Alternative Therapies for Fibromyalgia

At some point during your fibromyalgia treatment, you may decide to try a complementary or alternative fibromyalgia treatment. Herbal remedies and dietary supplements are some of the many complementary and alternative treatments people use to try to relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Herbs and supplements as fibromyalgia treatments may not work for everyone, although some people may find them effective. If you decide to try an herb or supplement as a fibromyalgia treatment, be sure to talk with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you. Even though they're often labeled as "natural" products, herbs and supplements can cause serious side effects and interact with other drugs you may already be taking. Unlike drugs, herbs and supplements don’t have to receive FDA approval for effectiveness before they can be sold. In addition to talking with your doctor, it’s important to learn as much as you can about any alternative therapy before using one.

Although studies about the effectiveness of herbs and supplements are limited and overall evidence has been inconclusive, researchers are beginning to research them more. Some small studies have been promising, but many study results have been mixed. In most cases, larger and controlled studies are needed.

Research is ongoing, but here are just a few of the herbs and supplements that people have tried to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms:

Capsaicin. Capsaicin is an extract of chili peppers that is applied to the skin in a cream. In a small study, capsaicin found to help relieve in people who has severe fibromyalgia for up to 6 weeks. Side effects can include redness and slight stinging or burning on the skin.

Magnesium and malic acid supplements. Researchers are working to see if low magnesium levels increases fibromyalgia symptoms and if supplements can help.

SAM-e (S-anenosylmethionine). SAM-e is a substance that occurs naturally in the body. It has been studied in many clinical trials over the past 20 years in patients who have joint pain and osteoarthritis. These studies have found that SAM-e may be as effective in relieving pain as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin. SAM-e is used as a drug in Europe, where many of these studies have been done. One U.S. study in patients with osteoarthritis found that SAM-e reduced pain and improved joint function as effectively as Celebrex, a type of NSAID. In addition, new research has found that SAM-e may also help reduce the symptoms of depression, another common fibromyalgia symptom. SAM-e may interact with some medications for depression, so be sure to talk with your doctor about drug interactions before trying it. Other reported side effects include upset stomach, dizziness. headache, nervousness, and trouble sleeping.

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St. John’s wort. This herb may not help with your fibromyalgia pain, but some people use it to ease the depression that may accompany fibromyalgia. Studies have shown that St. John’s wort may help improve mood and reduce the insomnia and anxiety common to depression. Some studies have found St. John’s wort as effective in treating mild to moderate depression as some antidepressant drugs. However, it may not be as effective in treating more severe depression. St. John’s wort can interact with many other medications, so be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before using it.

Valerian. Some researchers believe valerian root may help with the sleep disturbances common with fibromyalgia. Most research suggests that taking valerian decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the quality of sleep in the majority of people with insomnia. 

Vitamin D supplements. Well-known for supporting bone strength and bone health, vitamin D is also being studied for its use in treating other conditions, including fibromyalgia. Some studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia who have low vitamin D levels will have less pain when using a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is generally safe in recommended amounts for most people and rarely causes side effects when taken in recommended amounts.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 26, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Arthritis Foundation: ''Frequently Asked Questions About Fibromyalgia.''

NCCAM: ''Using Dietary Supplements Wisely.''

Arthritis Foundation: ''Supplements for Your Condition.''

De Silva. Rheumatology, 2010.

MedlinePlus: “Magnesium.”

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: ''Fibromyalgia and CAM: At a Glance.''

MedlinePlus: ''St. John’s wort.''

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: ''Valerian.''

Arthritis Foundation: ''A Doctor's Herbal Prescriptions.''

MedlinePlus: ''Vitamin D.''

Plotnikoff, G. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, December 2003.

Damanhouri, L. Saudi Medical Journal, October2009.

Tandeter, H. The Israel Medical Association Journal, June 2009.

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