptoms

140-characters.svg-300x239The number 140 seems to have taken on a life of it’s own since becoming the de facto limit imposed by Twitter. For many of us with chronic illnesses, this 140 character limit is also the limit of the physical or mental effort we are able to manage at any one time.

Over the last few months, I’ve also been using the 140 character limit to log my symptoms and how I feel on any given day. Whilst I don’t often feel up to writing much, most days I can, just, manage that short, sharp notation. With practice I’ve learned how to hone it so it retains enough meaning that I can understand and expand upon it later.

Of course I could have done this with Twitter, but what I really wanted was a means to collect a log of these notes. If I used my regular twitter account I’d not only bore my followers to death with daily winging, it would take some setting up – that once I could have managed easily, but has become now too much of a fiddle - to ensure that only the relevant tweets were archived somewhere.

So instead, I’ve been collecting these notations with the InstantMe facility at PatientsLikeMe. Sometimes, when I really do want to share my symptoms (or just have a good whine), I’ll paste that 140 character summary into Hellotxt, which, in turn, is set to update my Facebook status and Twitter.

As this and many other things I maintain online have been automated, I can maintain my presence in various places, without any additional effort.

As I say, I expand upon the 140 characters in order to keep a proper record of the symptoms I’ve had each day. This is essential for many reasons; so I know which issues I need to bring up with my GP on the next visit; so that I can track what events, foods, medicines, etc., cause or worsen (or improve) any given symptom, side-effect or set of them. It’s also because I’ve been TOLD to keep exactly such symptom diary by various people involved in my medical care.

It matters not whether we keep these online or on paper, so I absolutely reject the idea that If you can tweet you can work, because there’s a world of difference between being able to half-coherently mumble a short note whilst reclining in bed in the clothes you’ve had on and unwashed for the last 6 days and, getting up, getting showered, getting dressed – yeah, you take these things for granted, when you’re ill they take all the energy you had – then getting to a non-existent job on public transport that doesn’t run, let alone working!

One idiot once told me that if I can blog I can do a job too.

Similarly, the odd post, written in crappy English, sometimes done in small instalments over days – most of which are to do with my illness or ways of trying to deal with it – does not mean I can do something well enough or often enough to be paid, even if you took out the preparation and travel.

Anyway, having kept the 140 character notes online, it probably would have made sense to post the expanded versions online too, to this blog perhaps, but I haven’t done so, but instead I’ve been writing them in a fat A5 diary, only because I was given one that I wasn’t going to use for any other reason.

ATOS are perfectly welcome to come round and read that, because, no doubt, there’s some Nazi out there who thinks that if I can scrawl stuff about having a headache so bad I couldn’t see or sit up, usually several days after the event, or noting when I have IBS attacks or am constipated again, I could work.

This is also evidence to show the extent of my disabilities, from noting how often I’m able (or not) to go out and the effects I feel when I do, as I noted the other day with the cruel irony that my pain meds weren’t working on Thursday, as a result of going out to the doctor on Wednesday to get pain meds.

Through this system, I’m better organised, even if I’m still not able to do anything, but at least I have tracked and identified many reasons why.

This gives me confidence, because I now know and can show that I don’t work because I can’t work and that I lie down because otherwise I will collapse and, that these are not odd, one-off symptoms, but clearly repetitive patterns.

(PS: In the “you might also like” department is 2 Easy Ways To Create An Impressive Timeline For Free, as it occurred to me that in our on-going quest to understand our often overlapping and confusing symptom sets and illnesses, it might be an idea to plot the timeline of what we suffered and when.)

What is it like to have ME?

I feel all of this every day, yet, even after all these years, I still find it incredibly difficult to put into words, so I urge you to watch the video.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Who is the Most Deserving?

"If you ever find yourself in the same position as Nadeem or Pete or Mary or Dan there simply won't be state support any more to catch you when you fall. That's the story behind these headlines. One day, statistics show that it will be you or your Gran or your Mum or Dad or son and there just won't be any help available any more. At the moment, you probably find it impossible to believe that it could happen to you. OR that you could be as ill as the people above and be found 'Fit for Work'. I hope you believe me before the Welfare Reform Bill goes through and it's too late to stop it."

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: Who is the Most Deserving?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A busy day


Remember this when you think you’ve achieved nothing in a day.

Via livingwithautoimmune reblogged from fibrofighter

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Do bacteria control your brain?

imageA new study has found evidence suggesting that you are not what you eat, so much as you are what's living in your gut. In mice, at least, the presence of normal gut bacteria has a significant impact on how an individual mouse behaves, and how its brain develops.”

Yeah, humans are not mice, but my gut feeling (groan, pun intended) as an IBS, fibromyalgia, ME, whatever the hell else is causing whichever symptom today, sufferer is that this could well have something to do with it.

Do bacteria control your brain?

