How I Cured My Fibromyalgia: A True Story about Ben Ahrens
At age 25 my life completely changed. I’d gone from being a healthy active surfer and fitness trainer to experiencing widespread pain throughout my body and ultimately becoming bedbound and chronically ill. I jumped through the hoops of the healthcare system, trying every treatment from antidepressants to acupuncture, and even powerful supplements and pain medications like gabapentin, but nothing seemed to work.
Months turned into years. I’d received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, demyelinating polyneuropathy, and rheumatoid arthritis. My symptoms included debilitating pain that seemed to migrate throughout my body: Back pain, IBS, restless leg syndrome, and a terrible sense of weakness in my lower arms and legs. The discomfort leads to insomnia and severely impacted sleep quality.
Unable to do any physical exercise or eat a normal diet, I ended up losing about 40lbs of lean body mass and becoming even weaker. In this article, I’m going to tell you the story of how I cured my fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. The CDC estimates that roughly 4 million people in the United States, or 2% of the population suffer from Fibromyalgia syndrome, also referred to as “fibro”.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain that affect the way the body perceives pain. Unlike pain that stems from peripheral pathology (physical damage in the body), fibro-related symptoms are thought to be derived from central sensitization or an increased level of sensitivity in the limbic system – the region of the brain responsible for detecting and processing pain.
This does NOT mean that the symptoms are “all in one’s head.” Rather, the symptoms are very real and can even lead to a physical change in the body due to chronic inflammation. The demyelination and arthritis I experienced are examples of this.
Common Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Because fibro has to do with the limbic system and how the brain processes sensations coming from the body through the central nervous system, the symptoms that one can experience are not limited to what is actually taking palace on a physical level and can include mental and emotional symptoms as well. Here is just a small handful of the symptoms that so many people with fibro experience:
- Chronic pain and tenderness in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons
- Debilitating Fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- TMJ problems
- Brain fog or “fibro fog”
- Sensitivities to foods, chemicals, light, and sound
- Tender points around the joints
- Weakness or numbness in the hands and feet
Treatments I Tried
Throughout my health journey, I tried a wide range of treatments, most of which did not pan out. Some of those treatments included things like:
- Pain medications
- Dietary supplements
- Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT
- Massage therapy
- Pain management
- Physical therapy
- Aerobic exercise and tai chi
I did find some improvement with slow deliberate movements such as tai chi, but extreme fatigue and brain fog made it very difficult to practice these exercises consistently at first, and I found little enduring relief from the other treatments on this list.
What actually worked for me
Because the condition stems from the limbic brain, it made sense to me that retraining this region of the brain out of “fight or flight” could help. I was first introduced to the idea of neuroplasticity through neurocognitive rehabilitation at NY Langone Medical. While receiving treatment there, I learned that self-directed neuroplasticity or “brain retraining” was being used with great success for a wide range of applications including stroke rehab and pain reprocessing therapy (PRT).
My experience corroborated what many recent studies have shown, that chronic pain is surprisingly treatable when patients focus on the brain.
According to the field of Biological Medicine, many chronic conditions arise or are perpetuated by a poor internal environment or internal milieu. An increased level of acidity in the body and impaired ability to excrete exogenous and endogenous toxins and waste products can also be brought on by a constant state of flight or flight.
In addition to switching to a whole foods diet and drinking pleasantly of clean water, I also practiced relaxation exercises whenever possible alongside my neuroplasticity brain retraining. This combination seemed to allow the cells of my body to exhale and release whatever they may have been holding onto. And I found myself over time, feeling lighter, freer, fitter and more joyful.
A positive mindset and elevated emotions are not just “nice to experience” – but also shift our brain and body’s chemistry and ways that can improve our innate ability to heal. Studies have even been done on how dwelling on stressful events increases inflammation in the body.
By consciously redirecting my thoughts and attention to areas that gave me a more calm and more pleasant feeling, I found myself actually feeling less inflamed and less symptomatic.
Spending time in nature
Nothing seems to calm the nervous system like being outside and surrounded by nature. I’d grown up in New York City and then moved out to Long Island. Every breath I took outdoors felt like a huge exhale for my nervous system and helped to further calm my symptoms and increased the available energy I had each day.
Visualization is used with great success for elite athletes, and military cadets, as well as healing & recovery from a wide range of chronic conditions including (but not limited to) chronic pain syndrome.
My conclusion, and paying it forward…
Because these treatments worked so well for me and many others who I met on my journey along the way, I dedicated myself to studying them, working with Ph.D. neuroscientists and clinical psychologists to learn everything I could about the brain and body’s interactions. This decade-long journey ultimately culminated in the assembly of the re-origin Brain TrustTM and the creation of the re-origin brain retraining program.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a chronic condition such as fibromyalgia, I want to let you know that I know what you’re going through, you’re not alone, and most of all… there is hope.
If my story resonates with you, please share this website and join our community of super-powered self-healers to learn how you can activate your healing potential and resume the life you are meant to live.
- Radical-Acceptance-Worksheet. (2017). https://positivepsychology.com/. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://positive.b-cdn.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Radical-Acceptance-Worksheet.pdf