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Fibromyalgia patient finds massage

  • Bonita Hopkins of New Ipswich gives a massage in her in-home massage therapy room. Hopkins became inspired to become a massage therapist at the age of 50 after massage helped to ease her own pain, caused by fibromyalgia.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Bonita Hopkins of New Ipswich gives a massage in her in-home massage therapy room. Hopkins became inspired to become a massage therapist at the age of 50 after massage helped to ease her own pain, caused by fibromyalgia.


    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.


    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.


    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.


    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.


    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Bonita Hopkins of New Ipswich gives a massage in her in-home massage therapy room. Hopkins became inspired to become a massage therapist at the age of 50 after massage helped to ease her own pain, caused by fibromyalgia.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • A New Ipswich woman was called to change careers after her life was touched by illness.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

NEW IPSWICH — Bonita Hopkins washes her hands in her small massage therapy room in her New Ipswich home in preparation for her first massage of the day on Saturday. As she lays hands on her client, she says a prayer, asking God to help her drive away pain.

Eleven years ago, Hopkins became a licensed massage therapist and followed that path part-time. Last year, she took a leap of faith and decided to dedicate her life to helping others relieve pain.

Hopkins knows all about pain. She’s lived with it constantly for almost half her life. When she was 35, it started with excruciating lower back pain that her doctors couldn’t explain. She was told it might be occupational arthritis from being on her feet all day as a hairdresser, or that it could be related to stress and she should take some time off. She was prescribed sleeping pills and muscle relaxers and pain pills, but there were no answers. Until a friend with similar symptoms suggested that she and Hopkins might have something in common: fibromyalgia.

Hopkins finally had a name for what was causing her pain, but no solution. Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disease that affects the nervous system and causes pain throughout the body, and there is no cure. It can be managed through medication, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association’s website, but those who have it can only hope to find ways to manage their condition.

For Hopkins, that meant changing her diet to eliminate sugar, gluten and dairy, scaling back on her activities to give herself more time to rest, and scheduling massages. And while the lifestyle changes helped to build up her strength, she said it was the massage that really touched her.

By the time she knew what was wrong with her, she had also been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia and depression.

“I couldn’t even think straight because the pain was taking over,” said Hopkins in an interview in her massage room on Saturday. “My whole mind was affected by this. I would forget what I was doing, I would forget where I was going. I had no strength in my arms. I couldn’t pick up a gallon of milk. And I was scared.”

Hopkins had never been one for massage in the past, she said, considering it a luxury, but massage along with chiropractic work and acupuncture are known therapies for fibromyalgia. And the first time her massage therapist laid hands on her, she began to cry.

“My therapist kept saying, ‘Am I hurting you?’ But I had been in so much pain for so long, and it felt like somebody was finally touching me where it hurt. That’s what I got out of my first massage — touch. When you hurt yourself and rub where it hurts, or when a little kid is crying and their mother is patting them on the back, that touch is healing. It’s the act of touching, of sending love to someone with your hands.”

Massage was so healing for Hopkins, she said, that she made a deal with God. If she was healed, she would go back to school at the age of 50, and get certified as a massage therapist to give the same kind of healing to other people.

“I think because I was on the receiving end of massage, and knew how much better it made me feel, I just thought, everyone that’s sick needs this. And I can do this. Financially I couldn’t afford to do it, but when you’re meant to do something, it somehow falls into place.”

It wasn’t easy, she said. She was the oldest person in her class, and had to work harder to memorize the anatomy and physiology required to become a certified therapist. But 11 years ago, she completed her certification, and began to give massages while still running a home-based hair salon. And even though her salon was well-established and secure, her true calling was massage, and so last year she closed the doors to her salon and began to focus all her efforts on massage.

“This was my calling,” Hopkins said. “And if I had to go through all that bad stuff first to get where I’m meant to be, then okay. That’s what I needed to do.”

According to the National Fibromyalgia Association’s website, there are medical treatments for fibromyalgia to help manage pain, and those who suffer from it can also supplement that with additional antidepressants, or non-narcotic pain relievers or injections of Lidocaine into the tender points of localized pain. The medical side should also be supplemented with a gentle exercise regimen, improved sleep, and having psychological support to assist with the mental stress of constantly dealing with the pain.

For Hopkins, she turned to prayer, thanking God for her healing even while she was still feeling pain, and making the choice to become an agent of healing herself.

Changes in diet can also help to alleviate symptoms, but are tailored to each person individually, as different people are sensitive to different foods, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association. Testing the elimination of common food allergies and sensitivities, such as MSG, certain preservatives, eggs, or especially gluten and dairy , and testing the response can help improve quality of life. And additional relaxation therapies, such as massage, acupressure, yoga and chiropractic manipulation can make dealing with the pain bearable.

Hopkins can be reached at 878-3342. Her massages are $60 for an hour or $35 for a half hour. To learn more about fibromyalgia, visit www.fmaware.org.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

This is a fantastic article. As a fibromyalgia patient, I understand the pain. Sounds like this woman has healing hands. Thanks for publishing this info.

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