Health Coaching Treatment for Fibromyalgia

A large part of the challenge with Fibromyalgia is dealing with the emotional aspects of the diagnosis and then living with the limitations imposed by your physical conditon.  A Health Coach can help you keep a positive outlook and effectively explore treatment options.

As anyone with Fibromyalgia will know, the path to diagnosis and then treatment can be long and difficult.  Accepting the limitations of your condition and figuring out how to live as full a life as possible can be hard, and the challenges are multiplied by the fact that what works for one person may not work for another and what works at one point in time for you may not work at another time.  

A diagnosis of Fibromyalgia can easily cause/come with other challenges such as the emotional difficulties, relationship challenges, and a strong focus on the disease.  This can make it hard to know where to turn, what resources to access and even at times how to find the motivation and will power and energy to take action.  There can also be significant financial difficulties as many of the potential treatments are expensive and may or may not be covered by medical insurance.  So Fibromyalgia can create a combined socio-psycho-physical problem.  A Health Coach can work with you to both keep your spirits up and help you determine which treatments to try and what other supports you may need to put in place (medical professionals, alternative practitioners, family and social support systems, lifestyle changes, etc).  They can help you find the first small successes that will then improve your morale and motivation to make the next set of changes that will help you manage Fibromyalgia not just at a physical level but at an emotional and even spiritual level.

What You Can Do Right Now

How to Select a Good Health Coach

Some considerations in selecting a health coach include:

  • Does this person have experience (whether personal or through past clients) with the illness you have or a similar illness?  (Many chronic illnesses will present similar challenges and struggles)
  • Do you trust the coach?
  • Do you get the impression that the coach will listen to you and let you set the direction, while simultaneously shining new light on things you may not have thought about?
  • Do you feel that the coach will be able to challenge you in a supportive way when necessary without telling you what to do?
  • Does the coach convey a sense of expertise in the field?  Do they know how to work with the traditional medical system?  Do they know how to navigate the medical system and can they provide useful input to you on how to get the best treatment and how to speak up for yourself effectively?
  • Does the coach favour working with a strong team of professionals?
  • What do people who have previously worked with this coach have to say about the experience?

Because there is no licensing or credentials process for health coaches, anyone can say this is what they do.  That is why past testimonials are so important, as well as asking enough questions to make a determination about the value you see you might get from working with this person.

Some Health Coaches will have either personal experience with a chronic condition or some will have previous training in a field like psychology, social work or education.  Others may even has past professional training in traditional medical fields.  It is important that you feel comfortable to ask lots of questions of the person, and that they also ask you some questions that you find enlightening - you will be walking together for a long time if all goes well.

When you are looking for a Health Coach, it is often an added benefit if they have a strong awareness of your condition or of a similar condition.  Someone who works with many people with chronic pain conditions may well be able to help you effectively even if they have not worked with someone with Fibromyalgia before, but you may want to consider whether you prefer to work with someone who does have experience with Fibromyalgia or whether that is less important to you than their ability to listen and support you and bring new ideas from work they may have done with others with similar types of chronic conditions.

Because there is no certification or regulation for Health Coaching, you will want to ask the person you are considering working with whatever questions you need to ask to make your choice.  Many coaches will give you a free or discounted session as an introduction so you can see whether there is a fit between where you are at and what the coach is offering.

Theory behind Fibromyalgia Treatment using Health Coaching

A Health or Life Coach is someone you can work with to manage the emotional aspects of your chronic condition.  Ideally they will help you work through the sense of overwhelm and the grieving process for what you have lost and the limitations you face on a daily basis.  They can help you regain your sense of hope and keep a sense of realistic expectations.  They can work with you to select the small actions you can take to manage your condition, and can help you learn to build on small successes so that you feel a sense of empowerment to manage your condition effectively.  They can help you look at the different aspects of your life that are affected by the fact that you have Fibromyalgia and consider options and make conscious choices about where to put your time and energy.  A Health or Life Coach can also help you find even the small things that you can do on a daily basis to keep your emotional balance and to reduce the impact of pain on your life. A Health Coach can also help you avoid pain catastrophising and help you learn and practice techniques to manage and minimize the anxiety and stress that so often are a part of living with Fibromyalgia.  Managing these emotional states can then have a positive impact on the pain that you experience as there is a strong mind/body connection between the emotional and physical aspects for most people with Fibromyalgia.

Stories of Fibromyalgia Treatment using Health Coaching

We spoke with Laura Webb about Health Coaching for Fibromyalgia as an expert resource to get a little more in depth and personalized understanding of what it is like to live fully with Fibromyalgia and also what she does as a Health Coach when she works with others who have chronic pain conditions (including Fibromyalgia).

She said that when one has Fibromyalgia, often 'feeling good' seems so unrealistic.  Many people with Fibromyalgia feel depressed and hopeless, so the first challenge is to get past that.  In her daily experience, 'the pain won't go away, but I can still do things.  I've got Fibromyalgia so I have to readjust my expectatons, but I can still live.  Many of us spend a lot of time in denial, but what I came to realize is that I can still do things but I know there may be repercussions and I need to accept that.  Fibromyalgia can't be cured, but there are still things that can make me feel better.  I use what works for me from both western and complementary medicine (prescriptions and vitamins).  But it also changes over time, so I have to be vigilant and stay optimistic and open to what is happening for me right now.  A chronic diagnosis is very much like the mourning process.  It's important to move through that; a part of me has died in a way, but there's still the opportunity to be reborn in a new way."

Asked about how she sees Health Coaching, se said that what will work for each person is very individualistic.  "I have to listen to what my clients are willing to do.  Many won't even consider acupuncture, for example.  I listen to the symptoms and we start moving very slowly; even if just a few minutes a day, that movement can lead to more.  We build on the successes."

One of the hardest parts is that people are often so overwhelmed by managing the disease on a daily basis.  "And then there's so much information out there, but it takes time to become educated.  And there are no guarantees and no sure things; anyone who says they'll cure you is selling snake oil.  And something may work at one time but not at another.  So the goal is to feel better.

When someone has a chronic pain condition like Fibromyalgia, the first thing they need is someone to listen to them - that's where a life coach or health coach comes in. "  The coach walks with you through the mental and emotional process of acceptance and grieving, and stays with you through the times when you feel overwhelmed.  By having someone to talk with, people with Fibromyalgia can start to explore solutions in a safe way and find out what's out there.  A health coach can help you make sure you have a medical professional you can trust.  They help you be realistic, understand what your condition means, and then work with you as you start exploring options and help you filter through to what you want and what you can do and what is worth trying.

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