This Infernal Racket | my life, after cancer

A Toronto-based lifestyle blog by a 2x cancer survivor

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Chronic Pain & Fibromyalgia

I was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition called Fibromyalgia when I was 18, long before my cancer diagnosis. I had suffered for years with unexplainable body pains that were sometimes so excruciating that I would break down into convulsions and cry. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes widespread pain over the body, increased sensitivity to pain and muscle tiredness.

Fibromyalgia is one of those syndromes that does not yet offer a lot of medical information on the hows and whys. What science does know is that emotional and physical abuse can cause it as well as infections and arthritis. In my case, growing up in a safe childhood environment, the doctors told me that my case was probably caused by the fact that I was hypermobile (meaning my joints are more flexible than normal and have an excessive range of motion).

Most of my pain was in my legs, knees and arm joints. Occasionally it would be in my hands and neck; I would have this constant skin sensation of light burning if I was touched. I didn't really know what to do when I was diagnosed with this condition so I decided to start seeing a Naturopathic Doctor who I hoped would give me some alternative ideas of living with this syndrome versus popping a Tylenol 2 times a day. I learned so much and am grateful for her constant ideas and thoughts on my bodily issues before and now after cancer.

Cancer can also cause long-term side effects of chronic pain. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the tricks I use to combat this pain. They really do work when used properly and consistently and I notice a huge difference in my day-to-day life. Some days are still hard, and some days I mess up on my own routines, I am human. I hope this post gives you some hope that although we cannot get rid of this pain forever, there are easy steps to take to lessen the constant pain and return to some type of normal - whatever normal is to you!


1. Decrease or Eliminate Nightshade Vegetables/Inflammatory Foods
Nightshade veggies are staples for many people, myself included. Nightshades are relatively nutritious foods, however, they cause inflammation within your body. Science shows mixed opinions on this, but based on my experience, when I eliminated these foods I saw a huge improvement in my pain. When I do eat some of these foods, I start to feel sick within 10 minutes; for me, it's not worth the momentary satisfaction of eating these foods when the pain that they cause is so intense. Try it for yourself for a week and see how you feel, everyone is different but I guarantee your body will feel better if you decrease or eliminate these from your diet:

- potatoes
- tomatoes
- peppers
- eggplants

- gluten (white pasta, bread, etc.)
- fried foods
- processed meats
- sugar (this is HUGE, I eliminated sugar and it changed my life in so many ways)
- corn

Read more about nightshades and their positive/negative effects here.

2. Yoga
Exercise is difficult when your body is in pain; sometimes even thinking about movement is too much and overwhelming. I fully believe in yoga and its benefits for the body and mind. I practice 1-2 times a week (hopefully more soon) and have noticed improvements in my joints, energy, and state of mind. Yoga can reduce stress on the body by releasing tension and cramping built up in your muscles. Yoga helps increase your range of motion, which in turn decreases pain and can help you sleep. The amazing thing about yoga is that everyone can adapt their own unique practice; there is no competition because you are working your body for yourself, no one else. I recommend Yin Yoga for chronic pain; Yin is a practice that revolves around holding poses for 3-5 minutes. By holding your pose for longer, you get a deeper stretch that targets your deep connective tissue and fascia. Ideally, you would want to have a yin and yang practice meaning that some days are muscle-based (yang or aerobic exercise) that are then balanced out by moments for your connective tissue (yin). Some other exercises for chronic pain include swimming, water aerobics, walking and bike riding.

Read more about pain relief yoga here.
Read more about Yin Yoga here.
Yoga with Adriene (a great at-home practice)

3. Supplements/ Home Aids
Like every other sickness or disease in the world, there are some key supplements you can take to aid in the management of fibromyalgia and chronic pain. Please speak with your team of medical professionals on which ones are right for you, but these are some that I have used and that work, from my ND's recommendations:

Fish Oil - anti-inflammatory
Turmeric - anti-inflammatory root
Epsom Salt Bath - the salts are good for relaxing muscles, try lavender or eucalyptus
Heat - applied to areas of sore muscles can relieve pain or relax the tension
Magnesium - helps the heart, kidneys, and bones and prevents muscle spasms
Vitamin D - is simply amazing for bone health and overall body functions including pain management, many people are vitamin D deficient so it should be a staple in everyone's life (I take 5 drops a day)

As great as some of these pain relievers are, sometimes it isn't enough. I feel that I am also reaching a point where I may need some extra assistance, and that is okay. If you find that you are suffering and the pain is greatly impacting your life, you may need some prescription drugs to help - and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe in supporting your body holistically with both natural and conventional therapies; natural therapies will help reduce the toxicity in your body and probably any side effects.

What do you do for chronic pain? Let me know in the comments below if something has really helped you because I am always interested in learning!


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