What Is The Best Treatment For Fibromyalgia?
24 Natural Treatment Options For Symptom Relief.....
Fibromyalgia is a relatively recently defined syndrome. This makes answering what is the best treatment for firbromyalgia particularly tricky.
Currently the best we know is those treatments that more frequently make a difference and those that generally don’t. Without a cure, that is the best that can be achieved – symptom control.
Today we provide 24 potential options for you to considering in finding the best fibromyalgia treatment for you…
What Is The Best Treatment For Fibromyaliga?
Fibromyalgia is a snake of a condition. It can lie dormant for years and then strike anyone down. And once bitten, there is no cure.
I wish I could tell you there is one simple answer. I wish I could tell any of the sufferers I speak to that I have that one solution you are looking for.
But anyone who says that is no better than a dodgy salesman, trying to convince everyone that their product solves everything.
This page, like this site, is designed to be a reality check. We can’t fix fibromyalgia, but we can help. Our members that answer suffer too kindly answer our surveys and sit on our product testing panels to help. Those people that reply to our feedback requests help by sharing their experience.
Unfortunately, too little is known about what what fibromyalgia is and what causes it, for methods of treating the causes to have been developed. Instead we can only treat the symptoms – trying to achieve a good to great quality of life in spite of your fibromyalgia.
So the truth when asking ‘what is the best treatment for fibromyalgia?’ is that there isn’t one. Drugs will help and we reviewed these options in depth in our article ‘What Is Fibromyalgia’. But the side effects can be severe and for treating Fibromyalgia, drugs are now seen as by far the second best option.
The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) summed up the priorities in their revised recommendations for the management of fibromyalgia.…
“Initial management should involve patient education and focus on non-pharmacological therapies. In case of non-response, further therapies ……… should be tailored to the specific needs of the individual”
24 Natural Treatment Options
It is in the arena of pain relief that HelpRelievePain comes in to our own.
We have pulled together, with the help of the many sufferers that have signed up and answered our simple surveys, as well as own own knowledge and research as pain specialists to provide you with all of the potential natural treatment options for fibromyalgia.
For each option, we will try to explain why it works and how to try it easily from home.
This can be a controversial one, because it all depends on what levels of fitness you already have and what you are able to take on. In many cases, it can take months if not years to be correctly diagnosed with fibromyalgia and, in the meantime, the natural reaction to pain and chronic fatigue is not to exercise.
You don’t see flu sufferers out jogging everywhere and this is loosely what fibromyalgia can feel like. However, successive studies have shown the benefits of exercise for overall health and this does correlate to reduced symptom scoring. In other words – less pain.
For all that isn’t known about fibromyalgia, the link between exercise and pain relief is one of the few well covered topics. Busch et al in 2011 is one of the most cited papers proving the link between reduced fibromyalgia symptoms and exercise.
So What Exercise Can You Do?
The simple answer is anything that you are willing to take on. Cycling is a great activity due to its lack of impact and the fact that you can get an exercise bike and use it whenever your fibromyalgia is having a good day.
Swimming is another activity that can be great because it doesn’t have nay implication of weight bearing on your joints. However, unless you have your own private pool, then it means more organising and planning to try and ensure it is planned for ‘good’ days.
Other than that – any other activity that you enjoy. Even sports like golf (ie non-contact) can be really good for your symptoms if you can get round and you enjoy doing it.
Getting quality sleep is absolutely essential if you suffer with fibromyalgia. However, it is not just the number of hours you sleep, but the quality or ‘depth’ of that sleep. We can sleep ‘shallow’ for many hours and still wake up feeling exhausted, while just a few hours of deep, restorative sleep will refresh you much more.
For evidence of just how important sleep is to fibromyalgia, the Saudi Medical Journal in 2017 conducted a review of 16 different studies and concluded not surprisingly that lack of sleep or poor sleep worked in direct correlation with increased pain.
This is logical because even in healthy adults without fibromyalia, exhaustion will cause heightened mood swings, depressive tendencies and increased sensitivity to pain. Just as the review pointed out.
How Do I Get Better Sleep?
