(We embrace recovery/recovering stories with the acknowledgement that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are heterogeneous conditions and what works for one person may not (or may :)) work for another. Someone with a success story who has financial ties to the product or technique they used to improve or recover obviously throws another factor into the equation.
We’ve chosen to include those stories for two reasons: (1) a surprising number of people who have recovered or improved greatly do end being associated with whatever helped them and (2) we want to provide information on all legitimate options. Thanks to Linda for sharing her story. )
I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 15 years ago, though I have had symptoms for 26 years. I was extremely tired after the birth of my children and just thought this was the normal tiredness of being a mother with a child who rarely slept.
I was planning to return to work as an occupational therapist as soon as my children started school. I hadn’t realised I had a serious condition or accepted that I may never work again.
My quality of sleep was often disturbed by pain and overactive thoughts. It was very hard to find peace because the intrusion of alpha-waves during deep delta wave sleep1 allows too much stimuli and interferes with deep sleep. If deep sleep is missed, it leads to unrefreshed sleep. Sometimes I could sleep for nine hours and still feel as tired as when I went to bed. Medication didn’t help me with this and often gave me nightmares, or left me even more fatigued the next day.
I believe we all have to work at reducing negative thoughts and my Christian faith has helped me with that. Being close to God has enabled me to recognize that in spite of my weaknesses I am precious to Him. He has taught me how to value the small details in life that are often missed when we are too busy.
Other approaches that helped included changing my diet, the Alexander Technique, light myofascial release massage, hydrotherapy and relaxation.
Then, eight years ago, my condition worsened after a period of severe stress and the pain and fatigue became so severe that I was housebound four days a week. It looked like I would have to use an electric wheelchair for the rest of my life.
A pain management course enabled me to recognize the difference between a good pain that strengthens my muscles and a bad pain that sends me into a relapse. It also taught me to pace myself and to conserve my limited energy. For instance, I would go to bed after taking my boys to school and then rest for two hours in the afternoon. After that I would have the strength to prepare their supper and help them with their homework. I also learnt some deeper relaxation techniques, which were the only times I felt pain free.
Pacing, relaxation and changing what I ate – like stopping simple carbohydrates such as sugar, potatoes and flour – improved my symptoms by 40%, but however hard I tried, I could not seem to be able to improve any further. Then a doctor speaking to our support group mentioned that a small microcurrent device might be helpful.
Initially I was very sceptical about using it but after having read about it, and seeing that there had been many randomised medical trials on it and that it was safe, I decided to give it a go for three weeks.
How the Alpha-Stim Works and Research
The Alpha-Stim has been in use in the US for three decades, but has only recently been introduced to the UK. It is US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for the relief of pain, insomnia, anxiety and depression, and works by mimicking the body’s own natural electrical currents and encouraging the cells that are not functioning properly to work again. It doesn’t have the side-effects I often had from medication and has a much lower current than transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) devices – which I found were too strong a current for me.
There are two Alpha-Stim devices:
- The AID which gives gentle Cranial Electrical Stimulation (CES) via ear-clips
- The M which provides CES via ear-clips and Microcurrent Therapy for additional pain relief via probes and sticky electrodes called AS-trodes.
At present, there are over 144 research studies completed on CES. Twenty-eight of these are randomised studies with many more ongoing. The overwhelming majority of the scientific research is extremely positive. No significant lasting side effects have been reported. Four randomised studies have been done on the Alpha-Stim and Fibromyalgia 188.8.131.52
Cort’s recent article on ‘The Pain Brain: Hippocampal Atrophy Found in Fibromyalgia’ suggested that ‘nervous system “burnout” occurs when the excitatory part of the nervous system triggers so much activity that nervous system cells get killed off. It stated that “powered by glutamate and inhibited by GABA, several researchers have proposed that nervous system over excitation could be causing or contributing to the hypersensitive pain state found in FM.”
I asked Dr. J. A. Marksberry if there was any evidence that CES could help the neurotransmitter GABA. He referred me to chapter 19 of the book ‘Bioelectromagnetic and Subtle Energy Medicine’, edited by Paul J. Rosch MD, where it refers to the study6 that shows CES can increase GABA. For more information on the modulation effects (neurological ‘fine tuning’) of CES click here .
My Trial of the Alpha-Stim
“I suddenly realized that throughout the entire day, I hadn’t had a panic attack, hadn’t got a headache, my back pain had not increased and I hadn’t needed to use relaxation techniques.” Linda
Two weeks in, I had to go up to London with my younger son only to find he needed another operation on his leg. It was a very stressful day which involved going on the underground train which usually results in a bad headache and is an anxiety trigger for me. When we arrived back at our local train station, I suddenly realized that throughout the entire day, I hadn’t had a panic attack, hadn’t got a headache, my back pain had not increased and I hadn’t needed to use relaxation techniques. These were all firsts for me in recent years.
