Safe and Effective Methods for Fibromyalgia Relief

If you suffer from Fibromyalgia then you’re all too familiar with the symptoms. Constant dull aching pain, extreme tiredness, trouble concentrating, and perhaps even depression – all things you might experience for months or even years.

Fibromyalgia can affect anyone at any age, but it occurs more commonly during middle age. Overall, the disorder affects women 2x more than men. A history of stress, accidents, or injury can increase your risk for developing Fibromyalgia.

Just because you suffer from Fibromyalgia, it doesn’t mean you can’t lead a productive life. Having an understanding of the disorder makes a difference. Let’s take a look at this problem and what sort of relief options are available. Later, we’ll look at the latest research being conducted in the treatment of Fibromyalgia.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia can be thought of as a syndrome or cluster of problems. The central hallmark of Fibromyalgia is widespread musculoskeletal (muscle, bone, and body) pain. If you have experienced this kind of pain for more than three months – with no obvious explanation – then there’s a good chance you have Fibromyalgia.

The symptoms of Fibromyalgia may include:

  • Widespread body pain and/or stiffness for more than three months, on both sides of the body.
  • Fatigue and tiredness even after sleeping. Sleep may be disturbed by pain or other problems like sleep apnea.
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Tingling in hands or feet
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Stomach pains

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Nobody is 100% sure about the cause of Fibromyalgia, but there are many theories behind the disorder. For example, some evidence appears to show a genetic component, that is, Fibromyalgia can run in families. Other research indicates that infections may be a part of what causes, or worsens, Fibromyalgia symptoms. Finally, there seems to be a strong link with emotional stress for those that suffer from the disorder.

Research also points towards the possibility that a specific brain chemical, called serotonin, is low in people with Fibromyalgia. Still, medications that treat this chemical imbalance don’t seem to treat the disease completely. The current consensus is that Fibromyalgia is probably caused by a variety of factors. Also, the disorder may not be due to the same cause(s) in all people.

Treatment of Fibromyalgia

The treatment of Fibromyalgia is complex. Part of the problem is that no one is sure exactly what causes the syndrome. Also, different people react to different treatments, and none of them work for everyone. Finally, even in one person with Fibromyalgia, a treatment that worked in the past may lose its effectiveness over time. In many cases, the treatment of Fibromyalgia is by trial and error. However, there are some basic treatments that many doctors and patients find successful.

Pain Medications

In most people with Fibromyalgia, some kind of pain medication is typically used during the course of the disease. The drug categories are:

  • Over the counter or prescription strength Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, or Naproxen
  • Non-narcotic prescription pain medication such as Tramadol
  • Narcotic medication – These medications are usually not prescribed due to their highly addictive potential.

Antidepressant Medications

As we mentioned earlier, Fibromyalgia can be associated with low brain serotonin levels. This might be part of the reason some people find relief from Fibromyalgia when treated with Duloxetine (trade name Cymbalta). One of the effects of this drug is that it leads to increased brain serotonin levels. Other antidepressants may be used, and it’s not clear if relief comes from a direct biochemical response. Another explanation could be that if you are not as depressed, the pain might not bother you as much.

Anti-Seizure Drugs

Some doctors treat Fibromyalgia with medications also used to treat seizures. Examples of drugs in this category are Gabapentin (Neurontin) and Pregabalin (Lyrica) which was the first drug approved by the U.S. FDA to treat Fibromyalgia.

Other Methods of Relief for Fibromyalgia

Given the complexity of the disorder, many differing opinions have arisen regarding the best methods for Fibromyalgia relief beyond medication use. Although the evidence isn’t conclusive, the following are methods some people have found helpful.

Physical Therapy

For the best results, it helps to find a physical therapist with experience in treating people with Fibromyalgia. There are some reports that the following treatments might bring some relief to your symptoms:

  • Cardiovascular exercise – This could include running, jogging, or other aerobic exercise.
  • Physiotherapy – This is comprised of special exercises, movements, massages, and local heat.
  • Cryotherapy – Therapists apply extreme cold to parts of the body to relieve pain. It may work by affecting the nerves that sense pain.
  • Trigger point injection – Specific areas of pain are injected with a local anesthetic, saline, or corticosteroid (“steroids”).
  • Massage therapy – Certain parts of the body are rubbed and manipulated to bring relief.
  • Acupuncture – Very thin needles are inserted into the skin. This possibly acts upon nerve endings or trigger points.
  • Biofeedback – By applying sensors to your muscles, this treatment trains you to be more aware of muscle tension.
  • TENS – Stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. This method delivers low voltage electricity through electrodes connected to the skin. The reason this works may be similar to trigger points and acupuncture.

