What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic rheumatic condition.
It is characterized by pain in the skeletal or musculoskeletal system at specific regions or points in the body.
Classic symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread joint and muscle pain, as well as fatigue.
A person suffering from fibromyalgia tends to experience consistent dull pain or tenderness in areas known as “trigger points.”
Some common trigger points include the elbows, knees, hips, the back of the head, the upper chest, and the top of the shoulders.
These points usually have a low pain threshold, and even light pressure can result in a lot of pain.
There may also be other symptoms; for example, one may experience a burning, twitching, or uncomfortable tightening sensation in the muscles — especially in the lower abdominal region.
Or, one might experience something known as “fibro fog,” which includes having trouble maintaining focus or remembering details.
Another common impact fibromyalgia might have is insomnia, or the inability to feel rested despite getting sleep, as well as overwhelming fatigue.
As a result, patients with fibromyalgia are also more likely to suffer regular headaches, and sometimes even develop depression or anxiety.
However, while these are the more frequently-occurring symptoms, fibromyalgia patients have also been known to be prone to several other issues.
Many patients report feeling the need to urinate more often, experiencing numbness or a tingling sensation in the face or limbs, and experiencing digestive issues such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
For some, sensitivity to light, sounds, and too-high or -low temperatures can also be a problem.
Finally, some may also experience dryness in their eyes, noses, and mouths.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world.
It affects around 10 million people in the United States alone, and an estimated three to six percent of the global population.
But despite this, doctors and researchers are still not entirely sure of what causes the condition.
Years of research have shed some light on the matter, however, so we can pinpoint several factors that could be likely contributors to fibromyalgia.
One such factor is genetics: it has been found that fibromyalgia is often seen within the same family — such as in siblings, or in mothers and their children (2).
This could be because some people carry the genes for the mutation that could lead to chronic pain, but this is a theory that hasn’t been conclusively substantiated.
Similarly, it is also often seen in people who suffer from an infection or joint problems such as arthritis.
Moreover, the medical community deems stress and trauma as other likely factors that can induce or worsen fibromyalgia.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been linked significantly to fibromyalgia, as has been unmanaged stress over the long-term (3).
A stress-heavy lifestyle or a traumatic event could cause hormonal changes that over the long-term create chemical imbalances; these then induce pain or an over-sensitive response to pain.
Just as stress, infections, and family history are risk factors, gender too poses a risk.
Fibromyalgia affects people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities.
But it disproportionately attacks women — in fact, an overwhelming 90% of its sufferers are women (4).
We could reason that this could be because of natural hormonal differences — for instance, it could be that higher testosterone levels in men provide a defense against pain — or because women tend to respond differently to stress or trauma.
However, we have to understand that research into fibromyalgia is limited, and we do not know for certain why it occurs.
Because of the lack of thorough understanding of what causes fibromyalgia, and because most symptoms cannot be objectively measured by a medical professional or a test or machine, the condition has stirred up some contention.
It frequently is misdiagnosed, and doctors confuse it with similar painful illnesses such as joint inflammation.
Even more unfortunate is that fibromyalgia has its (un)fair share of skeptics.
Many in the medical community do not consider it a legitimate illness, which is why patients may find difficulty not only in securing adequate treatment but also in receiving genuine support and respect from others.
However, we receive more and more insights into fibromyalgia each day, and there is a reason to be optimistic that we will soon be able to fill in the gaps in our understanding of it.
Natural Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can be excruciating to live with.
The symptoms affect the patient constantly and can be great hurdles to achieving life goals or even completing daily tasks to satisfaction.
For those in whom the symptoms are the worst and the pain is the most agonizing, fibromyalgia can become a terrible disability that prevents them from making a living or even moving too much.
Since we know so little about fibromyalgia and how it works, a cure hasn’t yet been found.
However, there are several treatment options that a patient could use to alleviate their suffering.
The traditional approach is to visit a doctor and get medication.
Since it is so easy to misdiagnose fibromyalgia, the most effective strategy would be to eliminate other conditions with similar symptoms.
Testing should be done in order to rule out other health conditions such as lupus, hypothyroidism, and arthritis.
Blood tests and x-rays can also help you and your doctor understand more about your hormone levels, bone health, and signs of inflammation.
If other conditions are ruled out, and your pain is sustained over a long period of time — usually, doctors will wait for at least three months of widespread and debilitating pain before making a diagnosis — you may get prescription drugs to help with the pain.
There are three drugs that are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia: duloxetine and milnacipran — which are antidepressants — and pregbalin — which is an anti-seizure drug.
You could also opt for over-the-counter options; pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen may be effective in suppressing pain, which is the central issue for fibromyalgia patients.
If you experience extreme pain, you might be able to get a heavy-duty painkiller such as tramadol through your doctor.