- Get in a routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
- Avoid staring at phones or TV screens just before bedtime, as it stimulates the mind too much.
- Limit all noise and any side lights as much as possible when in bed.
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, coke etc) before sleeping as this all stimulates the brain and will stop you going in to the deep sleep that is needed.
- Don’t drink alcohol just before going to bed. While too much alcohol may help you sleep, it is not the restorative sleep that your body needs (that’s partly why hangover sufferers always feel tired).
- Try no to eat for at least 2 or 3 hours before bedtime. Your body needs to have digested your dinner if it is to sleep effectively.
- Minimise daytime naps. Dozing during the day won’t help you get proper sleep at night.
- Use supportive body pillows if these help. Some of our members said using ‘pregnancy pillows’ actually helped to support them in the night. It also stopped them tossing and turning as much which stopped them waking up as often.
3. Use A TENS Machine.
We covered what a TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine is in an earlier article (‘What Is A TENS Machine?). Now a tens machine can certainly work for some forms of pain relief and does have a good list of advocates for lower back pain and knee pain.
So strong are the beliefs that it works, that there has been some studies in to it’s benefits for fibromyalgia patients. One particularly prominent one, by the International Association For The Study of Pain (in Nov 2013) concluded that…
“TENS improved movement pain and fatigue, increased pain thresholds both at and outside of the site of stimulation, and increased conditioned pain modulation”.
4. Stress Relief.
Stress is a major contributor to heightened fibromyalgia symptoms. The effect of stress alone can tighten muscles and build tension, causing further pain.
Anything you can do relieve your stress then will have a profound effect on your overall symptoms. Some potential methods of stress relief such as CBT, meditation or going to a spa I have covered separately.
Perhaps the easiest form of stress relief though is simply a relaxing hot bath or doing something else that you enjoy such as reading or walking – anything that helps you to clear your mind a bit and relieve some of the stress that you will inevitably be carrying around with you.
This may also be referred to as ‘aqua therapy’ or ‘water aerobics’ and involves an exercise class or specific rehabilitation exercises taking place in water, typically at a local swimming pool.
A comprehensive review in 2008 around hydrotherapy and it’s use in treating fibromyalgia concluded that, although most of the studies in isolation were either too small or low in quality, there was clear evidence that hydrotherapy could be effective in treating fibromyalgia.
There were plenty of questions that prevented it being conclusive – such as whether the benefit was down to the exercise, the effect of the water with exercise or just the warmth on the water (both warmth and exercise are known to relieve symptoms on their own).
Exercise on it’s own can help fibromyalgia as does warmth, so the effect of adding water is unclear – but it is logical that the water helps to support your body and thus take weight off, which can only be good for further pain relief.
Rest is a key part of any fibromyalgia’s life. Rest is vital enough that it should be planned in as part of your day.
Magnesium is unofficially referred to the ‘relaxation mineral’, allegedly having calming effects on both your body and your brain. Low levels of magnesium have been found in many fibromyalgia sufferers.
Unfortunately, trying to ingest magnesium as a supplement is fraught with problems – not least because it is not absorbed well through our intestines and is likely to cause chronic diarrhoea.
The best way to absorb extra magnesium without the side effects is through our skin. This can be done in one of two ways – via various creams and lotions or by having a bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate).
Creams appear to be the most recommended method if you are not having a bath (as opposed to greasy oils). The bath is also a favourite if it’s before bed. Both the heat of the bath water, the relaxing qualities of the magnesium in the Epsom salts and the ‘floating effect’ can form a ‘triple whammy’ to precede a good nights’ sleep (another key component in controlling your symptoms).
Dr Geneva Liptan discussed in more detail why she uses magnesium for her fibromyalgia here
8. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that presents a lot of challenges. CBT is a method of combating those challenges with a clearly defined process and achieving better outcomes as a result.
Unlike many psychological treatments that focus on long-term goals, cognitive behavioural therapy has a very clear process of breaking down a seemingly impossible to achieve goal in to a series of smaller tasks that can be completed.
