Disclaimer: A couple of people who have read the following post online have accused me of trying to “sell” my doctor’s fibromyalgia program. The intent of this blog has always been to provide helpful information to the fibro and ME/CFS community. The intent of this post was to share the steps that I’m taking in an attempt to feel better. In no way should it be construed that I’m “selling” Dr. Murphree’s program. I am not profiting in any way from mentioning his program. (I don’t even think that Dr. Murphree is aware of this post yet.) No one has to sign up for a program to incorporate most of the actions I’ve outlined below. Many can be done on your own. Most of his protocols also are included in his book, which is available to checkout (for FREE) at many public libraries.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
I’ve steered clear of writing “how I’m feeling” posts because there are so many other chronic illness bloggers out there who do that. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of post; it’s just not what I usually do. I’ve always been a problem-solver, so my posts tend to be more helpful than personal. But this post will be a bit of both.
When I got sick several years ago, I never accepted that I’d spend the rest of my life exhausted and in pain. I kept looking for answers. I’ve tried so many things over the years to manage my symptoms. Some stuff has helped (like low-dose naltrexone and CBD oil), and a lot of it hasn’t, like the drugs prescribed by my well-meaning rheumatologist.
But I think I may have finally found what works for me. If you’ve been following me for a few months, then you might have read that I’m a new-ish patient of Dr. Rodger Murphree. Dr. Murphree practices functional medicine out of Birmingham, Alabama (U.S.). For the past 18 years, he’s specialized in treating fibromyalgia and works with patients all over the world via phone consults.
Dr. Murphree doesn’t promise a cure for fibromyalgia, but he does have a good record of helping fibro patients feel better. His basic philosophy is that most pharmaceuticals don’t treat the underlying cause of disease; they just mask symptoms and often with bad side effects. He focuses on using vitamins, minerals and amino acids to restore the body to health. (My words, not his.)
All of our appointments are over the phone with email support when needed. When I need blood work, I have it done at my local laboratory (LabCorp).
Yeah, I know it’s a little weird to have a phone doctor. But think about it: When was the last time your rheumatologist (or whoever treats your fibro) really did a hands-on examination? I can’t remember the last time my rheumatologist actually touched me. So working with a doctor over the phone isn’t such a stretch, is it?
But it is a stretch for my wallet to work with him since he doesn’t accept insurance. Truth be told, I’d probably spend my entire savings if I knew it would make me feel better. I’ve really been struggling the past 12 months or so with increasing pain and fatigue. I’ve been questioning whether I need to apply for disability because I’ve been struggling to work, even though I’m fortunate enough to work at home. None of the commonly prescribed fibro drugs that I’ve tried have helped me. They either didn’t work at all, or the side effects were so bad that I couldn’t take them. My rheumatologist and primary care/nurse practitioner are no help. And unfortunately, Delaware (U.S.) isn’t exactly a mecca for fibromyalgia specialists.
I learned about Dr. Murphree while reading an online article. I listened to a couple of his webinars and watched all of his YouTube videos. I started reading his book, “Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”
But I think what finally sold me on working with Dr. Murphree is something that he sometimes says at the end of his Tuesday night seminars. I’m summarizing, but essentially it’s that if you keep doing the same thing over and over, you’ll keep getting the same result. (Einstein calls this the definition of insanity.) I decided that traditional medicine wasn’t working for me, and I needed to try a different approach.
Yet another round of blood work … and finally, abnormal results …
Dr. Murphree and I had our introductory phone consult in late July. Within a day of signing up for his 6-month program, he ordered a bunch of tests to check my thyroid, adrenals and other things. As a functional medicine practitioner, he ordered a few different tests than my traditional doctors. For example, one test involved collecting saliva into small tubes over a 24-hour period to measure how my adrenal glands were functioning. Most traditional doctors don’t even recognize adrenal fatigue, much less test for it.
He used my test results to tailor a new supplement regime to address my body’s deficiencies. My supplement protocol includes the following:
- A high dose, good quality multivitamin – I use the Alive brand to save money, but he offers his own version on his website.
- Adrenal Cortex – My saliva test showed that my adrenals aren’t functioning properly.
- Digestive Enzymes – This helps to deal with my excessive stomach acid/GERD.
- Sam-E – This is to improve mood and energy.
- Thyroid 130 – My tests showed that one of my thyroid levels is high.
- CoQ10, vitamin D, fish oil and a probiotic – I was already taking all of these prior to working with Dr. Murphree.
