Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer, Traveling and Fibro


For many people, summertime involves traveling. Family vacations, short trips, relocating to a new place, or even getting ready for someone else to visit, all have their rewards. At the same time, travel can mean a lot of things: packing and carrying luggage, sitting for long periods of time in a car or on an airplane, changing climates or time zones, and sometimes sleeping on an uncomfortable bed. All of these are stressors on the body, and may lead to flare-ups.

In general, stress activates the hypothalamic pituitary-axis (HPA), along with the body's "fight or flight" response mechanism. When a healthy person experiences a stressor, their cortisol levels increase, which leads to suppression of the immune system response mechanisms. Usually the immune system bounces right back, but it may be sluggish in people with fibromyalgia (FM). According to researcher Leslie Crofford, M.D., of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, "it appears that the stress response defects in FM patients are at the level of resiliency (that is, how fast the HPA axis re-sets itself after activation." So cortisol levels are slightly elevated in FM and this could lead to problems when you put your body through the stress of travel.

One study from a team in Pittsburgh found that high cortisol levels were a risk factor for developing upper-respiratory infections (URIs) when a person is exposed to an experimental stressor. The project was performed in healthy people, but it may have implications for individuals with FM/CFS as well. Just remember that vacations, travel or cleaning your house for guests can be stressful, even though the rest of your family may view thes situations as pure fun and adventure.

So what can you do to improve your chances of having a great time on your vacation or being able to enjoy your new home ... instead of arriving at your destination with a URI or fibro-flare? According to Leonard Jason, Ph.D., of DePaul University in Chicago, "When individuals are exerting themselves for extended periods of time, which can occur on vacations, it is important to try to find times before, during and after the vacation to rest and try to expend less energy than what one has available in reserve." In addition, if you are driving or flying, make sure that you do so as comfortably as possible. Take frequent breaks to rest and stretch. Use neck and back pillows to provide extra support for your body.

For those of you who are relocating, take extra precautions. Try to get other family members to do your packing and unpacking (perhaps trade off by doing something less physically taxing) and give your body ample time to recover from the move. Keep in mind that we have lists of doctors who have been referred by other patients for every U.S. state and Canada. To obtain a list, simply send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope and let us know which referral list you are requesting. Hopefully, this will reduce at least one stress, that of finding a new doctor!

From fmnetnews on Facebook