The benefit for stress levels when a task seems easy by breaking it own in to small steps are well documented. So is the fact that forward planning offers better environmental control.
We covered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in much greater detail in a separate article here, but it’s specific benefit to fibromyalgia patients was also covered in the ‘Nature Clinical Practice Rheumatology’ journal.
The ability to change your thought patterns has been found to be extremely beneficial in controlling all forms of chronic pain. Another advantage is the ease with which CBT can be learned – it doesn’t have to be taken in public classes for months on end, as the home study courses have been found to be just as effective.
9. Floating Therapy REST.
This is a new therapy, based on the logical benefits of achieving greater relaxation.
The REST here stands for ‘Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy’. The concept is that you lie in a shallow pool of warm ‘heavy’ water. The ‘heavy’ means it is saturated with Epsom salts to the point that you float effortlessly on your back (a little bit the dead sea).
The water must be kept at skin temperature, while the pool which should be about the size of a double bed, in enclosed fully in a soundproof and lightproof environment.
The idea is that you feel the complete effect of floating without any external disruptions of stimuli to achieve a higher state of relaxation.
The very first study in to the effectiveness of this approach was only conducted in 2012 in Sweden although further data is being collected for new research.
Psychotherapy can be vital in treating emotional problems. It typically involves speaking to a trained therapist (either one-to-one, in a group or even with your partner).
Fibromyalgia is a major life-changing condition. Even mild fibromyalgia can cause substantial re-alignment of your objectives, goals and day to day activities.
Understanding your new world and coming to terms with it are major hurdles in making the most of your life.
No-one can tell you exactly how to do this and there is not always a ‘reset’ button that puts your mind back on an even keel.
However, taking to somebody is essential in treating the mental side of your illness. Even talking to other sufferers on our forum (coming soon) will help you in rationalising your situation, realising you are in fact not alone and moving forward.
Furthermore there is plenty of research that backs up the effectiveness of psychotherapy, one of the most recent being by the Italian Ciro Conversano in the ‘Acta Psychopathologica’
There is no timescale by which you can say ‘treated’ or ‘not treated’ but as with so many fibromyalgia treatments, this is one that can be tried alongside many others.
11. Diet and Supplements.
This is such a large area that I have covered it separately under ‘What Is A Fibromyalgia Diet’
In short, there are a whole series of foods that are said to help with inflammation and although fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory condition, inflammation ahs been found to be the cause of some pain in patients.
Equally, other foods are known to help reduce stress, while some cause it – and stress itself is another major ingredient in increased chronic pain levels.
There are also a considerable range of supplements that claim to help with fibromyalgia pain and, while there is very limited evidence these actually work, I have explained the theory behind why they could on our other page.
Meditation is another method of achieving stress relief and working on your mental preparation at the same time.
The nice part is that there are a whole host of ways to self-teach yourself to meditate, so it doesn’t require a huge time or organisational commitment to execute.
Furthermore, like other mindful techniques, the benefits of altering the same brain that conveys pain messages from your body are clear.
Unfortunately, because fibromyalgia is a syndrome that requires multiple methods of pain control, it can be difficult to specifically pinpoint the exact impact of meditation as part of that ‘treatment package’. Especially, as noted in Adler-Neal et al “when combined with other reliable techniques (exercise; cognitive behavioral therapy).”
13. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
14. Hot/ Cold Stimulation.
Hot and cold stimulation is a technique used across the world for chronic pain relief. It’s benefits are well understood and fully accepted.
The fundamental principle is that hot or warmth relaxes muscles allowing them to expand. Back pain is a particular candidate for this treatment which can be treated with a host of compresses, microwaveable items or a hot water bottle.
By then applying a cold presence to areas of pain (anything from a bag of frozen peas to a host of cold compresses), you stimulate the blood to flow faster and kick-start the tiny processes of healing that take place all the time.
Professional sports people are famous for jumping in a warm bath afterwards, followed by an ice bath – because such a process has been shown to greatly increase their recovery time and therefore help them to be better prepared for the next match.
This is a much more controversial area. Even within the field of acupuncturists, there is considerable debate as to how effective it actually is.
