Working past the pain

Christine Hennebury
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For Kim Collett, the burn of exercise trumps the fire of fibromyalgia

Kim Collet goes through her exercise routine with Nubodys kinesiologist Mike MacIsaac. Photos by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

A lot of people head to the gym to get fit or to lose weight, but Kim Collett goes for a different reason: to help control the pain associated with fibromyalgia.

My goal is to reduce my medication and to do day-to-day tasks without much pain, she said.

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes chronic pain in a persons muscles, ligaments and tendons and makes it difficult to do day-to-day tasks. Colletts plan for managing her pain involves her family doctor, a chiropractor, a massage therapist and, now, a kinesiologist.

My doctor and my chiropractor and my massage therapist have been telling me that I need to exercise for years. Ive tried but I couldnt stick with it, she said.

Now that I am seeing Mike (McIsaac), I have the motivation to keep going.

McIsaac is a certified kinesiologist at Nubodys in Mount Pearl. When he designed Colletts program, he contacted the other health professionals on her team to get a full picture of her limitations and then created a plan to help her deal with the challenges her syndrome presents.

Exercises/stretches are most often chosen based on restoring functional qualities that the individual lost for example, training them so that they can restore their strength to lift objects off of the floor among other things. Generally, exercises are chosen to replicate real-life movements.

McIsaacs program uses equipment such as Bosu balls, stability balls, medicine balls and free weights, but hes quick to modify the program if Collett is unable to do a particular exercise during a session.

If she experiences discomfort along particular body parts, we may modify movements or switch to machines because of their inherent isolating effect, so that we can continue training without further irritating problem areas, McIsaac said.

The machines dont have as great an effect, but they are a much better option than doing nothing at all.

Because of their constant pain, people with fibromyalgia sometimes restrict their movements or stop exercising altogether.

Dr. Lydia Hatcher, Colletts family physician, says this causes deconditioning due to the lack of exercise, and the patients symptoms will get worse.

She recommends exercise with a trained kinesiologist and tells her patients they may need a little pain for some gain, and a trained kinesiologist knows how to far to push them without injury.

Working with McIsaac has helped Collett stick with the program.

If it wasnt for the motivation he offers, I would have given up, she said.

For example, I had a problem with my sacroiliac joint, but I knew I had to keep exercising, so I kept going and Mike changed my exercises to not aggravate the area.

Collett has found the exercises have had a direct effect on her pain levels.

My arms and legs were always aching, and continuous exercise has helped with that. In order to stay at a level where Im not in as much pain, I need to keep exercising.

Collett is hoping for long-term benefits as well.

If I try to nip this in the bud, I might be able to manage better later on, to keep up with my son, she said.

Collett developed fibromyalgia after a car accident in 1992. At first she had moderate whiplash, but the pain didnt go away. Finally, in 1994, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Collett has pain all over her body, but the intensity varies from day to day.

Its like having a really bad flu, and sometimes I feel like Ive been hit by a tractor-trailer. It keeps me up at night.

Sleep or a lack thereof can be a huge issue for people with fibromyalgia. According to Colletts research, fibromyalgia patients tend not to get enough deep sleep so their muscles cant recover from the days efforts in the same way that other peoples do. As a result, Collett sometimes finds it a challenge to keep up with her two-year-old, and she is often ready to go to bed when he does.

Living with fibromyalgia also means that Collett needs a lot of help with things other people find routine.

I had to get help with shovelling, painting the house and mowing. Household chores are a big hassle. I cant do too much at once. I havent had to give anything up, but I had to cut back on a lot of things, she said.

People with fibromyalgia often have to deal with societys lack of understanding, Collett said.

A lot of people think it is all in your head, they think you are making it up.

Hatcher agrees.

People with fibromyalgia dont have a deformity, she said. It is hard to see, so some people dont believe it exists. But it is real we just dont happen to have a test for it today.

Colletts said treatment program, including regular exercise, has made a big difference in her life and she gets by on positive thinking, motivation, and help from family and friends.

For more information on fibromyalgia visit http://www.fmaware.org/

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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