Easter Buggery and a Kindling interest


These days, I’ll use any excuse to pretty up my surroundings – funny how I didn’t feel the need to do this when I lived among the constant beauty and magnificent scenery of Tenerife – so yesterday, I stuck up a bit of Easter bunting, peppered a small wreath with artificial daffodils (the eggs I was hoping to decorate it with caused me so much grief, they ended up just being thrown in a basket) and, finally arranged a few silk Spring flowers.

To do this, I was sat up in bed for a little while longer than usual and on my feet for an extra 10 minutes or so, having made a handful more journeys to the kitchen and back or the hallway outside my bedroom door (yeah, long-haul!)

Just that caused unbearable pain in my feet and ankles (from, yet again, the pooling of blood that my heart can’t pump to my head) that was so severe, I couldn’t get comfortable in bed and spent a whole night with poor sleep, even though I’d spent the afternoon with my feet elevated to help mitigate it.

Today, I can bearly stand up at all without my feet and legs giving way or my head going swimmy and the waves of malaise and nausea crashing over me.

To arrange the flowers, I needed to cut half a dozen relatively thin plastic covered wire stems with wire cutters. Clearly, I shouldn’t have really: it was difficult – I hardly had the strength and grip – and painful at the time; so much so that my mother (87) had to help me finish doing this. By last night, my hands and wrists were so painful, I couldn’t even bear to rest them on the bed. The pain in them is making me feel sick today, despite medication.

This seems an inordinately high price to pay just for some “cheap”, transient decorations and the physical pain right now is threatening to overpower any psychological benefit that I might have derived from cheering myself up.

On a positive note, however, while we are on the subject of hand and wrist pain, I finally broke down and bought myself a Kindle.

For years now I’ve not been able to read books because I couldn’t comfortably hold a book for long enough. It would hurt my arms and wrists, then neck and shoulders; leaning the book on my stomach would hurt; the light or angle would never be right for me to be able to see well enough: in short, it had stopped being the pleasure I’d once enjoyed.

There’s still the problem that I can’t often concentrate or take in more than a few pages at a time, but at least the Kindle is proving to be a great help towards alleviating the physical problems. I still can’t hold it up, as suggested in the advertising images, but I can hold it for a lot longer than I could have held a small paperback book, provided I rest my arm and hand on something.

Turning the pages is a much easier task with a button either side of the Kindle, so I can alternate hands too and, the screen is much clearer and easier for me to see than print, especially as I can change the size of the text.

Whilst I probably won’t use it often, even the robot voices that read out the text-to-speech function are bearable enough to listen to, if all else fails.

If you have any similar afflictions and are considering a Kindle, but are not sure if it’s worth the investment, my hunch and experience says it is.

So far, I’ve downloaded all the free classics I never previously got around to reading (I do hope to one day, even though the experience may be a little tainted, having already seen the DVD), plus some reference materials that may come in handy.

Additionally, I’m already about a quarter of the way through reading John Mole’s “It’s All Greek To Me!”, which is a fairly amazing feet given my usual ability, since I only opened the Kindle box on Saturday.

There will still be a handful of books printed on dead trees that I shall keep for the time being, while I already have them and they’re not (yet?) available as a Kindle edition, but those which are, I intend to swap. Hopefully, selling my books will help fund their replacements.

It’s funny, but despite all the advantages, the fact that I’m not resistant to change and consider myself tech-friendly, it still doesn’t quite feel natural holding this small technological version of the old school slate instead of a “proper” book. I’m sure I’ll make that adaptation rapidly though.

Above all, I want the freedom that not lugging books around, whether one-by-one to read, or in bulk when removing, which this gadget will bring and, better, no more trees need be cut down to provide my reading material.

I hate housework!


I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.” - Joan Rivers

Of course, when illness and / or disability prevents you from being able to do much in the housework line, this stops being quite so funny.

Personally, I’ll readily admit that I’ve have never liked housework and already subscribe to the idea that “A clean house is the sign of a wasted life” or happily go along with Quentin Crisp’s assertion that, “There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn't get any worse.”

There really are more important considerations in life. This used to be work or going out and actually “living”. Nowadays it’s pacing myself so that I use what precious little energy I do have on things that have to be done and, mostly, avoiding crashes that cause long-term exhaustion and unbearable pain.

imageSure, I would like to live in tidier and cleaner surroundings. If I had any control over this, I’d have easier to clean surfaces like solid floors, for instance, or I’d do what I did years ago when my job didn’t allow me time to do my own cleaning and hire someone to come in once a week.

Since I can’t, physically, do any more than the near zero amount I do, I’m not prepared to add to my own stress by feeling guilty.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Media and ME by Margaret Williams

Permission to Repost

Ever since the foundation of the UK Science Media Centre in 1999 – whose purpose is to ensure that the media deliver only headline science stories that accord with Government policies – the reporting of the biomedical science surrounding ME/CFS has been noticeable by its absence. Instead, there has been a wealth of spin promoting the benefits and success of CBT and GET for every disorder imaginable, including ME/CFS.

In plain terms, the Science Media Centre presents only a one-sided view of the available information about ME/CFS, and direct contact with editors and health editors of broadsheet newspapers has revealed their policy of limiting their reporting of ME/CFS to what they receive from the Science Media Centre.