I couldn’t think of anything which was different except the Alpha-Stim and as the weeks went on, the improvement became more and more dramatic. The ‘fibro-fog’ lifted and for the first time in years I felt I was able to think clearly again.
I remember walking around the woods with our dog and I suddenly realized that the world was clear again. It was like having seen everything in a blur and suddenly finding a pair of glasses. Six months after trying the Alpha-Stim I was able to do a 2 hour hike up a mountain in the Lake District. It was so much better than being sat at the bottom watching my husband and sons go up on their own. Then 15 months later I managed the ten hour flight to San Francisco!
I originally used the AS-100. This has been upgraded to the Alpha-Stim M. I have been using the device now for five years and am 80% improved. I still use the device to maintain the reduction in my pain and fatigue, and my brain fog has gone. I am calmer and no longer have to do the daily relaxation sessions or have afternoon rests. I sleep better and rarely feel stiff in the morning.
I recommended it to other people in our support group and 15 out of 18 people who trialled it found their symptoms improved as well. This encouraged me to set up a clinic to help and advise other sufferers, and so I am working again as a registered Occupational Therapist after being too ill to work for 20 years!
I find I can help 70% of people who come to me with Fibromyalgia and CFS, though sadly not pure ME. I use the device called the Alpha-Stim M that has both the ear-clips and probes and sticky AS-trodes for extra pain relief. I find those of us that have a more all over sensation of pain like achy flu usually only need the ear-clip device called the Alpha-Stim AID. If you’d like to try the Alpha-Stim I suggest you find an Alpha-Stim practitioner who can offer you the chance to try the device. In the US you need a prescription but not in Europe.
I believe God has answered my prayers through this simple device and given me my life back.
For more information on this, and Linda’s multidimensional method for getting well, please click on Microtherapy Clinic.
United States: Some information from the manufacturers website (from Cort)
- Cost: The Alpha-Stim AID costs $795; and the Alpha-Stim M device is $1,195. Many insurance plans that cover durable medical equipment will pay for Alpha-Stim technology.
- The Device: The Alpha-Stim M and AID devices are both about the size of a cell phone, (but a little thicker), and come with everything you need to get started: electrodes and earclip pads (for the AID device) and electrodes for the M device, Alpha Conducting Solution (to ensure a good electrical connection), two 1.5 volt batteries per device (AA for the M, and AAA for the AID), and a convenient lanyard for you to wear the Alpha-Stim device around your neck. It also includes an owner’s manual and a DVD that explains how to use the device and what kind of relief you can expect from it.
United Kingdom (from Linda)
The Alpha-stim M is currently £699 and £582.50 with VAT relief and can be bought on the rent to own scheme for £52.50 per month for 12 months. The Alpha-stim AID is £499 and £415 with VAT relief can be bought on the rent to own scheme for £35 per month for 12 months. People with Fibromyalgia in the UK are eligible for VAT relief. I recommend ideally hiring from a practitioner first, you’ll then be able to try before you buy and learn faster.
Health Rising is not associated with Alpha Stim or Linda’s practice
Keep the Information Flowing
- Musculosketal Symptoms and Non-REM Sleep Disturbance in Patients with “Fibrositis Syndrome” and Healthy Subjects. Moldofsky, Harvey MD; Scarisbrick, Phillip BS; England, Robert BA; Smythe, Hugh MD. Psychosom Med 1975;37:341-51
- The Treatment of Fibromyalgia with Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation. Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 7(2):72-78, 2001. Presented at the Fifteenth Annual International Symposium on Acupuncture and Electro-Therapeutics, Columbia University, New York, October 1999. Lichtbroun, Alan S, Raicer, Mei-Ming C, and Smith, Ray B.
- The Effect of Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) on Pain Associated with Fibromyalgia The Internet Journal of Anesthesiology, 8(2), 2004. Authors: Randall C. Cork, M.D., Ph.D., et al Department of Anesthesiology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA
- Cranial Electrical Stimulation Improves Symptoms and Functional Status in Individuals with Fibromyalgia Ann Gill Taylor, et al. 2011 by the American Society for Pain Management Nursing doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2011.07.002
- A randomizes, controlled, double-blind pilot study of the effects of cranial electric stimulation on activity in the brain pain processing regions in individuals with fibromyalgia. Ann Gill Taylor, et al (using FMRI) Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, Vol 9, issue 1,Pages 32-40, January 2013
- Cerebral spinal fluid and plasma neurochemicals: response to cranial electrostimulation. Shealy, C.Cady, R.Culver-Veehoff, D.Cox, R. et al, J. Neurol. Orthopaed. Med. Surg. 1998;18:94–97
Make sure you don’t miss another one by registering for our free ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia blogs here...
Tell us how your coronavirus vaccination went and find out how other people with ME/CFS and/or FM fared with their coronavirus vaccination in Health Rising’s Coronavirus Vaccine Side Effects Poll.