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Got Fibromyalgia? There’s a Class for That…

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By Donna Gregory Burch

 

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com.


Note: This article was originally published on National Pain Report in June 2017 and is being republished here with permission from the editor.

 

When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I spent a lot of time researching and trying to figure out the best treatments. I was on a desperate hunt for that ever-elusive magical pill that was going to restore my previous life.

Back then, I didn’t understand fibromyalgia treatment involves much more than popping a few pills or supplements every day. Lifestyle changes can be just as important.

That lesson was my most important takeaway from the Introductory Course offered by the ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help Program. Yes, you read that right: There’s actually an online class to help you to better manage your fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue symptoms!

The course was developed by Dr. Bruce Campbell, a recovered ME/CFS patient. Before becoming ill, Dr. Campbell consulted on self-help research projects at Stanford Medical School, including the Arthritis Self-Help course and the Chronic Disease Self-Management program.

He credits many of the strategies from these programs with his own recovery and included them into the courses now offered by ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia Self Help. (You can read Dr. Campbell’s complete bio here.)

The seven-week introductory course is offered quarterly (January, April, July and October) and covers practical skills for managing fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS. There is a new topic each week, and discussions are led via email by volunteer instructors. Topics include strategies for managing fatigue and pain, improving sleep, stress management, exercise, nutrition and dealing with emotions, among others.

[Editor's Note: Since the article was written, the Introductory course has been updated to focus on pacing, though all the topics listed in the previous paragraph are also discussed.]

“All of our courses are led by members who themselves suffer from ME/CFS and/or fibromyalgia, have taken our introductory course, become long-standing members of our ongoing classes and undertaken some training in moderating and our philosophies,” said Kris Nichols, co-executive director.

“We share our own experiences – sometimes commiserating – but more often sharing what works for us personally. We offer no medical advice – just sound self-management techniques.”

For me, the most helpful part of the course was its focus on pacing. When I took the course in 2015, my fibromyalgia diagnosis was still relatively new, and I had never heard of the concept of pacing. In a nutshell, pacing is learning your limits so you can avoid the push/crash cycle of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. (This series of articles on pacing does a great job of explaining the concept in more detail.)

Following the Introductory Course, there is an option to continue study via the organization’s Living Your Plan course and through an Alumni Discussion Group.

One of the things that I appreciate most about the organization’s courses is their low cost. The Introductory Course is just $20. It’s a little bit more if you’d like a supplemental eBook ($30) or paperback book ($34).

“We recently changed our fee structure to be able to offer the course at a lower cost without requiring the purchase of the book to participate and still gain value,” Nichols said. “We do that by offering the weekly readings with the emailed lessons, so the book has become a self-study aid for further work after the intro course is complete.”

Even though the course fees are extremely reasonable, I know for some $20 is still too much. The organization does offer partial scholarships for anyone with a family income under $25,000. 

There is also a self-study course that’s open to anyone free of charge.