The fanfare of unlimited praise for the PACE Trial results at the press conference held at the Science Media Centre on 17th February 2011 is a case in point, with the media failing to use its critical faculties and regurgitating only what it had been spoon-fed.

There are a staggering number of flaws in the PACE Trial article published in The Lancet (Comparison of adaptive pacing therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, graded exercise therapy, and specialist medical care for chronic fatigue syndrome (PACE): a randomised trial. Peter D White et al. The Lancet, 18 February 2011 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60096-2), not one of which was mentioned in the press conference.

These flaws and errors have been identified in a detailed complaint/statistical analysis sent by Professor Malcolm Hooper to The Lancet on 28th March 2011, upon which The Lancet has asked Professor Peter White to comment (a response with which Professor White has apparently not complied within the time allotted for its receipt by The Lancet).

It is understood that under the Elsevier complaints policy, Professor Hooper will be asked to respond to Professor White’s reply when it is received by The Lancet; it is also understood that the PACE Trial article was to be sent for re-review by different reviewers and statisticians whilst The Lancet was awaiting Professor White’s comments on Professor Hooper’s complaint.

Professor Hooper’s analysis will shortly be placed in the public domain; he had agreed with The Lancet to withhold his complaint from publication during the time allotted by The Lancet to Professor White to respond to it, but this agreed time limit has now expired.

There is one crucial point that should not be overlooked amidst the multitude of comments, spin, disquiet and anger surrounding the clearly contrived and exaggerated results of the PACE Trial, which is that if the PACE Trial Investigators had claimed to be studying the effect of CBT/GET on people with medically unexplained or idiosyncratic “fatigue”, few people would have objected.

What is fuelling the opprobrium is the fact that the PACE Trial Investigators insist that they have been studying those with “CFS/ME”, which is how they refer to the neuroimmune disorder ME/CFS.

The pressing question has to be how the Wessely School can be permitted to disregard the ever-increasing biomedical evidence-base on ME/CFS and to refuse – on no evidence whatever -- to accept the WHO classification of ME/CFS as a neurological disorder.

What can be done to halt the Wessely School’s anti-science activities and misinformation about ME/CFS which they propagate and disseminate with consummate skill?  Since they will not budge from their beliefs, could they be right and the biomedical scientists be wrong?  Not at all: the Wessely School is gravely mistaken about the nature of ME/CFS and about their ascription of its symptomatology to a somatoform disorder.

In 1978 (33 years ago), the BMJ published a summary of the symposium on ME held that year at The Royal Society of Medicine:

there was clear agreement that myalgic encephalomyelitis is a distinct nosological entity. Other terms used to describe the disease were rejected as unsatisfactory for various reasons: the cardinal, clinical features show that the disorder is an encephalomyelitis….Some authors have attempted to dismiss this disease as hysterical, but the evidence now makes such a tenet unacceptable….The organic basis is clear – from the finding that the putative agent can be transferred to monkeys, the detection of an increased urinary output of creatine, the persistent findings of abnormal lymphocytes in the peripheral blood of some patients, the presence of lymphocytes and increased protein concentration in the cerebrospinal fluid of occasional patients, and the neurological findings” (BMJ 3rd June 1978).

Apart from their close involvement with the medical and permanent health insurance industry and the unpalatable fact that their professional lives may be shown to have been spent in a null field of research (ie. trying to prove that ME/CFS is an aberrant illness belief), it remains a mystery as to why, as bona fide mental health researchers, the Wessely School so persistently refuse to engage with the extensive biomedical evidence-base that exists on ME/CFS.

As Dr David Bell said in his book “Faces of CFS – Case Histories of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” (Lyndonville, New York, 2000): “I have no problem with not understanding the exact mechanism of the symptoms of CFS…I do have a problem with the lack of respect given patients with poorly understood neurological disease”. Bell points out that the chest pains, racing pulse, shortness of breath, flushing, trembling, twitching, difficulty maintaining balance, headache, physiological exhaustion to the point of collapse, inability to walk, and pooling of blood on standing experienced by ME/CFS patients all result, not from what Wessely School psychiatrists deem to be deconditioning or “hypervigilance to normal bodily sensations”, but from the dysautonomia that is so prevalent in ME/CFS (in an effort to supply blood to the brain, the patient’s blood pressure sky-rockets almost to levels that could cause a stroke but then dives, such lability being the easily confirmed hall-mark of classic ME/CFS that was identified many years ago by Dr Melvin Ramsay ).

Bell explains that these symptoms are caused by elevation of adrenaline levels that are released in an attempt to compensate for impaired blood flow to the brain due to blood volume deficits and to problems in the blood vessels themselves, which result in the well-known (post-adrenaline-surge) exhaustion: “(The blood vessels) must be constricted so tight in the brain that little blood gets through.  Perhaps it is one of the hormones that constricts blood vessels.  Perhaps an infection of the blood vessels.  Perhaps it is an excessive sensitivity of the blood vessels to adrenaline….CFS is a devastating physiologic process that undermines the body’s energy and the brain’s cognitive ability….CFS is not…an illness behaviour for lazy people.  The consequences of this illness weigh heavily not only on the victim, but also on family, community and society”.

