There are currently only three FDA-approved medications for treating fibromyalgia, so many people opt to incorporate alternative medicines to help them handle fibromyalgia pain. Key elements in alternative options are exercise, relaxation, and stress-management. Things like acupuncture and herbal healing are also used to help alleviate fibromyalgia pain.
There is no “magic pill” to get rid of fibromyalgia symptoms – ultimately the best approach is a balanced life when it comes to sleep, exercise, and diet. For better sleep, have a regular sleep schedule, avoid alcohol and caffeine in the late afternoon, exercise regularly during the daytime, don’t nap during the day if you can avoid it or at least don’t nap for more than an hour, only use your bed for sleeping, create a dark, quite, cool environment in your bedroom, and do some sort of wind-down activity before bedtime such as taking a warm bath or listening to soft music.
There are some dietary supplements people take to help with fibromyalgia. One that may ease pain but mainly aids with sleep is melatonin. St. John’s Wort is taken by people with fibromyalgia, though direct effects on symptoms has not been proven. Magnesium supplements are often taken because it is suggested that low levels of magnesium contribute to fibromyalgia.
Acupuncture is a favorite go-to when looking for alternative treatments. Acupuncture is thought to rebalance the flow of energy through the body. In modern Western application, acupuncture increases blood flow. If this is true, then acupuncture, like exercise, would increase blood flow to the muscles and make them feel a little better. A 2006 study by Mayo Clinic appeared to concluded that acupuncture did temporarily reduce anxiety and fatigue in people with fibromyalgia, though other studies and further analysis of the Mayo study did not support this claim.
Another way to help relieve muscle pain and tension is massage. Massage not only relaxes muscles, but it improves circulation and range of motion and it encourages the body to release natural painkillers. There are even studies that support that massage improves mood and helps you sleep better. Formal studies aren’t conclusive on this front, but many people, even people without fibromyalgia, find they sleep better after a quality massage.
For a quick at-home treatment without exercise, you can ease pain in a specific spot by increasing blood flow to that area with an application of heat. You can use a moist heating pad, you can warm up your clothes in the dryer, and you can take a warm shower. On the other side of things, for the deep muscle pain of fibromyalgia aim for cold packs instead of hot.
There are a lot of other alternative approaches to pain relief out there, and there are more being investigated every day. A good way to learn new tricks is to find other people with fibromyalgia to talk to, either through the internet or a support group.
Organizations like National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association provide information and support for people with fibromyalgia to participate in clinical trials for alternative therapies (http://www.fmcpaware.org/clinical-trials2.html). Some of the ones being looked into are “Effect of Temperature on Pain and Brown Adipose Activity in Fibromyalgia,” and “Pain Outcomes Comparing Yoga Versus Structured Exercise.”