Fibromyalgia Alternative Treatments

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 28, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on October 28, 2014

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complex and poorly understood disease. People with fibromyalgia experience fatigue and muscle pain. The goals of treatment for fibromyalgia are to reduce muscle pain and stiffness, improve sleep, and teach patients to recognize and reduce stress. There are alternative treatments that show promise, but the results of studies are mixed and there is still a need for high-quality research to be done.

However, many people have had success in using alternative treatments for many conditions, including fibromyalgia. Before trying any alternative treatments, you should check with your doctor to be sure that the methods are safe and right for you.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into points on the body. The purpose, according to the traditional practitioners of this technique, is to balance the flow of a form of energy called “chi” through the body. Acupressure is similar, but applies pressure to the same points rather than using needles and can be self-administered.

Acupuncture and acupressure have gained greater popularity and availability in Western cultures for many years now. Modern scientific analysis of the practice suggests that in acupuncture, the thin needles inserted into particular areas of the skin somehow leads to the release of chemicals in the body that may have beneficial effects on numerous conditions including various painful conditions including fibromyalgia. According to the Mayo Clinic, some studies show these methods to be effective in pain treatment. However, other studies show no benefit. They may be able to reduce pain and improve sleep for some people, but effectiveness of acupuncture and acupressure is unclear.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care uses various techniques to correct misalignment of the spine and other joints in order to relieve pain and other symptoms. Chiropractors may also incorporate stretching and massage techniques.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that teaches you to focus on the present moment. It often incorporates relaxation techniques, deep breathing, and yoga-style stretching. By focusing on the present moment, some patients can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. A study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics suggested that this type of meditation could possibly reduce pain for women with fibromyalgia and help them better cope with the anxiety and depression associated with the disorder.

Herbs and Supplements

Several over-the-counter herbs and natural supplements have shown promise for reducing stress and promoting sleep. However, these options often have side effects and could interact with other prescription drugs you are taking. Always speak with your doctor before adding a supplement to your treatment plan.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral found in many foods. It is suggested that fibromyalgia patients tend to lack the right amount of magnesium. A lack of magnesium can also disrupt nerve function, exacerbating pain.

The findings on fibromyalgia and magnesium are mixed. Some studies suggest that magnesium supplements help alleviate some symptoms of fibromyalgia, while other research indicates that it doesn’t.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone the body uses to regulate sleep cycles. It’s produced after exposure to light and released during the dark evening hours. Melatonin may help people with jet lag and insomnia, but evidence for its ability to improve sleep in fibromyalgia patients is unclear. According to the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA), some have reported it helping with sleep. However, melatonin can cause a number of side effects, including grogginess, low sex drive, depression, and headaches. Additionally, melatonin should not be taken by anyone with an accompanying autoimmune disorder, as it may stimulate inflammation in these people.

Valerian

Valerian is an herb that can improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and relax muscles. There have been no studies of valerian use for fibromyalgia, but it has shown promise for other diseases. It may help people by aiding in relaxation, leading to better sleep and less tense muscles.

No matter what type of treatment you choose, discuss it with your doctor first. Though alternative medicines are often marketed as risk-free, even herbs have side effects. Discussing your options with your doctor will help ensure you are making a healthy choice.

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