ME/CFS is an inflammatory disease (Pasi A et al. Mol Med Report 2011:4(3):535-540). Kennedy et al from the Vascular and Inflammatory Diseases Research Unit at the University of Dundee have reported a whole raft of abnormalities in adults (and subsequently in children) with ME/CFS that are consistent with vascular instability and dysautonomia.  These findings include an increase in apoptosis of white blood cells; raised levels of oxidative stress which can damage blood vessels and other organs; increased markers of inflammation, and abnormalities in blood vessel function (Co-Cure RES, MED: 17th May 2010).

Another pressing question must be why the media so frequently fail to report such serious pathology in ME/CFS patients and to rely so unquestioningly on the Science Media Centre to do their work for them. Where is their own intellectual judgment and journalistic skill?

Following the NIH State of the Knowledge Workshop in April 2011, Professor Leonard Jason from DePaul University, Chicago, took part in a televised discussion hosted by Llewellyn King transmitted on 8th April 2011 (The Voice of America, episode #3012) in which Jason said that patients with ME/CFS “get thrown to the psychiatrists….These are patients who are victimised by an illness and then the media further victimises them, and then the medical community also does it”.  Another contributor, author Deborah Waroff from New York, made the point that “UK patients (with ME/CFS) are probably the most unfortunate in the entire world”.

Victimisation by the media is well illustrated in the article on the PACE Trial by Adam Morris in The Edinburgh Evening News published on 15th April 2011: “If implemented, it means patients would be placed on recovery schemes, with thousands benefitting from a new regime of exercise and a ‘positive mental attitude’ ”.

This statement should be compared with the comment by Professor Paul Cheney from the US on graded exercise (made in the UK at the Invest in ME conference in May 2010, proceedings of which are available on DVD from IiME): “The whole idea that you can take a disease like this and exercise your way to health is foolishness.  It is insane”.

Media coverage of ME/CFS remains problematic; comments on the PACE Trial by Vivienne Parry written for the charity AYME (The Association of Young People with ME) published on 14th April 2011 are illustrative.

Ms Parry sits on the Council of the Medical Research Council and was awarded an OBE for services to the public understanding of science.  She is on the Board of the Science Media Centre, whose Science Advisory Panel includes Professor Simon Wessely.  The Science Media Centre itself states: “The team at the SMC is advised by a Science Advisory Panel and a Board”, which would seem to indicate a close working relationship between Ms Parry and Professor Wessely.

Ms Parry is described by AYME as a “highly respected scientific journalist” but her comments on the PACE Trial do not assist patients with ME/CFS because many of them are inaccurate:

· it is not known “for sure” that two treatments (GET and CBT) are “safe and moderately effective” for people with ME/CFS because it cannot be certain how many patients with ME/CFS as opposed to “CFS/ME” were included in the PACE Trial (“CFS/ME” being chronic fatigue in the absence of neurological signs)

· the PACE Trial was not “as rigorous a study as it is possible to have”; as a respected scientific journalist, Ms Parry will know that if a trial is not a controlled trial, it cannot be so described

· it is not quite true to say that it was carried out by “a team of experts”, since 22 of those carrying out one arm of the trial were trainee psychiatrists employed to work at the Kings College PACE Centre, London

· APT is not the same as pacing, and pacing was not studied in the PACE Trial

· people with ME/CFS do not have “fatigue as their main symptom”; they have post-extertional fatigability accompanied by malaise as their main symptom (their voluntary muscles do not work properly and are exquisitely painful after exercise)

· Ms Parry says: “There are two problems here.  One is about science.  Research is about coming up with a hypothesis and then trying to knock it down”. This is precisely why the PACE Trial cannot be considered “scientific”. Although the Investigators’ hypothesis that “CFS/ME” is exactly the same as ME/CFS and that it is a behavioural disorder reversible by CBT and GET was indeed knocked down by the results, the Investigators refuse to accept that the trial failed

· Ms Parry then says: “Long held, cherished and utterly plausible ideas are regularly demolished by evidence”. This is true, but Ms Parry fails to understand that the results of both the FINE and PACE Trials demonstrate that the Wessely School’s psychosocial model of ME/CFS is wrong and has been demolished by evidence

· seemingly with no awareness of the paradox in her comments, Ms Parry continues: “This can be incredibly disappointing but you have to move on and ask the next question, not constantly keep asking the same one in the hope that eventually you will get a different answer”.  Refusing to relinquish long held and cherished ideas about the nature of ME/CFS is exactly what the Wessely School have done for the last 25 years, and indeed they continue to do so

· Ms Parry continues: “Some people also said that the trial was meaningless because it excluded those with a neurological disease, therefore could not have contained anyone who had ME since this is a classified neurological disease.  This is a bit silly because why would you design a trial that excluded the very patients you wanted to study?”.

