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Fibromyalgia and Alternative Treatments

From acupuncture to chiropractic, from massage to meditation, alternative treatments are in great demand. That's especially true for people with pain-related illnesses such as fibromyalgia. Alternative medicine, including herbal therapy and homeopathy, is used in place of conventional medicine. These systems are based on the belief that the body has the power to heal itself with multiple techniques, including those that involve the mind, body, and spirit. Complementary medicine can be used in combination with conventional medicine.

Before you try alternative or complementary treatments, talk with your doctor. Check to see what limitations might apply to you. Working with your doctor, you can find an acceptable way to blend conventional medicine with alternative treatments or natural remedies. When you do, you may be able to increase restful sleep and reduce your fibromyalgia pain.

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Herbs and Supplements for Fibromyalgia

Managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia or related ailments is not easy. So, many patients turn to alternative therapies for relief of pain and sleep problems. They may use Chinese herbs or over-the-counter supplements such as 5-HTP, melatonin, and SAM-e. Because so many people -- not just those with fibromyalgia -- are using alternative therapies, Congress has formed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). It is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and...

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Can acupuncture treat fibromyalgia?

With acupuncture, a practitioner inserts one or more dry needles into the skin and underlying tissues at specific points. Gently twisting or otherwise manipulating the needles causes a measurable release of endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are the body's natural opioids. In addition, according to acupuncture practitioners, energy blocks are removed. Removing them is said to restore the flow of energy along the meridians, which are specific energy channels.

Studies show that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry. It appears to do this by changing the release of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses in the brain that relay information about external stimuli and sensations such as pain. In this way, the patient's pain tolerance is increased. One acupuncture treatment in some patients may last weeks to help alleviate chronic pain. A recent small study showed decrease pain and increased quality of life for fibromyalgia patients who had acupuncture therapy. More research is needed to see how effective this therapy is for treating fibromyalgia.

How can chiropractic care help fibromyalgia?

Chiropractic care is a very common alternative or complementary treatment for fibromyalgia pain. People use it to treat pain of pressure points, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, and pain from musculoskeletal injuries. Chiropractic treatment may be effective for fibromyalgia because it may reduce pain levels and increase cervical and lumbar ranges of motion.

Chiropractic treatment is based on the principle that the body is a self-healing organism. To reduce pain and increase healing, the doctor of chiropractic uses spinal adjustments. The goal is to increase the mobility between spinal vertebrae, which have become restricted, locked, or slightly out of proper position.

Chiropractors do this by using hand adjustments. With gentle pressure or stretching, multiple gentle movements of one area, or specific high-velocity thrusts, the adjustments are said to help return the bones to a more normal position or motion. This return is said to relieve pain and reduce ill health.

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