Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia, is it still really such a mystery? Is medicine the ONLY thing that helps alleviate the symptoms? NO! Read on for a list of alternative treatments that have been researched by the medical field and demonstrated some effectiveness.
I don’t know about you, but I continue to “hear” that the medical field is still confused about fibromyalgia – how to diagnose it, what causes it, how people experience it, how to treat it, etc. But is the medical field still really as confused as we think it is? An article titled, “New treatments for fibromyalgia syndrome,” in The Journal of American Medicine defines fibromyalgia as widespread chronic pain, associated with tender points throughout the body. It also cites data for the etiology, meaning it has strong familial genetic factors, environmental factors that trigger the genetic factor to turn on, and psychological and physical stressors/trauma that also trigger the underlying genetic factor to manifest. Unfortunately, the “stressors” run the gamut and cannot be pinned down as to whether or not someone experiencing a specific type of stressor will or will not experience fibromyalgia.
This study also cited evidence that the cerebrospinal fluid in people with fibromyalgia tends to show low levels of serotonin (serotonin affects the entire body and is responsible for mood, well-being, sleeping, eating, and digestion) and norepinephrine (responsible for mood, concentration, and also associated with blood pressure and the fight or flight response), as well as levels of glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter). In fact these levels in people with fibromyalgia were twice as high as the control group in the study.
Typical medical treatment for fibromyalgia involves one of these types of medications or a cocktail of them: anti-epileptics, anti-depressants, analgesics, muscle relaxants, and fatigue medications.
But isn’t this article about alternative treatments for fibromyalgia?
You’re right it is.
A systematic review published in the Journal of American Medicine found some evidence for the effectiveness of alternative treatments on relieving the symptoms of fibromyalgia. These complementary and alternative treatments include qigong, massage and tuina. Supplements that showed effectiveness in alleviating symptoms are NADH and magnesium.
A discussion in Arthritis.org addresses the notion that different treatments are going to work for different people – meaning that, unfortunately, there is no one answer for treating and relieving symptoms of fibromyalgia. Other options include exercise, while stressing the importance of starting slow and easy! My personal experience agrees with this – I’ve thrown myself into a two-week flareup by pushing myself too hard, thinking, “I can do this, I used to be able to do this no problem!” Don’t do that. When it comes to exercise, walking, swimming, and yoga are fantastic for people with fibromyalgia because you can start with the current condition of your body and work your way up in time, pace, and flexibility. These exercises are also very easy on the body and won’t create additional stress to cope with.
Stress reduction is cited as a major component of treating fibromyalgia since pain tends to be associated with stress. This is where the psychological component of the disease comes into play, and also where people (even some doctors too…) tend to get the idea that this disease is “all in your head.”
Remember that I mentioned above that psychological stress and trauma can trigger the expression of fibromyalgia?
The reason is we never learned how to express our emotions and thoughts in a healthy manner, and instead suppressed them, bit our tongue, swallowed it, pushed down and ignored it. In short, we never dealt with it. The energy of that emotion has been bouncing around the body and wreaking havoc this whole time. It never went away. It ate at you from the inside. And I want you to know that it’s not your fault either. If this is what happened, then you likely didn’t have someone to model emotion control for you. Not everyone in this world does, and this is where you can change and learn. Therapy is highly recommended to identify the emotions and thoughts that often precede a fibro flare. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tends to be the recommended style. In my practice, for my patients with chronic issues, I tend to utilize a combination of CBT, Somatic therapy, Mindfulness, and Depth Psychology to help clients fully understand their pain and how it manifests.
Biofeedback is another recommended treatment that helps you connect with areas of the body that hold tension. The machine involved lets you know when the muscles are tense so you can feel and recognize it on your own, and then practice relaxing them.
A book called, “Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Yoga”, discusses in depth diet and cleansing your entire digestive system 1-2 times a year. An anti-inflammatory diet is highly recommended, in essence removing all sugar and anything that turns to sugar when digested (i.e., gluten, dairy, and alcohol). I know. However, I’ve done several rounds of these diets myself and have felt 100% better afterward! Brain fog gone. Waking up early, even before my alarm clock, and hitting my yoga mat. Memory and brain clarity too. If you want to start one tactic right now, change what you’re eating; it requires no extra money from your budget – just a change aisles at the grocery store!
Other alternative treatments that help relax the body and ease anxiety are Reiki and acupuncture. Reiki is a form of energy healing where the practitioner works with life force energy, and your own energy to facilitate emotional and physical healing. Reiki works with the energy centers of the body, called chakras. It can be done in person or from a distance. John Hopkins research states, “Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system. This, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.”
To conclude, this short synopsis of alternative treatments have been found by research to be beneficial for fibromyalgia. The main thing here is to find what works best for you. Listen to your body and your intuition. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about trying new options in addition to anything already recommended. NEVER stop taking your medication unless directed by your physician; this can be very dangerous! Try something new and allow yourself to let go of old expectations.