Fibromyalgia Natural Treatment

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In light of substantial evidence suggesting fibromyalgia results from disordered pain processing within the body, the understanding of the nature of fibromyalgia has shifted away from previously held theories of musculoskeletal origins. In addition, a core set of symptoms that are common to most patients have been identified, including widespread pain, fatigue, sleep disruption, mood disorders, and cognitive dysfunction. Despite the improved understanding of fibromyalgia, its exact cause(s) remains elusive and there is no known cure.

Although a number of drugs have been approved in recent years for the explicit purpose of treating fibromyalgia, they do not treat all possible symptoms, nor do they work for all patients who try them (Mease et al., 2011). Research has shown that as many as half of all patients who are treated with common fibromyalgia drug therapies, such as Lyrica, Cymbalta or Savella, will require treatment with additional medications, alternative remedies or therapy. Unfortunately, recent research has shown that  as many as 82% of fibromyalgia patients may only receive treatment with one medication (Dussias et al., 2010). This suggests that most fibromyalgia patients do not get the most appropriate or effective treatment combination for their condition.

A majority of researchers agree that the most effective means of managing fibromyalgia is through an integrated, individualized, and multifaceted approach. For most fibromyalgia patients, this will involve a combination of medications, dietary supplements, alternative therapies, modifications to diet and lifestyle behaviors, and regular exercise. However, the most effective combination of these therapies will depend on individual patient characteristics, their symptoms, and their team of care providers (Culpepper 2012; Sarzi-Puttini et al., 2011; Arnold 2009; Mease et al., 2011).

Therefore, the most important thing to do when approaching treatment for fibromyalgia is to maintain an open mind and embrace the fact that an ongoing process of trial and error likely lies ahead. It is also vitally important to understand that what works for one individual may not work for another, so patients should not be discouraged when another patient’s “miracle treatment” fails to work for them. A large part of the trial and error process that epitomizes fibromyalgia treatment is the use of complementary and alternative therapies, as well as exercise and dietary modifications, in addition to standard drug therapies. Many alternative treatments have been tried by thousands of fibromyalgia patients, to varying degrees of success. Examples of these therapies include chiropractic, acupuncture, exercise, dietary modification, dietary supplementation, aromatherapy, light therapy, massage therapy, relaxation therapy, yoga, Tai Chi, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) therapy, biofeedback, guided imagery, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, Reiki therapy, polarity therapy, and reflexology. A brief discussion of the more widely used therapies is below; however, please refer to the menu listings in the left column of this page for articles that discuss each particular therapy option in detail.

Chiropractic therapy has not been shown to provide great benefit to fibromyalgia patients, although findings from research studies are conflicting and therefore generalizations regarding its effectiveness are difficult to make. Along similar lines, research regarding the use of acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia is also conflicting. While a few small studies have found improvements in self-reported measures of pain, fatigue, anxiety, and quality of life (Martin et al., 2006; Itoh & Kitakoji, 2010), a comprehensive review of published studies did not find any evidence to support a therapeutic benefit of acupuncture as a treatment for fibromyalgia (Martin-Sanchez et al., 2009). Other alternative therapies with potential use, but a lack of supporting scientific evidence, include aromatherapy (Chien et al., 2012; Rutledge & Jones, 2007) and light therapy (Pail et al., 2011; Terman & Terman, 2005; Prasko et al., 2010; Fulop et al., 2010; Dewan et al., 2011; Fahey & Zee, 2006; Watanabe et al., 2000).

Exercise is widely recommended to help manage the pain associated with fibromyalgia, as well as to improve sleep and relieve fatigue. It is important to tailor exercise regimens to the specific needs and abilities of each fibromyalgia patient. The majority of research supports the use of low to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise as the most effective modality. Examples of exercises that have been demonstrated to be effective at improving fibromyalgia symptoms include swimming, strength training, walking, and yoga (Busch et al., 2009; Busch et al., 2011; Hauser et al., 2010). Massage therapy may also provide temporary relief for some symptoms of fibromyalgia, primarily pain, stiffness, and fatigue (Kalichman 2010; Field et al., 2002; Sunshine et al., 1996). Research in non-fibromyalgia populations has also shown that massage therapy may help to improve back and neck pain (Furlan et al. 2008).

In addition, some research suggests that adhering to a strict vegetarian or vegan diet may also help to improve many symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, including pain, overall wellbeing, stiffness, and sleep quality (Donaldson et al., 2001; Hostmark et al., 1993; Kaartinen et al., 2000). It is important to note, however, that only a small number of studies have been conducted in this area, all of which were limited in scope and evaluated small numbers of patients. As such, additional research in larger groups of patients is needed to corroborate these findings.  

Beyond dietary modifications, a wide variety of dietary supplements are often used by fibromyalgia patients. While some have demonstrated considerable efficacy at treating various symptoms and conditions associated with fibromyalgia – including melatonin for sleep disturbances, St. John’s wort and SAMe for depression, and ginko biloba for cognitive impairment – other supplements have shown more controversial findings in research studies, and are also potentially more dangerous to use due to the risk of serious side effects and drug interactions (such as GHB and 5-HTP). However, fibromyalgia patients may also benefit from more benign vitamin and mineral supplements such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and magnesium. In addition to those mentioned, there are many hundreds of other types of dietary supplements that some patients will find helpful.

Fibromyalgia patients need to focus on the reality that maximizing a reduction in their symptoms is not going to be easy nor is it likely to be possible simply through taking a pill. Combination treatment efforts will yield the best result. What combination will work best? Only the patient can determine this for themselves over time as each patient is likely to respond to alternative treatment options in different ways.

When an individual suffering from Fibromyalgia chooses to refrain from trying alternative remedies and therapies, either through a lack of understanding and knowledge or based on erroneous feedback from a care giver lacking in specific Fibromyalgia expertise, they are in effect dramatically reducing the overall impact their treatment efforts can possibly provide. The reality of Fibromyalgia is that getting better will most likely require employing treatment options from a wide variety of fields and methods. Embracing this reality and implementing a systematic approach to researching and testing different alternative remedies and treatment possibilities is the fundamental basis for developing a effective individual treatment program.

Our website offers dozens of research based articles about Fibromyalgia natural treatment, we urge you to review the topics in the menu in the left column and start learning about which options may be best for you today!

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References

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