How does Laser help Fibromyalgia?
I’m going to address some questions I would have asked myself to provide some insight on what having a laser at home does for my Fibromyalgia. I am not a doctor, but a 14 year patient who uses laser daily at home to treat fibro pain. While it’s always good to follow directions, I found that I needed to deviate for my fibro. This is my personal account, not instructions.
How does Laser help?
First off, it is not a cure. With that gem out of the way, it reduces pain a LOT. Sometimes, on certain recently treated areas, I can actually be pain free for up to several days, something I have not experienced in 14 years. The pain will slowly come back, and I will treat it again. My joints have better range of motion when treated, but if I go too long, my joints will let me know they need more treatment. My hips, for example, need to be treated every 3-5 days. My back needs it daily, as do my legs.
How often do you treat?
Multiple times a day most days. This is why office visits are just not viable for fibromyalgia, it would cost a fortune, especially considering the number of areas needing treatment. I use the laser when I need it, and only when my body “asks” for it. When I say “ask”, I mean pain. There is always pain somewhere, it’s fibro, I just address the “loudest” areas first. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. I basically play pain “whack-a-mole”, and the laser is a wonderfully effective mallet.
On the rare occasion I leave my cage (house), I make note of what is hurting while I’m out, so I can treat when I get home. I take my laser with me most places like a security blanket. It works out, because people ask about the laser and I let them use it right then. Kinda fun, really. I would have liked to have been a doctor if my life had taken a different trajectory, but I’ve had zero medical training aside from the patient side of things. This feels pretty good though.
Where do you treat?
Wherever I need to, just not the eyes. More powerful lasers have other restrictions like the thyroid. You only want to use 5 hertz in sensitive areas, as it is the most gentle. Some doctors focus on the known tender points when doing laser studies for fibro. Fibro is not so neat though, it wanders and acts up. It can get tricky, if my knee is bothering me, I might need to treat my hip because of the way things are connected. To simplify it though, I treat where it hurts.
Can you treat too much?
I assume there has to be a limit, but I haven’t found mine yet, not with 5 hertz. The way I look at it, my fibro saps the energy from my cells. Laser brings that energy back by increasing blood flow and stimulating the mitochondria. If a lot of energy is missing everywhere, or your mitochondria are a bunch of lazy jerks, it takes a lot to restore it. A normal person may feel like they have overdone it and feel a little toxic after 20 minutes (a guess though, I’m not normal).
The only time I have felt toxic is with continuous wave treatment, both non laser LED and Class 4 laser, or using the higher frequencies (I use the lower 5 hertz or 5-250 sweep). With pulsed laser at 5 hertz, I have not felt toxic once, even with 1.5 hours a day of treatment. The more I treat, the better I feel, but I would suggest that anyone listen to their body and stop if they feel toxic, which for me went away after a day or so after the continuous wave treatments. That’s one reason I’m not wild about class 4 Lasers, danger being another for home treatment.
What about tolerance?
With pills, I had to take more and more as my body got used to it. Laser seems to be the opposite, my body seems to respond a little faster than when I first used it. My feet required treatment everyday for the first few months, and now I can get by every other day. For the first time since I’ve had fibro, walking barefoot does not instantly cause pain, it takes a minute or two before the pain comes. I doubt I’ll ever have a voluntarily laser free day, but I’m OK with that. It works every time, so I really can’t complain.
Do you have more energy?
Sort of, but I don’t mean to mislead anyone. Hurting uses energy. Constant tension uses energy. Hurting less means not using as much energy, therefore having a “little” more to spare. If you are a spoon theory fan (I recently became one, excellent way to explain it), you don’t use up as many “spoons” (a metaphor for units of energy) by just suffering.
To be certain though, it’s not likely that I will return to “normal” function. Fibro still robs me of my life. I still cancel plans and “crash” out of nowhere when a flare up hits me. I still shut down over even mild stress, even good stress. Life with FIbromyalgia has not turned into a fairy tale, it still sucks. I just hurt a LOT less; I’m nowhere near cured.
How many pain pills do you take now?
Since my third week with the laser, none for fibro, aside from the ibuprofen I just took for a dehydration headache, not bad since February 2016. Granted, I had whittled down my Vicodin to once every 4-5 days or so to keep the tolerance from building up, only using it in “panic zone” situations.
Honestly, before the laser, the pain was about the same, with or without opiates, it’s just more of a roller coaster on opiates.
At one point I was taking 6 vicodin and 6 methadone a day, along with a nasty cocktail of other assorted garbage in varying combinations (long list, pamelor, gabapentin, lyrica inderal, antidepressants, muscle relaxers, BLAH BLAH FREAKIN’ BLAH). I hated it. It just accumulates, and soon you’re taking pills to fix problems that other pills are creating. It’s literally a death trap, in my humble and uneducated opinion.
Opiates are “OK” (sort of) for short term pain, absolutely horrible for long term pain. Even for short term pain or new injuries, I will grab the laser first every time. That said, I fault nobody for opiate use, pain is pain, and I understand any and all attempts to treat it, as damaging as they might be. It’s certainly a big reason I’m so passionate about laser use.