However, an important note, not only with the painkillers but also the prescription drugs, is that these have a lot of side effects.
Dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dryness — fibro drugs can sometimes exacerbate some of the very symptoms that fibromyalgia itself causes, while also adding some more of its own, such as weight gain, hypertension, and swelling (5).
Similarly, pain-killers — especially narcotic ones — can have negative side effects of their own.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, an important responsibility is for you to ensure that you take the drugs as prescribed, or in the case of OTC drugs, that you consult a medical professional for dosage and safety concerns before you begin taking them.
However, what you probably don’t realize is that there are alternatives to medication.
There are lots of ways in which you can try to suppress your fibromyalgia in ways that are natural and also conducive to your overall health.
These alternative treatments can be tried alone or in conjunction with medication if your pain levels are too high.
But these are all methods that have been attempted with successful results by other fibromyalgia patients, and they might work for you, too!
So — without further ado — let’s take a look at 25 natural treatment options for fibromyalgia.
Although stress may be a mental or emotional issue, it has a lot of physical repercussions.
Stress can be one of the causes of fibromyalgia in the first place since it weakens your body and makes it more susceptible to fibromyalgia symptoms.
Experiencing these symptoms can then aggravate your stress levels.
If you don’t put a stop to your stressful lifestyle as a fibromyalgia patient and take measures to manage it productively despite your pain, it is likely that your symptoms will only get worse.
A review of studies on the relationship between psychological stress and fibromyalgia finds that the effect of chronic psychological stress on certain endocrine axes and neurotransmitters does indeed correlate with fibromyalgia symptoms.
For example, decreased basal levels of growth hormone, IGF-I, serotonin, estrogen, and androgen can be seen in both chronic stress and fibromyalgia, along with increased levels of Substance P (6).
By addressing the causes behind your stress, and eliminating them as much as possible, you could help relieve your fibromyalgia symptoms.
From breathing techniques to finding creative and leisure outlets, there are many things you can do to reduce your cortisol levels.
Do not hesitate to enlist help if any of your social or professional responsibilities are causing your stress, and try out different methods through which you can get some peace of mind.
Put Comfort First
Fibromyalgia can make your daily life difficult, but it is important not to let that take a toll on your mental and emotional health since it will no doubt also worsen your physical symptoms.
In order to de-stress and lessen pain, ensure that you function within your limits.
It might be tempting for you to brave the pain and continue completing tasks like before, or to get medication to numb the pain.
However, planning your activities mindfully and asking for help when required can go a long way in helping to avoid that.
If you have a lot of tasks to complete over the week, plan them so that you go about doing them one by one or little by little, instead of in a rush.
If there are friends or family members who can help you with these errands, from a grocery run to jobs around the house, don’t hesitate to ask for their assistance.
Inside stores, ask for help if some items are too heavy to lift or move.
If your symptoms still prevent you from being comfortable, you can hire services such as online delivery services for groceries, ready-made meals, retail, pet-grooming, dry-cleaning pickup, etc.
Evaluate what you can do to make your life more manageable depending on your pain-levels and severity of symptoms, and don’t feel guilty implementing them.
Change Your Diet
Fibromyalgia patient or not, an unhealthy diet poses many health risks over the long term.
However, especially as someone having to deal with chronic pain, you should redesign your diet into a more health-friendly one if your current one is not fulfilling your nutrient requirements.
There isn’t a specific diet that you need to follow to relieve your symptoms — the general rule is just to eat a balanced diet.
Essential minerals, lean protein, probiotics, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids can particularly help against fibromyalgia.
This means that green vegetables, protein-rich foods and meats, fermented foods and cultured dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as drinks such as green tea and foods such as fatty fish and nuts/seeds, should feature prominently in your diet.
On the other hand, you will do well to avoid certain food items.
Some foods such as garlic, onions, artichokes, garden asparagus, baked beans, and bananas contain high amounts of fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols (FODMAPs).
A low-gluten diet too may help, since an underlying sensitivity to gluten — despite the absence of celiac disease — might be aggravating your fibromyalgia.
In one study, 90 subjects saw both reductions in pain and improvements in asthenia, gastrointestinal, and neurological symptoms after adhering to a gluten-free diet (8).
Similarly, avoiding packaged food with preservatives or additives, protein isolates, and foods/drinks high in sugar may help relieve pain symptoms (9).
Finally, excess alcohol and caffeine might cause mineral deficiencies and dehydration, further worsening your fibromyalgia symptoms.
Remember to drink enough water throughout the day, and limit alcohol or caffeine intake if you think your current consumption is impacting your fibromyalgia negatively.
Exercise is Your Friend
It is understandable that already being in so much pain, you’re reluctant to bring exercise into the picture.
