Complementary Treatments for Fibromyalgia

People with pain-related illnesses such as fibromyalgia often look for alternative treatments to find relief and rest. Complementary medicine, like herbal remedies, traditional healers, and mind-body practices, might be helpful when combined with medication and other conventional treatments.

But the fact that something is called "natural" doesn't mean it's safe, or that it will work. If you want to try holistic or natural treatments, talk with your doctor about it to come up with an overall treatment plan for your symptoms.

Acupuncture

Gently placing thin, dry needles into your skin at specific points may trigger the release of endorphins, your body's natural pain relievers.

Studies show that acupuncture may change your brain chemistry so you have a higher pain tolerance. One session might ease pain for weeks.

Chiropractic

People use it to treat pain at pressure points, in their back, neck, shoulders, and other joints, and from headaches and injuries. It may make you hurt less and help you move your neck and lower back.

Chiropractors use gentle pressure or stretching, multiple gentle movements of one area, or specific quick thrusts to help return bones (often in your spine) to a more normal position or to move as they should. These adjustments can help your body work better mechanically and help nerve signals travel more easily.

Massage

Massage is one of the complementary therapies most highly rated by people with fibro. It can help ease pain, boost your mood, and lessen the need for pain medicines so you can feel and live better.

There are different styles, such as Swedish, deep-tissue, and neuromuscular. All involve stroking and pressing on muscles to release tension and soreness and improve blood circulation.

Biofeedback

The idea behind biofeedback is that you can use information about your body to learn to control stress.

Sensors detect muscle tension, heart rate, breathing patterns, how much you're sweating, or body temperature. When you make yourself relax, those readings change. And after you master this skill in the therapist's office, you can do the same thing in the "real world."

Biofeedback has been shown to help lessen tender point sensitivity and to improve functioning for people with fibromyalgia.

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Herbal Medicine

Some people do sleep better or have more energy when they take herbal supplements. Studies on whether they're safe and effective for fibromyalgia have been mixed.

Check with your doctor to make sure the specific supplement you want to use won't cause problems with any medication you're taking.

Meditation

When you meditate, your body switches from an alert "fight or flight" readiness to a calmer, more peaceful mood. Studies show that the practice produces brain waves associated with serenity and happiness.

Meditation gives you a break from daily stresses and can put you in touch with your spiritual side. It may help you feel more focused and less distracted.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on August 26, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS): "Fibromyalgia."

McIlwain, H. The Fibromyalgia Handbook, Holt, 2007.

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