Being on all of that prescription crap, and then being off of most of it felt about the SAME. That’s the cruelty of fibro, nothing really helped long term. It helped a little at first, and then fibro “normalized” and resumed total misery. I still keep the Vicodin and the Klonopin around for emergencies, and I’m not going to avoid taking it to prove the laser works, but I just haven’t needed to take them in over a year for fibro. That’s wonderful in my opinion, but I would not expect everyone to respond the same.
I really hate pills. I still take Cozzar for blood pressure (which has gone down since laser, pain increases blood pressure) Ambien, which I have cut in half and hope to eventually stop taking, Vitamin D, a men’s multi, Magnesium, and CoQ10. That’s it, and seeing the long prescription lists of other fibro sufferers makes me cringe with sadness, because I’ve been on them all, and being off makes little difference to my pain.
The Vicodin, Methocarbamol, and Klonopin are just for emergency at this point. Laser works faster and much better. It won’t stop a flare up any more than a pain pill, but it makes it more bearable for me.
What setting do you use?
5 hertz almost exclusively, but I will use 50 or 250 hertz if I need oomph for something. 50 and 250 hertz seems to make the tissue stronger, where the 5 hertz setting goes the deepest and has a relaxing effect. That’s what works for me. I’ve also used 5-250 sweep, which is almost as good as 5 hertz, with the added benefit of improved strength. Pro sports teams use them for this very reason, and it’s why the Game Day laser is a good option.
How have things changed?
I sleep better. For 14 years, I have woken up feeling tight, stiff, on fire with a constant poisonous ache, and really uncomfortable. I haven’t woken up like that in a year now. I may sleep wrong, forget my Cpap mask and feel like garbage, or my back may be sore, but I do not feel that furious ickiness when I wake up anymore.
That took about a month of intense laser use to reach that point, 30-60 minutes usually right before bed, sometimes longer. I’m just amazed that was even possible. I still have areas that demand attention, but if I get them before bed, waking up is much more pleasant.
I walk a little better, and my posture is better. It’s not as much of a chore to walk or stand, but doing so will still wear me out quickly, just not as quickly as it did before. I don’t feel like I’m walking on stun guns anymore, unless I do it too much. My limits are still very real, just not as intense. Gravity seems to be turned down to 200% rather than the usual 400-600%, which is a great improvement.
My mood is better. Who would’ve thunk it? Take someone out of the electrified iron maiden torture device, and their mood is bound to improve. The psychological pressure of pain is less intense, making me a more pleasant human being. I’m still cranky, and have very little tolerance for things I have no time for, but overall, less suffering makes my mood better.
There have been times where I felt I was going to improve a lot more, only to have fibro check my reality, which I can always count on. That is always a setback, but generally I’m in a better place, especially when it comes to pain. So long as you don’t expect total recovery, you should be OK.
What hasn’t changed?
This is the depressing part. Energy is still low. I still get overwhelmed by the dumbest things, even really good things. My body still betrays me for no reason at all. I still lose coordination during flare up. I still get brain fog, especially during flare up. I still have to sit out life when I’d rather not. I still disappoint people I would rather not disappoint. Flare ups, while a little less common, are just as debilitating, although a lot less painful. I repeat myself a lot.
I still can’t tolerate a lot of things. Driving still ruins me, I just recover a little easier. I still forget things. My fibromyalgia is still unpredictable and I am totally unreliable. I’m still frustrated. Now that my pain has gone way down, people seem to think I’m cured, which is another major frustration people don’t understand. While I engage people and life in general a little more, I’m still a recluse and a hermit, but I’m working on it. I repeat myself a lot too.
What are the side effects?
There aren’t any that I have noticed. When I first had it done, the area treated flared up after about 6 hours, but that was about it. With continuous wave, my tissue felt like it needed to recover, but the lasers I use are not continuous wave, they are super-pulsed. For chronic injuries, they can flare up a few hours after the first use or 2, but it seems to subside by the next day. I see that as a good sign, personally.
In terms of effectiveness, what’s the closest thing to laser therapy?
Massage, easily. Of course this is tricky, because an unskilled therapist can make me feel a LOT worse, but it is as effective as morphine with the right therapist. That said, massage pales in comparison to laser. Where massage (or morphine for that matter) is like grenade for pain, the laser is thermonuclear.
I’ll also say that you have never felt so amazing as having a massage therapist use a laser during massage, it makes massage less painful and much more enjoyable. It’s more relaxing and less like a work session.
Now, when my therapist finds a tender spot, she grabs the laser and treats for a few minutes, and the tissue relaxes. My hips, my armpits, my calves, they all melt and relax. Ideally, I’ll laser right before a massage so that I can enjoy the massage more, but she always finds the parts I missed, and I always feel better having those areas addressed.
The combination of the 2 therapies is just outstanding.
Hopefully that helps. I asked myself some questions that I thought others with fibromyalgia might ask, or might want to know about. I appreciate you reading the conversation with myself, usually nobody shows up for that kind of thing. =)