However, you must realize that your exercise regime doesn’t have to mimic an athlete or celebrity’s, or even a regular fibromyalgia-free person’s.
Based on what you think is manageable, low or moderate-intensity exercise can help you quite a lot.
First and foremost, exercise is a way to manage stress.
Swimming, jogging, cycling — whatever you find the most helpful to manage stress, you should ensure you do regularly.
Even daily tasks such as gardening or cooking could help here.
Secondly, exercise has been found to be helpful in itself in addressing fibromyalgia symptoms.
One study from Germany observed 27 fibromyalgia patients after 12 weeks of a schedule with aerobic endurance exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling.
An additional 12 sedentary patients were used as controls.
The number of tender points in the body, pain thresholds, and painful body surfaces decreased in the participants that followed the exercise regime (10).
While light aerobic and strength-training exercises are generally safe to do, you should consult a doctor before you begin.
Set goals for yourself, and aim to achieve them slowly by working up every day.
Don’t forget to stretch and warm up to allow your body to get ready, and never push yourself too hard or too fast if your body isn’t complying.
Track your progress over time to evaluate the impact that a specific activity has on your symptoms.
And if you’re a beginner who feels like giving up, remember that muscle soreness will make the pain worse before it starts to get better.
Strive for Weight Loss
This step is not for every fibromyalgia patient.
Of course, if your body weight is already healthy, there is no need to aim for weight loss.
But if you are overweight or obese, shedding some pounds can lessen fibromyalgia symptoms.
Although the mechanisms underlying the obesity-pain sensitive link are not clear yet, studies have found that obesity is a risk factor for chronic pain and increased severity in visceral pain, and is associated with high prevalence of pain complaints (11).
A theory is that the mechanical load of extra weight puts pressure on bones and joints as well as soft tissue, thus increasing poor bone health and fibromyalgia among overweight and obese populations.
To add to that, a number of factors from medication to reduced mobility might further cause weight gain rather than loss, only worsening the problem.
Again, remember that you shouldn’t push yourself too hard.
Avoid on-trend diet fads such as extreme calorie control methods or high-intensity fat-burning exercise.
Instead, take it slow and steady.
With a healthy diet that fulfills all your nutritional needs and medium-intensity anaerobic exercises, you will be able to reduce weight in your own time.
Do stay away from greasy, fatty food, and high levels of sugars and carbohydrates.
Herbs have been in use since prehistory for medical and food purposes.
From the age-old practices of Indian Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine, adaptogenic herbs have been lauded for their benefits and used as major ingredients.
The beneficial qualities of these herbs have been substantiated through research, by which we know that these herbs help regulate bodily hormones in order to manage stress and fatigue, which are both likely causes and common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Furthermore, they help improve the immune system, enhance mood, and increase physical endurance and mental focus.
A systematic review of clinical trials on the effectiveness of herbs for fibromyalgia found that Chinese herbal medicine had positive effects compared to conventional medication.
Furthermore, these herbs caused no serious side effects (12).
Although there are numerous adaptogenic herbs that you can try, some popular ones for fibromyalgia are ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) and Rhodiola.
Reviews of clinical trials in rats and mice show that ashwagandha alleviates several fibromyalgia symptoms, including concentration problems, memory issues, inflammation, and joint pain (13).
One double-blind randomized controlled study concluded that “high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract can be used safely as an adaptogen in adults who are under stress,” since use resulted in lower perceived stress, depression, anxiety, and serum cortisol levels in comparison to the control group (14).
Similarly, Rhodiola rosea has been found to cause an anti-fatigue and anti-stress effect, while also potentially addressing other symptoms such as headaches, high blood pressure, irritability, and insomnia (15).
Try incorporating these herbs into your daily life for at least three months to see if they help with your symptoms.
If not, there are other adaptogenic herbs that could be beneficial.
However, do be careful if you’re on medication.
Some herbs — such as Rhodiola — do not interact negatively with medication, but others might (16).
Do research or consult a doctor before you start.
Get Adequate Rest
Sleep is important generally for overall health and well-being.
Unfortunately, one of the core symptoms of fibromyalgia is the tendency to experience sleep disturbance.
When you’re constantly in pain and under stress, it becomes difficult to get a full night’s rest.
This is why fatigue can become a general way of life for many fibromyalgia patients.
But one research study from the University of Cardiff in the UK finds that “sleep deprivation in healthy individuals can cause symptoms of fibromyalgia, including myalgia, tenderness, and fatigue, suggesting that sleep dysfunction might be not only a consequence of pain but also pathogenic” (17).
Therefore, poor sleep not only is a symptom of fibromyalgia but it effectively contributes to making it worse: since sleep deprivation impairs descending pain-inhibition pathways that are important in controlling and coping with pain, it makes you more susceptible to it.