The answer, Ms Parry, is simple: the Wessely School refuse to accept that ME/CFS is a neurological disorder.

As another, more informed, commentator (JT) has remarked, Ms Parry’s article “is an embarrassment….The trial was not studying the neurological disease ME/CFS but people with chronic fatigue in the absence of neurological signs, or “CFS/ME”….If the Oxford criteria had been applied correctly there would be no people present with ME….People should now be aware that the results were not clinically significant, and there remains little evidence to support the use of CBT and GET in the management of ME/CFS”.

Is it not important that highly respected scientific journalists get their facts right and refrain from contributing to the prevailing media bias about which Professor Jason was so outspoken?

People genuinely cannot understand how individuals who profess to be speaking up for the primacy of science can defend, let alone promote, such a transparently flawed study as the PACE Trial.

The failure of CBT/GET is written in the numbers: even the skewed data presented and published in The Lancet show that CBT/GET are of no clinical value in the cohort studied, and certainly do not confirm that the interventions are safe and effective enough to be generalised to everyone with ME/CFS or even “CFS/ME”.

To my critics

“I’m not gonna sit around and waste my precious divine energy trying to explain and be ashamed of things you think are wrong with me.” — Esperanza Spalding   (via faeriesandgypsies)

A Very British Revolution

In politics, unlike these ponies, things are never simply black and white

I live in Blue-rinse-central, Toryville. Few Tory MPs enjoy a larger majority than mine. It has been said that you could pin a blue rosette on a sheep here, and people would still vote it into power.” - Sue Marsh

… which would be hilariously funny, if it were not also so very true.

The same could be said for this area, which has had Conservative MPs (the current incumbent who’d do away with the The Human Rights Act, probably bring back hanging and the workhouse, is often seen posing with “Dave”) since records began and then some, with only a short Liberal interlude in 1906.

The local councils are much the same – except they could and probably have done from time to time – put said blue rosette on a New Forest pony.

It seems impossible that things will ever change around here, but then, the British are so famous for resisting change, then suddenly giving in.

Photo: Ian Britton

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Brown Envelope

imageIt really wasn’t a very big thud as the brown envelope fell onto the mat. That sound was reserved for some part of my insides as they nervously rearranged themselves once I realised that the envelope was for me and that it was from the dreaded DWP.

At this juncture, I would point out that I know I have done no wrong: I haven’t exaggerated my claims – quite the contrary really, plus I’ve been diagnosed with yet another physically disabling and degenerative disease – with symptoms that are already severe - since I last made any claims.

My circumstances haven’t changed, I still can’t work, (I haven’t even broken the law against enjoying myself), but thoughts of dread still cross my mind, as I muttered, “Oh, no …” to myself, as I began to open the envelope.

A call had to be made to my DWP office to check my entitlement last week, in order for me to be reimbursed travelling expenses to a hospital visit. Had this sparked a review, I wondered. Had I been called up for the reassessment to be shifted from Income Support (on the basis of my incapacity), to ESA?

All manner of things raced through my mind, just as assuredly as, we are told, our whole lives play out in moments of danger or near-death.

Kaliya Franklin remarks hereI sobbed down the phone to a friend in impotence and sadness that a Britain, once so great was putting this kind of pressure on it's own citizens …”

And that is how we are being made to feel: just the sight of that envelope filled me with enough dread for it to be very unpleasant and stressful.

As it turned out, all it was telling me was that the rates of my Disability Living Allowance benefits have gone up from April 13th and I’ll be getting more money, so I can rest easy … that is, until the next brown envelope arrives.

The real world

“Studies show: Intelligent girls are more depressed, because they know what the world is really like” - Emilie Autumn

This, I am certain, is the truth. (via)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Animals explain why Alternative Vote better

Call me an old cynic if you like, but the fact that the Tories are even allowing us to have a say on the matter, tends to make me think that AV HAS to be a bad idea. Which may be a very simplistic way to look at it and make a decision, but it’s one that I have found perfectly reliable for many years.

Then I saw this video, which makes AV look like a good idea. Which makes me confused and I don’t like being confused. How do I vote on May 5th?

Via Liberal Conspiracy

Friday, 15 April 2011

A Natural Anti-Inflammatory

White Willow BarkBy Teena Whatison

Most common types of pain are caused by inflammation. Inflammation is the response from tissues that have been injured and is actually a process that helps the body heal itself. However, inflammation can cause a great deal of pain. To relieve most types of pain caused by inflammation, it is generally recommended to take an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen. However, taking these pain killers on a regular basis can lead to stomach pain, nausea and in some cases long term kidney or liver damage. For chronic pain sufferers, it is strongly advisable to find a natural anti-inflammatory to help with pain management.

Relieving Inflammation with Ice

Ice is is both very effective to soothe inflammation and is easy to find. Most people don't even think twice about applying ice to a sprain or bruise right after the injury occurs. If you have ever wondered why people do this, it is because ice acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and helps to soothe inflammation and reduce swelling. This helps to reduce pain and to speed up the healing process. For immediate pain relief, the ice is obviously very cold and numbs the area which helps to relieve pain right away. When using ice to relieve inflammation it is advisable to apply it until the area is numb (generally 20 minutes) and then waiting to apply it again after the area is back to normal temperature.