Stress Reduction

Due to the fact that Fibromyalgia has an emotional element, stress reduction techniques may also help decrease your symptoms. Some stress reducing modalities include:

  • Controlled breathing – Involves taking long slow breaths in and out, with pauses in between. Concentrate on the act of breathing to reduce stress.
  • Muscle Relaxation – This method has you contract and then relax a specific muscle in your body one at at time (hand, arm, leg, stomach, face, etc.). You tighten the muscle hard for about 10 seconds then relax for 10 seconds. Focus on the muscle being contracted and releasing tension.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Involves coaching by a mental health therapist to help you change how you perceive and react to stress.
  • Relaxation techniques – This can include repetition of words, phrases, thoughts, or movements. Some variations of this may be yoga or mindful meditation.
  • Psychological Counseling – Being able to talk to a mental health specialist may help with Fibromyalgia symptoms and identify areas of stress in your life.

Online Support Groups

Support groups may not lead to you being free from Fibromyalgia symptoms, but sharing your struggles can be a great help. Also, people usually share unorthodox ideas of how to cope with the disorder. You might find that what works for others, works for you too. Some popular online groups are Fibromyalgia Forums and Fibromyalgia Support Group.

Ongoing Research

Doctors and researchers are constantly trying to figure out how to cure or relieve Fibromyalgia. Some of the current research points towards these factors as having a potential impact:

  • Sleep – Due to the associated sleep disorders, getting adequate rest seems to be central to Fibromyalgia treatment. Adjusting the timing of pain relief medications and practicing good sleep hygiene may make a big difference. Cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on sleeping habits may also be important.
  • Swimming – This exercise has been known to relieve many musculoskeletal problems. New research shows that swimming may be beneficial to Fibromyalgia as well. The mechanism of relief may be both physical and emotional, as exercise helps your body and lifts the mood.
  • Oxygen Therapy – Some newer research shows that high pressure oxygen might provide people with relief from Fibromyalgia. In the study, some patients were able to discontinue their pain medications completely. The treatment is complex as it involves using a special oxygen chamber (hyperbaric). However, research in this area may pave the way to future breakthroughs about the effect of oxygen on fibromyalgia.
  • Vitamin D supplements – One study showed that vitamin D supplements may provide partial relief to pain associated with Fibromyalgia. The promising aspect of this treatment is that vitamin D is low cost. Plus, the vitamin does not have the side effects or risk associated with other medications used to treat the disorder.

Conclusion

Fibromyalgia is a complex cluster of symptoms that affects millions of people worldwide. Even though the cause and cure have not been identified, there are safe, effective treatments. Sometimes the pain from Fibromyalgia can decrease or go into remission, but it may return again. Effective treatment often involves a medical team effort and significant patient support and education.

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Resources:

The genetics of fibromyalgia syndrome. Pharmacogenomics. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17187510

Fibromyalgia and the serotonin pathway. Alternative Medicine Review. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9802912

CDC – Fibromyalgia Fact Sheet – https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm

Mayo Clinic – Fibromyalgia – http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/basics/definition/con-20019243

Physical therapy in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Scandinavian Journal Of Rheumatology. – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/030097400446706

A Controlled Study of a Stress-Reduction, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Program in Fibromyalgia – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J094v02n02_05

Development of the Pain-Related Beliefs and Attitudes about Sleep (PBAS) Scale for the Assessment and Treatment of Insomnia Comorbid with Chronic Pain. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2016; 12 (09): 1269 DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.6130

Swimming Improves Pain and Functional Capacity of Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2016; 97 (8): 1269 DOI: 10.1016/j.apmr.2016.01.026

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Diminish Fibromyalgia Syndrome – Prospective Clinical Trial. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (5): e0127012 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127012

Effects of vitamin D on patients with fibromyalgia syndrome: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. PAIN®, 2014; 155 (2): 261 DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.10.002

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6 Comments

  1. I’m a sufferer. Plant based diet(directly Quinoa and Amaranth – high in Tryptophan) help me to deal with this desease. And also your tips how to stretch and strenghthen my muscles. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. God bless you.