Sleep medication is not ideal, although it may be necessary if all else fails.
However, before you try it, you can attempt a number of different techniques to help you sleep better.
Always going to bed at a specific time, keeping the room temperature optimal (perhaps on the chilly side, since many tend to fall asleep faster), and making your sleeping space comfortable might help.
Items such as soft pajamas and mattresses, weighted blankets, white noise or subdued calming sound machines, and more might make the process easier.
Similarly, following a relaxing routine such as taking a warm bubble bath or reading a nice bedtime book can help.
Some things to avoid are exercising too close to bedtime, drinking caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime, and being on your electronic devices too close to bedtime.
The exercises we mentioned above are great ways to deal with fibromyalgia, but another suitable form of exercise is yoga.
The great feature of yoga is that you can adapt it to your personal needs.
For instance, if one part of your body feels particularly tender, you have the flexibility to try less-challenging poses that do not use that body part as much.
After doing yoga for a certain period, you will feel yourself experiencing a lightness and improvement in mood and mobility.
In one pilot experiment by J. Hennard from Bright Path Yoga, 11 participants noted over 8 weeks of yoga that they felt less stiff, less anxious, and less depressed.
Moreover, significant improvements were also seen in the reported number of days “felt good” and the number of days “missed work” because of fibromyalgia.
Improvements were also seen in measures of pain, fatigue, and how the participants felt in the morning (18).
Even if you are a beginner or cannot do complex poses due to your pain, simple poses will help you work your muscles and also release of some of the stress that builds up inside you.
From the easy mountain and savasana poses to interesting and effective poses such as the cobra, warrior, or cobbler, there are tons of possibilities with which to experiment bit by bit.
If you cannot go to yoga classes or hire an instructor, it is also easy to find books, DVDs, and online videos on yoga specifically for fibromyalgia.
Get Regular Massages
Massage is a wonderful way to control your stress and ease the pain.
Massage, when done right, improves your body’s circulation.
When there is added blood flow to your affected regions, your muscles will get more oxygen and thus more tonicity.
The lethargy you feel in your muscles will fade, and you will experience added strength and vitality until your next massage.
But the great thing about massages is that they not only directly help your painful areas, but they also contribute to a more comfortable lifestyle overall.
A soothing massage in the evening can be a great way to improve sleep quality, for instance.
And massages have been shown to help with mental clarity, as well as with anxiety and depression.
There is no limit to how many massages you should get per week, but it should be managed depending on the severity of your symptoms and how much time and resources you have free.
To test its benefit, though, you should try massage therapy at least once a week from an expert.
And you can, at other times, always ask a friend or family member if need be.
Some popular massages for fibromyalgia are Swedish massage, reflexology, and cranial-sacral therapy.
The first one uses long strokes, kneading, and light variable pressure; reflexology applies pressure in short bursts on the feet and hands; and cranial-sacral therapy applies pressure to points on the skull and lower spine.
However, there are lots of other types of massage that may be better suited to your needs, and you should discuss these with your masseuse.
And no matter who’s giving you a massage, don’t hesitate to request lighter pressure application if you feel pain or discomfort.
Acupuncture is another alternative treatment for chronic pain that has been in use for thousands of years.
It involves the insertion of very fine needles into various points on the body.
The needles may be left inside the body for up to half an hour, and sometimes heat or electricity may be applied.
Acupuncture should be safe if you get it from a licensed expert who knows about the strategic points in the body, the depth of the different needles, and how carefully to insert and remove them.
Although acupuncture is based upon pre-scientific Eastern philosophy-based medicine, it does seem to have positive effects on some people.
Whether via an unknown mechanism, by releasing endorphins, by stimulating large nerve fibers so that small pain-receiving nerves are quelled, by affecting the body’s stress response system, or maybe even by just affecting people’s mind and blood flow patterns with the belief that acupuncture works, it has been found many times that acupuncture does work for some fibromyalgia patients.
To allow for the maximum benefit, you should ensure that your acupuncture therapy is being tailored to your needs.
In a research study led by Dr. Teresa Levia, patients were given tailored acupuncture for around 30 minutes each week for a year.
Compared to the control group’s 27% drop in pain, the participants who received tailored acupuncture reported a 41% drop in pain at the 10-week mark.
This difference continued throughout the study.
The study also found that general measures of anxiety, depression, and fatigue had also decreased for the tailored acupuncture group (19).
Essential oils, or concentrated aromatic liquids distilled from plants, have received a bad reputation in the scientific community.
However, as seen in their skyrocketing popularity in the beauty and comfort industry, people find that they do benefit them in several ways.
A few drops of essential oils can be added to a warm bath, can be added to a soaked towel as a warm or cold compress, or can be mixed with carrier oils or other moisturizers before massaging into the skin.