The theory behind acupuncture is that you have a ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ in the energy forces in your body. Together they make up what is referred to in Chinese medicine as your ‘qi’ (pronounced ‘chi’). Pain is said to arise from an imbalance between the yin and the yang.
To rebalance your qi or energy forces, needles can be placed in any number of up to 350 acupuncture points in your body.
The use of needles inserted at these acupuncture points is supposed to rebalance your energy flow and ease your pain.
Unfortunately, there is no actual scientific proof that any of this yin and yang or qi actually exist at all, but plenty of people say there they have enjoyed benefit from acupuncture. Plenty of people have also found no benefit – so we cant really recommend it, except that to say it might be worth a try.
Our other genuine advice is that if you do try acupuncture – make sure you use a professional clinic.
Many pain relief activities can be carried out just as well in the comfort of your own home, but not acupuncture – inserting a needle too deep in the wrong place could puncture a lung. So don’t take a risk – if you are going to try it, make sure you go professional.
Lower back pain can sometimes be as a result of the way we walk. A crooked walk with your weight not correctly balanced can lead to pain up and down your skeleton.
With fibromyalgia, lower back pain is very common, as is joint pain.
There are two basic options to achieve pain relief though you’re your footwear – the first is to get custom tested orthotics. You walk across a treadmill that scans your weight distribution and produces and insole that push your foot in to more balanced position.
The second is to look at shoes that simply provide better support for your feet and ankles. ‘Sketchers’ are a brand that come time and time again with fibromyalgia sufferers as the most comfortable for them to wear.
The benefits of a spa are threefold – firstly the heat is accepted as relaxing muscles. Secondly, the relaxing element can help to ease your stress which again relaxes your muscles. Finally, the impact/ feeling of the air bubbles can have a very gentle massaging effect which will further the feelings of relaxation.
18. Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is a slow, mind-body exercise designed to stretch and strengthen muscles. It is low impact and combines breathing control (good for pain relief) and meditation.
As such it is a great exercise for fibromyalgia because it builds strength without impact and you can literally go at your own pace.
Again, building muscles through slow improvements, will help to support your body.
The more muscle you have, typically the less fat you will have (obesity being a major issue for fibromyalgia sufferers) and the more you can accomplish in a day before becoming exhausted.
Yoga is one of the few alternative medicines that has a reasonable amount of research supporting it’s use.
Numerous clinical studies and meta-analysis of the existing studies have shown that yoga could improve ‘daily function’ among people with fibromyalgia.
An easy one to learn at home with your partner if you like, this can help your relationship as well as your pain.
It is something that is not often discussed with fibromyalgia, but many relationships can suffer because your partner feels shut out and helpless. Engaging in massage together can boost intimacy again and, with your guidance, help your partner to understand what is happening.
Ultimately a good massage can do wonders for your mental well-bring, your stress levels and your symptoms (in particular IBS, chronic pain and sleep deprivation).
Physio is basically a step up from massage with supported exercise included. A good physiotherapist will build a specific treatment plan for you around your individual symptoms.
This may include a massage to help with your IBS, exercise to build your muscles/ improve your mobility and specific stretches to help with suppleness and fatigue.
Many physiotherapists have now diversified in to a range of other useful services too such as hot/ cold compression therapy or hydrotherapy.
For fibromyalgia patients this could be risky. Manipulation includes practitioners such as chiropractors.
I have included it in the list of potential treatments because forceful manipulation is often listed or sold as a ‘treatment’ for chronic pain, but I would argue they could easily end up being too rough.
Chiropractic care involves forcing your spine ‘back in to line’ as a form of pain management. However, if you suffer with fibromyalgia it is quite possible you have brittle bones, irritable bowel syndrome, joint pain and difficulty breathing – all of which may be severely tested during ‘re-alignment’.
Similarly, your increased sensitivity to pain could mean the treatment will be absolute agony and may have no lasting benefit anyway. Not to mention the next couple of days, which are traditionally very painful even for normal back pain sufferers.