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Herbs

There are a number of herbs that can be taken as a herbal supplement to fight against inflammation and relieve pain. When taking these herbs as a supplement it is recommended to take them on a daily basis. The effects may not be noticed for up to 1-2 months. Here is a look at some of the most commonly found and most effective natural anti-inflammatory herbal supplements:

  • Ginger should be taken 1-2 times a day with a meal. Each capsule should contain 500 to 1,000 mg of ginger.
  • Turmeric is found in mustard and curry. It works very well to relieve inflammation and is recommended for a number of chronic conditions such as arthritis and tendonitis. It can be taken three times per day in 400 to 600 mg dosages.
  • White Willow Bark has been compared to aspirin and is works well to fight inflammation. Recommended dosage is 50mg three times a day.
  • Boswellin is another natural anti-inflammatory herb that can be taken twice a day. It is especially useful for treating pain from fibromyalgia.

Please note that the dosage amounts provided above are generally what is recommended by most health professionals. It is highly recommended to read the labels on the supplements you purchase to see the correct dosage for that particular brand.

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Chronic pain sufferers may notice relief of their daily pain after adding some of these natural anti-inflammatory foods to their diet:

  • Foods that are high in Omega-3 such as fish, nuts and seeds (especially flax seed) have been known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Oils such as avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil may also help with pain caused by inflammation.
  • The tastiest foods that have been known to help with inflammation would have to be papaya and blueberries.
  • Green tea can also help with inflammation along with all of the other health benefits that it offers.

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Remedies

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Getting cultural stereotypes so very wrong


Aggh, this cannot have been made by anyone who has even the remotest clue about the English. For a start, in recent years, coffee has overtaken tea as the number one drink.

Secondly, we don’t often say the word beverage, unless we’re emulating our colonial cousins. And then not always nicely.

And thirdly, whilst drinking tea may well be required by law (actually, while there are a lot of stupid laws in England, this isn’t one of them), the act of enjoyment certainly isn’t. As anyone who’s ever lived here will know, it feels like there’s a law against that! Smile

BTW, with the exception of some unusual or herbal brews, I HATE tea.

Protest against La Orotava town Hall in Tenerife, for humiliating People who are without resources

Members of the Asamblea Canaria por el Reparto de La Riqueza (Canarian Assembly for Sharing of Weath), it is reported here, protested before the full council at La Orotava town hall in Tenerife, on March 29th because of what they allege is the humiliating treatment to which people in social exclusion are subjected, whilst merely claiming what is rightfully theirs.

They say that the town hall is treating those without resources as criminals, always under suspicion, and forced to overcome absurd obstacles of bureaucracy and red tape, merely to receive small grants of money, which do not in any way alleviate the situations of poverty and exclusion in which they live.

Does this scenario sound at all familiar to anyone?

The report continues, “people who come to the town hall for something as basic as food have to endure repeated interviews with Social Work Units (one visit per bag of food per month) so as to be provided with a ‘certificate of poverty’ to go to church institutions, not public or municipal, to seek food.”

(NB: Unemployment benefits in Spain are paid for a short period only, dependent upon how long you had worked before becoming unemployed. Sickness is covered by employers, or rather, it isn’t, because most make short contracts and “massage” the system to get rid of any employees they feel are likely to become a burden, which is what happened in my case, back in 1995 and 1997. Once dole runs out, the only resource is to go begging to your local town hall for discretionary hand-outs. If you’re single of any age whatsoever, don’t bother, because they only pay out to those with dependents, your family must legally keep you.)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Chronic Pain: Why The "Cure" Is Often Worse Than The Disease

imageBy Dr. Bruce Eichelberger

Ironically what many people do to relieve the symptoms of pain actually creates worse problems.

You won't learn about this on the labels of over-the-counter medications. But if you're really good at reading fine print, you might notice something about this in the fact sheet that comes with prescription pain meds.

Since these medications are so commonly used, knowing all of their effects becomes important. To help you understand how these drugs affect you, here are the pros and cons of taking pain medications:


The argument in favor of taking both over-the-counter and prescription pain medications is simple - the promise of fast relief.

It usually takes a bit of trial and error to know which ones will work for an individual, but eventually people get to know what bottle to reach for when they want fast relief. And once someone finds the one that works for them, they have the added effect of being quick and easy. Who doesn't want that?

So the biggest advantage of pain relief medications when they work as advertised could be summed up as, "quick and easy." Now compare that with the disadvantages...


The argument against taking these drugs is bit more complicated, but it mostly boils down to one thing - unwanted side effects. These unwanted side effects include some obvious, and some not-so-obvious problems.

Pain medications come in three general categories - opiates (and opiate-like drugs), steroids such as cortisone and prednisone, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Here is the low-down on all three:

Opiates & Opiate-like Drugs: The more obvious problems occur with the opiate-like (aka narcotic) drugs (morphine, codeine Oxycodone, Vicodin, etc.)