However, the method used most for aromatherapy is a diffuser.
You can buy an essential oil diffuser in which you add water and your oil, and it will give off the aroma steadily for hours before you need to refill it.
There are a lot of different essential oils available on the market.
You can select the ones you want based on your needs and smell preferences.
For pain relief, you should try basil, clove, cedarwood, lavender, ginger, peppermint, chamomile, clary sage, helichrysum, black pepper, petitgrain, or sweet marjoram oils.
There are studies confirming their beneficial effects.
For example, a study on mice with chronic muscle pain found that basil oil effectively lessened the pain, while a study on fibromyalgia patients found that 6 weeks of using capsaicin three times a day led to significant pain relief and improvements in overall well-being (20, 21).
Similarly, there are different essential oils that may help with stress relief, fatigue, sleep difficulties, and more.
Some, like lavender essential oil, are known to be helpful in every department.
A blend of different essential oils also has the potential to ease your symptoms.
A study by doctors from the University of Toronto revealed that using a blend of various (in this case, 24) essential oils for one month led to improved pain ratings and pain thresholds for all 153 participants (22).
Engage in a Creative Hobby
When you are constantly in pain, anything to take your mind off of the discomfort can help you lead a better life.
If you enjoy listening to music or playing an instrument, make time to do that every week.
If you like sketching, painting, or doing crafts, start personal projects for yourself to get lost in.
If you enjoy reading and writing, go ahead and do that!
For many things, such as dance and art, there are classes that you can find.
A lot of these classes also aim to help people suffering from anxiety, depression, or stress, which are common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
However, even if you cannot afford such classes, or cannot comfortably make your way to them, you can always do what you love best right at home.
The only thing for you to remember with this point is to understand your limits.
If you love dancing, modify your dance routines in a way that doesn’t cause you too much discomfort.
If you love gardening, avoid working in uncomfortable positions and take breaks.
As long as are feeling good and having fun, you’re doing it right!
Float tanks, having been used just since their invention in the ‘50’s by Dr. John C Milly, are only a recent popular alternative therapy for fibromyalgia.
The float tank is filled with water and heated to normal body temperature, and then saturated with Epsom salts.
Because of the salts, the user can lie back in the tank and float with ease.
Once the user enters the tank, they can turn off the lights and relax, with no outside stimulants.
An hour-long session can help the user reflect inward, forget distractions, and just refresh themselves and their bodies.
An article by Thomas H. Fine and Roderick Borrie discusses the positive effects of float tanks.
They identified that floatation therapy can decrease the indicators of stress, which include cortisol levels, muscle activity, and blood pressure (23).
Other studies, too, have found that pain due to muscle tightness can reduce significantly after several float tank sessions (24).
Much like the float tank, mindfulness meditation helps you eliminate distracting forces and focus inward.
Not only is cultivating mindfulness about expanding your insight and wisdom, but it is also an excellent mechanism for you to relax both mind and body.
Since mindfulness allows you to live in the present moment and respond to your thoughts and experiences with calmness and patience, you can limit flare-ups due to stress, and possibly relieve the severity of your pain as well.
This is backed by scientific studies, which show that mindfulness meditation over the duration of a couple months can reduce perceived stress and lessen the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms.
Improvements in sleep, fatigue, and pain levels were also seen in some people (25).
Due to such evidence, mindfulness meditation is best suited as a complementary treatment to fibromyalgia, preferably with other reliable techniques such as exercise and cognitive-behavioral therapy (26).
You will most likely be able to find mindfulness classes near where you live.
If not, you can learn how to meditate using books and internet sources in the sanctuary of your own home.
Physical therapy is often done in order to prevent or heal injuries and physical disabilities.
You may have noticed people with partial paralysis, people who have come out of surgeries, or athletes using physical therapy.
However, it may be highly beneficial when it comes to fibromyalgia, too.
A licensed physical therapist will have in-depth knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology, thus making them qualified to develop certain exercises based on your needs.
Specific stretching, strengthening, range-of-motion, and posture exercises will help loosen your muscles and make them more oxygen-efficient.
These exercises will also strengthen your joints.
According to a review of studies on the effect of physiotherapy on fibromyalgia, it “may reduce overloading of the muscle system, improve postural fatigue and positioning, and condition weak muscles” (27).
The best way to engage in physical therapy is to hire a trained specialist who can teach you the specific exercises that you need to improve your health.
Then you can repeat them daily or as needed in your home, and routinely report back with problems and improvement so that modifications may be made.
Your therapist might include hydrotherapy or deep tissue massage in your treatment if they see the need.
Living with fibromyalgia can be an isolating experience.
The medical community is still learning about the condition, and it can be difficult to explain your pain and discomfort to those around you.