I am just in the process of writing a full review of essential oils that can be used for pain relief. There is a surprisingly good set of research data behind the use of essential oils for fibromyalgia.
I will go in to the individual oils in more detail in the main article, but the main oils for use with fibromyalgia are –
Ginger Oil to reduce feelings of nausea, reduce pain and improve digestion.
Nutmeg Oil to help with irritable bowel syndrome, pain relief and swelling around joints.
Lavender Oil for stress relief, pain reduction, anti-inflammatory qualities and a sleep aid when inhale prior to bedtime.
Sandalwood Oil for calmness, as a natural sedative with anti-inflammatory properties for your pain.
Peppermint Oil for muscle relaxation, reducing pain sensitivity during headaches and helping your overall cognitive improvement.
Eucalyptus Oil for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, increased pain relief and lowering blood pressure. This can also be used as a decongestant should it be needed.
The Final Word –
Fibromyalgia has no cure and so treatments are always around treating the specific symptoms that you are presented with. And while there is no actual treatment or drug designed for fibromyalgia, there are a range of potential options open to any sufferers willing to try different approaches and form a balanced opinion.
We covered all the chemical drug options in our main informational article ‘what is fibromyaliga’, but unusually in medicine, even a lot of doctors do not recommend medication as the first or best treatment, due to the likely spiral and severe side effects.
Ultimately, there is of course a place for drugs, but in the case of fibromyalgia this is very much alongside a mix of other options with the goal of achieving the best combination for your condition.
Hopefully the comprehensive list above will give you some options to try that maybe you haven’t already.
What is the best treatment for fibromyalgia really depends on your individual symptoms, and the question perhaps could be answered better by looking at treatments as baskets of goodies. The exact combination that works best for you is a purely personal choice, made from standard options.
Take advice from us, take advice from other sufferers, learn lessons from what works for yourself. Find the options that best unlock pain relief for you and your life is there to be lived.
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References Used –
1. G J Macfarlane, C Kronisch, L E Dean, F Atzeni, W Häuser, E Fluß, E Choy, E Kosek, K Amris, J Branco, F Dincer, P Leino-Arjas, K Longley, G M McCarthy, S Makri, S Perrot, P Sarzi-Puttini, A Taylor, G T Jones (2015). EULAR revised recommendations for the management of fibromyalgia. Annals Of The Rheumatic Diseases.
2. Angela J. Busch, Sandra C. Webber, Mary Brachaniec, Julia Bidonde, Vanina Dal Bello-Haas, Adrienne D. Danyliw, Tom J. Overend, Rachel S. Richards, Anuradha Sawant, Candice L. Schachter (2011). Exercise Therapy for Fibromyalgia. Current Pain And Headache Reports.
3. Buse Keskindag, MSc and Meryem Karaaziz, MSc (2017) The Association Between Pain and Sleep In Fibromyalgia. Saudi Medical Journal
4. Dailey DL, Rakel BA, Vance CG, Liebano RE, Amrit AS, Bush HM, Lee KS, Lee JE, Sluka KA. (2013). Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation reduces pain, fatigue and hyperalgesia while restoring central inhibition in primary fibromyalgia.
5. JG McVeigh, H McGaughey, M Hall, and P Kane (2008) The effectiveness of hydrotherapy in the management of fibromyalgia syndrome: a systematic review. Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews.
6. Ginevra Liptan, MD (2016) Why I love Magnesium for Fibromyalgia!
7.Robert Bennett & David Nelson (2006). Cognitive behavioral therapy for fibromyalgia. Nature Clinical Practice Rheumatology.
8. Roderick Borrie PhD., Tamara Russell PhD. and Stefan Schneider PhD (2012) The Effects of Flotation REST on the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Float Summit 2012 in Gothenburg, Sweden
9. Ciro Conversano (2018) Fibromyalgia Today: The Importance Of Psychotherapy. Acta Psychopathologica
10. Adrienne L. Adler-Neal and Fadel Zeidan. (2017) Mindfulness Meditation for Fibromyalgia: Mechanistic and Clinical Considerations. Current Rheumatology Reports
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