If you're living with fibromyalgia, you might think that relief only comes from the bottle - your medicine bottle, that is. But studies have found that a combination of medical and non-medical therapies work best to quiet fibromyalgia pain.
What's meant by non-medical therapy? Well, it includes how much or how little you exercise, how much you sleep, nutrition, even your attitude toward pain. Perhaps a better term might be "lifestyle therapy."
Studies also have found that "complementary" medicine may help. Also known as complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, these take a more holistic approach to managing fibromyalgia pain. CAM's overall effectiveness varies, and people who use CAM should do so only in consultation with their physician.
And remember, it's a good idea to talk with your doctor before beginning or changing an exercise routine, your diet or other lifestyle habits. Together, you and your doctor can work on a whole body approach to minimize fibromyalgia pain.
To help regain some control over your fibromyalgia, you may want to work on the following:
- Better sleep. If you are like many people with fibromyalgia, you may have difficulty sleeping. This can leave you fatigued and without the energy needed to fight your condition. Fortunately, you can take steps to improve the quality of your sleep, including going to bed and getting up at the same time every day and maintaining a comfortable sleep environment.
- Dietary changes. Can you reduce symptoms by shaking up your diet? Medical studies are inconclusive, but there is little doubt that a well-balanced diet can improve your overall health. Avoiding spicy foods and late-night beverages also may help curtail insomnia, a common symptom of fibromyalgia.
- Exercise. The mere thought of a workout may seem overwhelming when struggling with the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. However, staying fit is one of the best ways to keep symptoms at bay. Start slowly and gradually increase your level of effort. Aerobic, strength-training and flexibility exercises all may offer benefits.
- Occupational changes. Your job may be a prime source of symptom flare-ups. In many cases, mild adjustments to your work routines (such as switching to a more comfortable desk) can help. However, people with physically demanding occupations sometimes need to find a new field of work.
Complementary or Alternative Therapies
Some people use non-medical therapies to treat their fibromyalgia. Science has not yet confirmed the effectiveness of many such approaches, but some appear to offer benefits. Again, talk with your doctor before starting these therapies. These therapies include:
- Acupuncture. In this treatment, needles are inserted into target points of the body to provide pain relief and improve sleep patterns. Although controversial, some studies show significant benefits to using acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia.
- Chiropractic or osteopathic treatments. A chiropractor may manipulate a the spine to reduce pain and motion restrictions associated with fibromyalgia. Osteopathic doctors (who study and train in a method similar to medical doctors) also may use manipulation of joints and the spine to treat fibromyalgia. However, experts warn that manipulation treatments carry risks unless performed by well-trained practitioners.
- Hypnotherapy. Hypnosis may be used to induce a trance-like state of altered awareness and perception during which there may be heightened responsiveness to suggestions to manage stress. People are brought to a state of deep relaxation and reduced muscle pain.
- Massage therapy. Massage therapy involves manipulating the body's muscles and soft tissues to improve blood circulation. This helps increase the flow of nutrients into the tissues while also getting rid of waste products. Massage that progresses slowly during deep muscle work produces sometimes produces lasting results for people with fibromyalgia.