But for many fibromyalgia patients, the emotional and mental burden of their illness further exacerbate the physical symptoms.
Therefore, reaching out to others and getting solace in the form of cognitive-behavioral or talk therapy can go a long way.
In most studies, CBT has been proven to provide worthwhile improvements in pain-related behavior, self-efficacy, coping strategies, and overall physical function (28).
While it may not be a powerful stand-alone treatment, it can be used alongside other techniques.
As a fibromyalgia patient, don’t keep all of your stress and pain to yourself.
Even in your day-to-day life, talk to others about how you’re feeling.
And if possible, get the help of a specialist who can guide your thoughts to the key problem areas in order to address mental blocks or the thoughts that most impact your ability to live a fulfilling life.
You don’t necessarily have to visit a psychologist or talk therapist or have them visit you.
There are many resources, such as talking on the phone or messaging a specialist, or even online guides.
In one study published in the Ochsner Journal, the experimenters found that patients who participated in a 6-week internet CBT group had a fewer number of tender spots and lower fibromyalgia impact overall at the end of the randomized trial, as compared to the control group that received only standard care (29).
Reiki is a form of alternative medicine developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui.
Based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and gives us vitality, Reiki is often doubted by skeptics.
There is no set protocol, setting or length of time to receive Reiki.
And anyone with training, even your own friends and family if they have the experience, can administer it.
However, to give it your best shot, you are best off trying Reiki with a professional practitioner.
The procedure generally involves you lying down fully-clothed, while the expert lightly applies their hands to your head and torso.
The touch is non-invasive and applied without pressure, allowing you to feel comfortable.
Some practitioners will also include the limbs in the procedure, and most will do so if you inform them that your limbs are also a painful area.
Some practitioners will not touch the skin directly but hold their hands very close to the surface of your skin.
Although the use of Reiki for fibromyalgia has historically produced mixed results, one review of clinical trials has revealed that there is a statistically significant impact on pain or anxiety or both (30).
Tai Chi is a centuries-old tradition from ancient China.
Having evolved from Buddhist and Taoist concepts, Tai Chi is a way for people of all ages and sexes to safely leave behind extra stress.
Basically, Tai Chi is a non-competitive martial art form.
But it is for more than self-defense since it has so many benefits, which include balance control, improvement in stretching and flexibility, and reduction in pain and depression.
Especially due to the last two benefits, Tai Chi is often lauded for its protection against fibromyalgia symptoms.
In one clinical trial following 66 randomly-selected fibromyalgia patients, all 33 patients who took 60 minutes of Tai Chi twice a week for 12 weeks felt that their quality of life had significantly improved and that their fibromyalgia symptoms had become less severe, compared to the control group, which was only involved in wellness training and stretching exercises for the same duration (31).
The participants of this study followed classical Yang Tai Chi, but there are four other types that you may prefer more.
These are the Chen, Wu(Hao), and Sun styles.
To embrace Tai Chi properly, you can enroll in a class or hire a one-on-one instructor.
Biofeedback is a way to gain control of the normally involuntary functions of your body, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and skin temperature.
It uses electronic monitoring to train you so that you can prevent or treat the conditions that arise when these functions operate out of balance.
Biofeedback is another one of those methods for which we don’t completely know the mechanism, but the basic assumption is that it promotes relaxation and trains the mind to be aware of what goes on inside the body, thereby improving overall outcomes.
The way biofeedback works is that electrodes are attached to different points on the body.
These sensors send signals to the monitor about your heart and breathing rates, blood pressure, skin temperature, sweating, and muscle activity.
You can view the changes that occur in real time, and then try to control your internal responses while simultaneously seeing them on the screen.
To control those responses, you will use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and mindfulness meditation.
Normally, you would have to go to the therapist’s office to do biofeedback sessions.
However, you could also have the machines set up in your own home if you wish to do so, or use computer programs to send the biofeedback sensor data to your computer at home.
The effectiveness of biofeedback for fibromyalgia seems promising: a meta-analysis of the efficacy of biofeedback in fibromyalgia found that EMG-BFB was effective for a (short-term) reduction of pain intensity in fibromyalgia patients, with a large effect size (32).
Forest bathing, also known as nature therapy, is the practice of taking a short, leisurely walk in the woods for health benefits.
Having originated from Japan where it is known as “shinrin-yoku,” forest bathing helps eliminate stress by exposing you to natural forest sights, sounds, and smells.
Forest bathing is only a recently-developed practice, having originated in the 1980s.
However, Japanese and South Korean research has found evidence of a lot of benefits from exploring the relaxing qualities of sylvan land.
A recent study from Spain found that an aerobic exercise program consisting of walking through a mature forest can provide the subjective perception of having fewer days of pain and insomnia and more days of wellness in patients with fibromyalgia (33).
