Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain LIFE Summer 2013, Issue 9 - Page 10

Cover Story Call in the Dogs by Dawn A. Marcus, MD, author of The Woman’s Fibromyalgia Toolkit and The Power of Wagging Tails f you have fibromyalgia, you know there’s no quick fix—no pill, procedure, or therapy that quickly makes symptoms disappear. Fibromyalgia is a condition that relies heavily on combining many types of therapies together, including medications, exercise, nutritional, and non-drug therapies. Most people with fibromyalgia use complementary and alternative therapies that are designed to supplement and boost the benefits from traditional medicine. A survey from the Mayo Clinic found that the complementary therapies most commonly used for fibromyalgia are exercise, spiritual healing, massage, chiropractic treatment, and supplements. I nterestingly, research shows you don’t have to be passionate about pets to get these healthy benefits from ten to fifteen minutes petting a friendly dog. with trained dogs, A nimal-assisted therapyhas been shown to called therapy dogs, I A nother complementary therapy is animalassisted therapy. Animal-assisted therapy uses animals—typically dogs trained to be obedient, calm, and comforting—to provide therapeutic benefit to people with a wide range of health problems. Think I’m barking up the wrong tree? Research has proven that spending time with a friendly dog caused profound physical and biological changes: help people with a wide range of medical conditions. People with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, mental illness, strokes, spinal cord injuries, and more have all been shown to benefit from the therapeutic benefits of time spent with therapy dogs. We decided to see whether therapy dogs might also help people with fibromyalgia. The results of this study were just released in the journal Pain Medicine. trained 40-pound TerIn this study, adog was added to aWheaten pain rier therapy chronic • Heart rate and blood pres• Heart rate and blood pressure sure decrease decrease • Breathing rate slows down • Stress rate slows down • Breathinghormones, like cortisol, are reduced • Stress hormones, like cortisol, • The body’s natural pain are reduced killers, endorphins, • The body’s natural pain killers, increase endorphins, • The increase immune system is boosted • The immune system is boosted 10  Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain waiting area. When patients with fibromyalgia were waiting between or before appointments with doctors or therapists, they could spend time in a traditional waiting room with a television and magazines or they could visit in another room with the therapy dog. People in both groups were surveyed about their symptoms before entering either waiting area. After spending about 15 minutes in either waiting area, people were asked to rate their symptoms again. For this project, 84 people with fibromyalgia spent time with the dog and 49 waited in the traditional waiting area. Life Summer 2013