Finally getting some zzzzzzzz’s …
Lack of restful sleep has been an issue for me for many years. I’ve taken all sorts of supplements and pharmaceuticals over the years, trying to find the right cocktail to help me sleep through the night. I didn’t have a problem falling asleep. I just couldn’t STAY asleep. I would wake up about every 2-3 hours and never really get a long stretch of sleep. I think I’ve finally found a formula that works. Here’s what I’m taking:
- 5-HTP and melatonin – This is part of the sleep protocol that Dr. Murphree discusses in his book. I’m taking 10mg of melatonin at bedtime. Yes, I know it’s a large dose, and I also know melatonin isn’t for everyone, but it’s working for me.
- Magnesium malate – I started taking this shortly after my diagnosis. It seems to help with restless legs and overall body aches. I’ve read that it helps with sleep, so I take it at bedtime to get that benefit.
- AdrenalCalm – This is a topical adrenal supplement, recommended by Dr. Murphree, that I apply to my inner arms every night before going to bed. It’s supposed to quiet my adrenals so they don’t surge and wake me up in the middle of the night.
I still take Flexeril (prescription muscle relaxer) occasionally if I’m having a high pain day. It doesn’t stop the pain, but just knocks me out so I don’t feel it.
I’ve also changed my medications for overactive bladder. After writing a story for one of my clients on pelvic floor disorders, I realized that I needed to readdress this issue because my overactive bladder was waking me up at night. I saw my urologist, and now I’m taking Oxybutynin and Myrbetriq (new) together. My symptoms are so much better!
I’m not sure which has helped the most to improve my sleep – the new sleep supplements, adding Myrbetriq or a combination of both. All I know is that I’m sleeping better. I still wake up once or twice a night, but that’s a great improvement over 3-6 times a night. There are some nights when I actually sleep 5-6 hours straight. That hasn’t happened in years!
Addressing low energy and the doldrums …
Quite a few of my subscribers found Fed Up with Fatigue through my post on d-ribose. A few months ago, my energy was so low that it was affecting my ability to work and get things done at home. D-ribose helped improve my energy level so that I didn’t require as many naps to get through the day.
When we were evaluating my supplements early on, Dr. Murphree suggested trying Sam-E for energy and mood instead of d-ribose. Within a couple of weeks, my energy levels were a little better than they had been on d-ribose. Sam-E also does a great job at improving my mood. (I did a full post on using Sam-E for fibromyalgia here.)
My nemesis and savior: the anti-inflammatory diet
Three weeks ago, Dr. Murphree said it was time for me to start on his anti-inflammatory diet. I eat fairly clean already, but I knew I wasn’t going to like his diet one bit based on what I’d read in his book.
And I was right. I pretty much hate everything about the anti-inflammatory diet. But my body loves it.
Dr. Murphree uses SHAPE ReClaimed weight loss drops in conjunction with a low-calorie, limited foods diet to help patients lose weight and reduce inflammation in their bodies. I’m two weeks in. I’ve lost 7 pounds, and my pain is probably 25-30% of what it was when I started. I’m amazed the diet has made that big of a difference. Obviously something I was eating was causing my pain to flare up.
The anti-inflammatory diet is not for sissies. I’m only allowed to eat certain proteins, veggies and fruit in certain portions each day. No gluten, no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no peanut butter, no cheese, no pasta, no rice, no bread, no potatoes, no regular salad dressings, no oils. N0 weekly doughnut treat from the farmers market!
I’ve bitched about this diet every single day. I know my hubby is sick of hearing me complain. But as mentally miserable as I’ve been because I can’t have the foods I’m used to, I can tell that my body is happy. It likes this new diet. Even my hubby said the other day, “You look like you have a lot more energy …”
I have to stay on the diet for at least three weeks, and then we can discuss modifying it to add a few things (like avocados, olive oil and a little cheese). Ideally, I’ll eat this way until I get the 40 pounds off that I gained from taking Lyrica and Amitriptyline.
So, I’m about 10 weeks into Dr. Murphree’s program at this point, and here’s where I am: I’m sleeping better, I have more energy and my body is in less pain. I’m a long, long way from feeling normal, but I just might be heading in that direction…
Now it’s your turn: What helps your fibromyalgia symptoms? I’d love to read about your successes in the comments below.
Update as of May 2017…
I just noticed the National Fibromyalgia Association shared this post on Facebook, so I’d like to give an update on my progress. I was Dr. Murphree’s patient for 9 months. In the end, his program did not work for me. I did make some improvements using his protocols, and to be fair, he helped me more than any other doctor ever has. But toward the end of my contract with him, I felt like he gave up on me as a patient. I think he had literally run out of ideas. You can read my final entry about his program here.
About six month after leaving Dr. Murphree’s practice, I found out I have chronic Lyme disease. I’m sure that contributed to me being unsuccessful in his program.
Knowing what I know now, I would not have spent the money to work with him. I am still paying off his program on my credit card. Instead, I would buy his book and work through his protocols using that.