Forest bathing can especially help with “fibro fog,” or the confusion that comes with fibromyalgia.
It can also help relieve depression, which many fibromyalgia patients develop after the onset of their condition.
It may not be possible for all fibromyalgia patients to access forest land nearby.
However, forest bathing isn’t necessarily about the amount of time spent in the woods or the frequency with which you visit.
If you have hiking trails or wooded areas available to you, you can make plans to visit on the days that you are free.
If you cannot hike, even sitting down and enjoying the woods can have sufficient benefits.
If you live far from forest areas, visiting a park or botanical gardens, or having some greenery in your backyard will provide similar benefits.
Stimulating forest sights, sounds, and smells from indoor items such as candles and noise machines may be helpful, too.
Marijuana has been in use for medicinal purposes for over 5000 years.
However, in recent history, it has become widely controversial both legally and in public opinion.
However, this is mainly because of the temporary mind-altering properties of marijuana that have earned its association with hippie culture and irresponsible hedonism.
In the past decade or so, acceptance of marijuana both as a safe recreational and as a medical drug has increased.
Since marijuana doesn’t neurologically impact adults and can help relax both mind and body while also promoting mindfulness, it is another treatment option for fibromyalgia patients.
Unlike with your medication or some other treatments, you can self-titrate with medical marijuana depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Since you can function well even after taking marijuana, it will not hamper you from going about your daily activities.
Instead, it will numb your pain and symptoms, allowing you to be freer.
There are many ways in which you can take medical marijuana, the most common of which is just smoking.
If you don’t enjoy smoking, however, you can try delicious edibles, tinctures, CBD oil, sublingual CBD spray, or cannabis pills.
Although you may be new to marijuana, don’t hesitate at least to try it out for yourself, since its benefits have been recorded on numerous occasions.
For instance, researchers at the University of Heidelberg published a study in Current Medical Research and Opinion in which they evaluated the analgesic effects of oral THC in nine patients with fibromyalgia over a three-month period.
The subjects who were administered from 2.5 up to 15 mg of THC reported both a significant reduction in daily recorded pain and electronically-induced pain (34).
In another observational, case-control trial from the Institut de Recerca Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, the authors reported that “Patients used cannabis not only to alleviate pain, but for almost all symptoms associated with FM, and no one reported worsening of symptoms following cannabis use,” and that “significant relief of pain, stiffness, relaxation, somnolence, and perception of well-being, evaluated by VAS (visual analogue scales) before and two hours after cannabis self-administration was observed” (35).
Get More Vitamin D
Although we have not yet established that a Vitamin D deficiency could increase susceptibility to fibromyalgia, it isn’t unlikely, given that vitamin D plays such a substantial role in bone health.
For this reason, researchers have found a correlation between low vitamin-D levels and fibromyalgia.
For example, one study found that 43% of women with fibromyalgia studied had the vitamin-D deficiency, compared with 19% of the control group which consisted of individuals who didn’t suffer from fibromyalgia (36).
Furthermore, in one clinical trial, 58 patients with chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain and vitamin-D deficiencies were administered 50,000 IU of Vitamin D3 weekly for three months.
While 30 of those patients qualified for fibromyalgia at the beginning of the experiment, only 20 still fit the criteria by the end.
And there were improvements in all participants in pain, physical weakness, energy, and depression, and 85% of the participants were satisfied with the treatment (37).
The most obvious way to get more Vitamin D is through more sunlight exposure — but that approach has an unfortunate catch, in that absorbing UV rays without sunscreen will create not only problems for your skin’s appearance but will also increase the likelihood of developing cancer.
Therefore, you may want to purchase vitamin D supplements, which are safe and readily-available on the market.
Even without supplements, though, you can boost your vitamin D levels by altering your diet.
Foods like fatty fish, certain mushrooms, fortified dairy, fortified cereal, fortified orange juice, egg yolk, liver, cod liver oil, and a range of other foods can help you increase your vitamin D levels.
Get More Magnesium
There is cause to think that a potential contributor to fibromyalgia is micronutrient deficiency.
Minerals such as magnesium, in particular, are missing in adequate amounts in most people’s diets because the agricultural soil is less nutrient-dense than it used to be, and trends in foods have changed to include fewer mineral-dense natural ingredients and water.
Since magnesium deficiency is linked to higher oxidative damage, it follows that such a deficiency could also create musculoskeletal pain symptoms if the system is impaired through free radical build-up.
In one study, it was found that “…magnesium levels were lower in fibromyalgia patients than in the control groups and there was a correlation between magnesium and VAS, the number of tender points, tender point index, the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire, the Beck depression and anxiety score, and clinical symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disorder, headache, numbness, and gastric disorders” (38).