At the top of the list for side effects of narcotic pain medications is their potential for addiction. I've worked with many people attempting to withdraw from these drugs and can say from this experience that it's often very difficult for people to get off of them.

Narcotic pain meds also have the annoying side effects of constipation, drowsiness and difficulty urinating.

Steroids: There are several types of steroid hormones, but the ones prescribed to deal with pain are the pharmaceutical glucocorticosteroids. These include cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone.

Although they are excellent at reducing acute inflammation (thus reducing pain), there are huge problems with taking them over time. Here are some of these potential problems with long-term use:

  • insomnia
  • joint pain
  • migraine headaches
  • cataracts
  • suppressed immune system
  • destruction of connective tissue
  • osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  • diabetes
  • depression, mania or psychosis

Did you catch the "joint pain" and "migraines" in that list?

If not managed well, taking these steroids can even lead to death from complete shutdown of the adrenal glands.

NSAIDs: The third type of commonly used pain meds, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), have their own list of potential problems. This category includes aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc. It also includes some prescription pain meds such as Vioxx and Celebrex.

Among the worst side effects of NSAIDs is that they raise the risk of ulcers and heart disease.

In addition, overusing them can cause kidney failure, and ironically in the case of arthritis pain, more damage to joints.

Natural Options

But what can you still want relief from your pain while avoiding these unwanted side-effects of the usual pain medications? As it turns out, there is a lot you can do.

In my practice I use what I call the "E-C-R System" for natural pain relief. The "E" in E-C-R stands for "Eliminate Pain Symptoms."

To eliminate pain naturally, there are three basic approaches. One of these involves using natural supplements that reduce inflammation, and therefore decrease pain symptoms.

There are four categories of natural supplements having the effect of reducing inflammation:

  • Enzymes, such as bromelain & papain
  • Natural anti-inflammatories including ginger & curcumin
  • Amino acids like MSM
  • Topical substances including ingredients like capsaicin & arnica oil

In addition to those mentioned above there are numerous other natural substances in each category that have proven pain-fighting qualities.

This means it is possible using natural approaches to reduce pain while avoiding the unwanted side effects of pain medications.

I suffered 32 years of chronic pain before I discovered the secret to natural pain relief.

Now I've released "Beat Chronic Pain Naturally" showing the 5 crucial things every chronic pain sufferer must know to break the cycle of pain without drugs or surgery. For a limited time you can get your hands on a FREE copy here ===>
Don't spend one more day suffering with chronic pain.

Thank you for reading,

Dr. Bruce Eichelberger

Monday, 4 April 2011

A morning ritual

imageI’d only been standing for a few moments when the pain started in my ankles and lower legs – this is from the blood pooling as my heart is unable to effectively pump it upward. The now ever-present stabbing pain in my right hip is cranked up a gear and then a different stabbing began in my already swollen and stiff feeling knees. At the same time, my head began to ache; a cross between stabbing and throbbing, with a bit of compression thrown in for good measure and an overwhelming wave of sickness rose up and over me, bringing with it an even more overwhelming immediate need to sit or lie down.

The discomfort is so severe, it causes me to catch my breath. I have to concentrate hard to hold on just long enough to get my cup of coffee.

The pain in my neck and back were already high on the scale, but as I held the cup under the spout, my arm and shoulder started to go weak and hurt.

It seems like it takes an eternity. It feels like torture. Just for a coffee.

These days I use cups and saucers, not because I’m posh, but because after I’ve had to stand to get the coffee, I shake too much to carry it without spilling some. More and more it seems, my balance is off, so that I walk into walls and doorways too and the increasing weakness in my arms makes even the smallest items too heavy. What I’m going to do in future, I have no idea.

Now that I’m lying down again, I’m having difficulty focussing my eyes, focussing my thoughts, composing these words – but I want to get it down immediately so that I capture the true horror – and I’m shaking even more from the exertion. Not a particularly marked shake, but still a discernable tremor in my hands. More apparent, to me, is the feeling that my brain is “shaking” – I assume this is actually pulsations as my heart overworks to get blood to my brain – inside my head, making me feel all the more sick and unsteady.

To be fair, not all days are quite as bad as this, but they’re never far off.

Yesterday morning it was sunny and so I decided to walk round to the local shop and get a sandwich for lunch. It’s only about 400-500 yards, but I get about a quarter of the way these days and wish I hadn’t started. It feels like climbing Everest: it seems to take forever, but I push myself on reluctantly, every step jarring my neck and sending sharp stabbing pains into my hip.

I always get home exhausted. Yesterday was no exception. I ate my lunch. I didn’t even have the energy to eat the treats I’d bought myself too before I had to lie down, but I was in too much pain and beyond tired to be able to sleep, so I just had to lie there and try to find a comfortable enough position.

My neck and back hurt too much to sit up or even recline at a low angle. I had to be flat enough with just one pillow to support my neck and try to lie on my side so that I can still, just, watch TV on the Laptop, albeit that it appears at a 90 degree angle from true. It doesn’t really matter what’s on.