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    Rick Kaselj Reply:

    Hello Dagmar Meinen! This is Laramie of EFI. That’s really healthy and delicious! Keep up the good job on healthy eating. About Rick’s tips on stretching, that’s good to hear that your muscles shows big improvement and it feels good to know! Thank you for your wonderful comment and have a nice day! 🙂

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  2. Aloha,
    As one who has been dealing with FMS probably most of my life, most medically disabling since 2000, I have been researching & practicing that which has helped me.

    “Thought Field Therapy” with a psychotherapist, psychologist or someone specifically trained in trauma & FMS, as well as EFT (other Tapping techniques on energy meridians) are both helpful, to deal with daily stress of FMS & prior traumas.

    Breathing techniques, Qi Gong, Tai Chi & other gentle movement (with focus on our body sensations, from the inside-out) are also very helpful.

    For those unable to walk or do aerobic exercises – gentle stretches are important. Even moving in bed helps! (I have been bedbound off & on for years – since 8/00, so I know the importance of building muscles gently!)

    Most important is not buying into the idea “It’s all in your head!”.

    Just because Allopathic (Western medicine) doesn’t yet have a cure for FMS doesn’t mean we are crazy.

    I have experienced both sides – having Medical Doctors refer patients to me, to Psychiatry (now called Behavioral Medicine) as they could not help people with FMS.

    And, I developed Disabling FMS myself, after working 3 jobs for years, surviving many traumas (childhood through adulthood), serious car accidents, 2 bouts of breast cancer, numerous falls & injuries. (Do I sound weak? An emotional wreck? Heck no! I survived!)

    Please do not judge yourself if you have FMS. That others may not understand your need for more alone time, that it may take longer to get things done… whatever the outer world criticizes – DO NOT take it on!

    Be gentle with yourself. YES, do move more. If it hurts too much to swim, stand in the water. Move gently. If you cannot stand, sit. If you cannot sit, lie in bed, breathe!

    Eat organic & healthy. Find out what “eating healthy” is for you! (It is different for different people. Some do great on a Vegan or Vegetarian diet. Others do very well on Paleo.

    I can state from personal experience that the SAD – Standard American Diet – of fast foods, boxed items, does NOT work).

    I have found that I do better gluten/grain-free & dairy free. No sugar.

    Hard? Absolutely. Do others try to have me “Just have a bite, it won’t hurt!” YES. And, it does hurt, as the addictive process of those foods kicks in – with just a small bite. Sugar is harder to kick than cocaine.

    Do I feel better when I am off those foods? OH YES! Does it take discipline, preparation (bringing foods I can eat with me), & self-love: Absolutely!

    Do others understand? (They didn’t back in the 80s when I 1st realized gluten wasn’t my friend. Thankfully, now there is more education available).

    I also developed very strong chemical sensitivities – to all fragrances, cleaning products, chlorine bleach, etc, etc, etc.

    Very challenging to be around perfume, cologne, laundry detergent, etc. I can walk into an elevator & gag, get nauseated & a strong headache due to the chemicals of someone’s strong perfume. Every symptom increases. YUCK. So, I wear a mask to help diminish that ugly influence. (Is it in my head? Heck no. I go into places expecting clean air – can smell cigarette smoke a ways away. And get sick from it. Some of you will understand. Others won’t. That’s fine. We each have our own experiences.)

    I now use very pure essential oils to support my body. Something my regular doctors have no clue about (bless them, it is not a part of Medical School!)

    Healing from FMS takes personal responsibility. Unfortunately, meds don’t always work for people. I am one who has tried the ones mentioned in the article, with too many side effects & not enough benefit.

    PLEASE KNOW:

    We can heal! It does take a commitment to moving forward, to healing our past, to forgiving ourselves, the medical profession & all others that judge us (including ourselves).

    It takes lifestyle changes.

    And the healing may take forms we never dreamt of – e.g. coming to peace with our limitations… or, actually shedding those limitations.

    We just don’t know what is possible. To expect too much from ourselves is adding insult to injury.

    Let us be gentle with ourselves… And know, each moment, we do our best (as do those in the Medical Profession).