Therefore, magnesium supplementation is a promising approach for many fibromyalgia patients.
Due to magnesium’s laxative effects and the body’s limited ability to absorb it after oral ingestion, it is better to apply it topically and allow the skin and muscles to soak it in.
You can and should still attempt to incorporate magnesium-rich foods that are also otherwise healthy in your diet, such as dark chocolate, certain fatty fish, avocado, nuts, legumes, tofu, and seeds.
But rather than investing in magnesium pills, try methods such as taking regular warm baths with Epsom salts, or purchasing magnesium oil, lotions, and moisturizers.
Manual Lymph Drainage Therapies
Manual lymph drainage therapy is a technique through which low-intensity pressure is applied to certain parts of the body in order to manipulate the lymphatic structures located in the subcutaneous tissues.
Just enough pressure is applied so that the subcutaneous tissues against the fascia, located between the skin and the muscles, are stretched.
But the pressure is light enough to ensure that the muscle tissue underneath that layer is not stimulated, unlike in traditional massage.
Since waste fluid buildup due to an impaired lymphatic system causes the pain and heaviness that may be one of the factors behind fibromyalgia, manual lymphatic drainage therapy helps patients by removing the waste from the affected area.
Many studies have substantiated the effectiveness of manual lymph drainage therapy for fibromyalgia.
To illustrate, let’s look at a Turkish study which analyzed and compared the effects of manual lymph drainage therapy (MLDT) and connective tissue massage (CTM) in women with primary fibromyalgia (PFM).
While both approaches yielded improvements in terms of pain, health status, and health-related quality of life, MLDT was found to be more effective than CTM for morning tiredness and anxiety and total improvement (39).
MLDT can be done with the help of an expert practitioner, or you can teach yourself or your friends and family members using online resources.
There are some supplements available that may help you with your fibromyalgia symptoms.
One of these is 5-HTP, which is a naturally-occurring amino acid and chemical precursor, as well as a metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Low serotonin is a cause of many fibromyalgia symptoms, including poor sleep, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Therefore, 5-HTP supplementation is a good way for some people to address those symptoms.
In one study, the efficacy and tolerability of 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP) were studied in an open 90-day study in 50 patients affected by primary fibromyalgia syndrome.
When all the clinical variables studied throughout the trial (number of tender points, anxiety, pain intensity, quality of sleep, fatigue) were compared with baseline results, they all showed a significant improvement (40).
If you are concerned about side-effects or reactions with medication, you can try increasing consumption of foods with the amino acid tryptophan, which the body uses to make 5-HTP.
Some examples are turkey, chicken, milk, potatoes, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, turnip and collard greens, and seaweed.
Another dietary supplement to try is SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine), which is a common cosubstrate involved in anabolic reactions, such as methyl group transfers, transsulfuration, and aminopropylation.
Similar to 5-HTP, SAMe appears to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain neurotransmitters linked to mood, concentration, pain control, and other important bodily functions.
Several studies point to its effectiveness, such as one from Denmark in which fibromyalgia patients who took 800 mg of SAM-e daily reported less pain, fatigue, and morning stiffness, improved mood, and fewer overall symptoms after six weeks of use (41).
Food sources of methionine include animal products (particularly fatty fish), raw sweet corn, raw fava beans, spinach, broccoli, garlic, mustard greens, green peas, cauliflower, bamboo shoots, soybean sprouts, asparagus, butter lettuce, and okra.
The 25 natural treatments for fibromyalgia listed above are all techniques that have worked and do work for different people.
That does not guarantee that they will all work for you.
Some of them might not be accessible to you — such as if you cannot regularly hire massage therapists or afford biofeedback sessions.
Some might be ill-advised — such as taking 5-HTP and SAMe supplements alongside antidepressants, or applying high-magnesium oil if you have very sensitive skin.
However, the point isn’t that you have to try every single one of these treatments, nor that they will all produce a significant enough improvement in your symptoms.
It is that a lot of these treatments are safe, within your grasp, and might prove very effective.
Whether in conjunction with medication or without, these alternative treatments can help you ease a lot of the fibromyalgia symptoms that have become a hurdle for you to enjoyment and self-fulfillment in your day-to-day life.
For best results, try your best to incorporate multiple items into your schedule.
Do not skimp on those treatments — such as a healthy diet, sufficient exercise, and getting adequate rest — that are some of the most effective ones as well as being steps that you should be doing anyway for your overall long-term health, regardless of fibromyalgia.
That said, if any of the other techniques prove ineffective, unsustainable, or too uncomfortable after having given it a fair shot — you can always drop that one and pick up another treatment.
Good luck on your journey toward less pain and more contentment.
I hope these natural treatments work wonders for you!
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.
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