But the pain in my legs has become so severe that I can’t lie like that. The pain in my knees, which feel swollen and almost like bruised, mean I cannot rest one leg on top of the other and have to place a cushion between the two.

The pain in my foot is so bad that I can’t bear to even lay that on the bedclothes. I try another pillow, another angle, dangling it off the side … nothing works. If I find something acceptable for my foot, it pulls on my hip joint and makes that even more painful. The painkillers I’ve taken make no difference.

So I spend the rest of the day in a sort of trance, just trying to stay in a position that doesn’t hurt too much. I’m still not aware of what was on TV.

At about 8.30 p.m., I get up to get a cup of tea. I feel too ill and can’t stand long enough to get food, so I don’t bother. I come back to bed, take my medication, which, thankfully, means I will be able to get some sleep.

That was my whole day.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Laziness versus Pacing

imageIt suddenly struck me when I saw this LOLcat image that this is how others view us.

Pacing: stopping well short of what you might be able to do to avoid exhaustion and flares is extremely important to sufferers of fibromyalgia and ME/CFS.

My occupational therapist at the Pain Management Centre has spoken to me about it, saying I should aim to do half or two-thirds of what I think I can manage and gradually work up towards doing more.

She says I need to pace better when I mention the 1 mile walk that is too much for me, but for which there is no alternative as it’s a mile to town, a mile to the bus stop, a mile to the train station, a mile to the doctors’ surgery … This means I can only go out once in a while, for essential appointments, which send me hurtling into mega-flares, then rest for days / weeks, rinse repeat.

All of the rest of the time, at home, I’m either too exhausted to do anything, or I’m pacing well below my capabilities in order to save up some energy for the next outing; not fun ones, mostly just hospital and doctor’s visits.

This latter is called “laying around” to anyone else. They think it’s laziness.

They should try to live a day with the amount of pain and fatigue we have: they wouldn’t be pacing, they’d be demanding the euthanasia pills!

Monet's Japanese Bridge


By Catherine Garney

When visiting the small town of Kitagawa in Japan, what you may expect to find there may differ widely from your actual experience. You may expect to find traditional Japanese bath houses, gardens of lotus flowers or maybe traditional farming. Maybe a memorial for Nakaoka Shintaro, one of the founders or modern Japan, who was born here in 1838.

However, a complete European style garden with European trees and flowers, two connected ponds and lots of water lilies might seem a bit out of place. In fact, the only local feature of the garden would seem to be the Japanese bridge spanning over the link between the two ponds. A closer look at the bridge, set among these ponds and surrounded by water lilies, might even make that seen a bit out of place. There is something eerily familiar about the setting, and even with bridge and all it is not something related to Japan. Rather, the idea of something French springs to mind. Because has not this exact scene appeared in European art? In fact, was there not one particular artist that painted this particular setting again and again?

And then it dawns on you. The Japanese bridge was painted by Claude Monet, French impressionist, in his garden in Giverny, most famously in the painting Water Lily Pond from 1899. And the water lilies in the ponds were similarly painted by him continuously. Only, of course, Giverny is in France and this is most certainly Japan. Something is still not quite right.

The explanation for this Monet garden in Japan actually goes all the way back to Monet himself. Many Impressionists, and most definitely Monet, were fascinated by Japanese art. He participated in the so-called Japanese dinners where Japanese art was discussed, he was close to some Japanese artists, he even portrayed his wife Camille dressed up in a Japanese outfit and he had about 250 Japanese prints decorating his house in Giverny. In Japanese art, Monet saw a reflection of many of his own views on art. The way Japanese art, especially the prints, focus on simplicity i.e. that from elements completely refined they draw the best aesthetics. The idea of simplified movement; the way a simple print reveals new details the more you observe it; the way beauty is in the indispensable elements, rather than in the amount of colors and decorations. Monet himself identified with these views and attitudes towards art. Meanwhile his own Japanese art collection also inspired him and helped him see there are more ways to do landscapes. This collection also introduced him to e.g. Japanese bridge design.

However, he did not install the bridge merely from his aesthetic requirements. Monet designed his garden so that one pond would be in the shade, one would be in the sun. However, with a curved Japanese bridge spanning the narrow point between the two pools, the rays of the sun passes beneath the bridge and light up the shaded area, where the water lilies are in the shades. This creates a shade and light effect, and it was the observation and study of this that was at the heart of his water lily paintings in Giverny.

The Japanese, in turn, also responded to Monet's style, which in many ways reminded them of their own. That is why Monet still today is so popular in Japan, and that is why it was decided in that to mark the millennium, a copy of Monet's garden would be established in Japan. More then 200.000 visitors came to see Monet's garden in Japan on the first year alone, and they are still coming. So whether in Giverny or in Kitagava, you can be blessed with the view Monet shared as he painted his famous Japanese bridge, spanning over the water lily pond in his garden.

To see a large selection of hand painted oil painting reproductions from all the great artists please check out art reproductions.


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