    We all do our best.
    Let us have compassion. And get support with people who do understand!

    Gentle hugs…

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    Rick Kaselj Reply:

    Thank you LuSana for sharing this! All the best…

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  3. P.S. Having suffered from Insomnia since childhood, the suggestions for good Sleep Hygiene are excellent.

    Turn off your computer, TV, Cell phone.
    Have a nightly ritual to wind down.

    Sleep in a comfortable place – with as many pillows as you may need, with soft lighting (or none at all).

    Do meditation or deep breathing before sleeping. Let go of the day.
    Allow yourself to relax into your bed, no matter your pain level…
    Relax. Breathe deeply.

    Allow yourself to rest…

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    Rick Kaselj Reply:

    Thank you for sharing LuSana!

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  4. Please explain the pictures focusing all around the neck CV, and upper back region TV…? While the text never truly mentions that region specifically? Makes itlook like all pain is in that region.

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    Rick Kaselj Reply:

    Hi Bo! This is Muriel from EFI. In the photo focusing on the neck, collarbone and upper back region, shows some of the tender points present in people with Fibromyalgia. It’s true that some have pain in those areas. Here is a photo of the 18 tender points (9 pairs) in the body:
    http://img.webmd.com/dtmcms/live/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/media/medical/hw/h9991611_001b.jpg

    In order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you have to have at least 11 out of the 18 tender points, for at least 3 months.

    I hope that answered your question. Take care! 🙂

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  5. Yes, please explain the picture focusing on the neck. I have fibromyalgia and 95% of my pain is from the hip down. I NEVER get any pain in my shoulders, yet I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The rest of my pain like stiff hands is probably normal aging. I’m almost 49 yrs old. I had to stop walking on my treadmill, because I get excruciating bone pain in the legs when I walk. I cannot stand for long periods either. And,I can’t run 10 steps without my bones feeling like they are being pounder by a hammer. My problem is basically the lower body. So I’m not sure how I have fibromyalgia when it’s not widespread. No treatment has worked for me. It doesn’t matter what I eat. I am not on any medications, lyrica, gabapentin, and methocarbomol did absolutely nothing for me, except give me unwanted side effects. I just use 2 advils occasionally when I get pain. I refuse to try any antidepressants. I have used them in the past and the side effects were worse than the depression. I don’t suffer from depression anymore, thanks to prayer, and faith in the almighty God.
    God bless you!

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    Rick Kaselj Reply:

    Hi Kim! This is Muriel from EFI. To be able to be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, you have to have at least 11 out of the 18 tender points in the body, for 3 months.Here is a picture of the 18 tender points (9 pairs) in the body:
    http://img.webmd.com/dtmcms/live/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/media/medical/hw/h9991611_001b.jpg

    Also, other usual symptoms of FM are memory changes, mood changes and chronic fatigue. If you think you have another condition, you may want to have a second opinion, since most of your symptoms are chronic pain and difficulty walking.

    I would suggest you go see a neurologist just to rule out other possible conditions, just in case you’re wondering. That’s all. Take

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  6. Thanks for the reply. I have tender points throughout my body. But only a few are on the areas on the charts, and not as much as 11. The rest are outside the areas listed on chart.

    I have seen many doctors over the last 6 years including a neurologist, and they all say fibromyalgia regardless of how many tender points I have, because on paper(tests) there is nothing they can find wrong with me.

    I have chronic fatigue, mood changes, memory problems, trouble focusing, insomnia, sleep disturbances, tight calves, no stamina, i get exhausted washing dishes or changing the sheets on my bed. Mid back pain if I start sweeping, or bending over the sink etc. Sometimes I wake up tired like I haven’t slept in days and some days i feel like a have the flu and someone beat me with a baseball bat and then a truck ran over me!

    However I stress again, I never get pain in the shoulders or shoulder joints outside of normal pain like from working out. I get pain and stiffness in my right wrist occasionally from a fracture I got when I was 11. I also suffer right hip and right knee pain, both from injuries. 3 falls to the hip, and one twisted knee when my knee slid across in the shower in 2010. (one of the reasons I can’t run, walk, on the treadmill, jump or stand for long periods).

    I’m not sure what to think anymore. I have no other explanation but fibromyalgia, yet I can’t help feeling that my diagnosis is off the mark.

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