How to Treat Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition that causes musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and localized tenderness. The cause of FM is unknown, but genetics may play a role. Symptoms can develop after:
- psychological stress
- physical trauma
- an injury
- an illness
Other symptoms may include depression, poor concentration, and headaches.
Treating pain, fatigue, and other symptoms is key. Fortunately, several options are available to help ease and manage FM symptoms and improve your quality of life.
FM pain can be minor or serious enough to interfere with daily activities. Thankfully, treatment can help manage pain.
1. Pain relievers
Medication is an option to reduce FM pain. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium. These medications can help:
- reduce inflammation
- minimize muscular aches
- improve sleep quality
These can help ease pain and fatigue. Discuss the possible side effects of using antidepressants for FM with your doctor. For some people, antidepressants can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects such as nausea, weight gain, and loss of sexual desire.
These seizure medications may also help reduce pain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved pregabalin (Lyrica), the first anti-seizure drug for FM treatment. Gabapentin, which reduces nerve pain, may be suggested. But these medications come with possible side effects including:
- weight gain
- dry mouth
Research has shown that people with FM who participated in yoga classes experienced improved mood and less pain and fatigue. The classes included:
- gentle poses
- breathing exercises
- group discussions
Try taking a yoga class. The practice increases muscle strength, incorporates meditation, and teaches different relaxation techniques. Just be sure to let the instructor know about your condition, so they can adjust the poses as needed for you.
You may want to try acupuncture for pain relief. It involves pricking the skin with needles to:
- promote natural self-healing
- encourage a change in blood flow
- change the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain
- treat a variety of health conditions like chronic pain
A study in the Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine found that people with FM who received acupuncture benefited from pain relief for at least two years, compared to those who didn’t. For those who cannot tolerate the needles, acupressure may be an option.
The risks of acupuncture include soreness, minor bleeding, and bruising after treatment. Always make sure your acupuncturist is licensed to decrease risk of infection from unsterilized needles.
6. Physical therapy
Physical therapy techniques aim to improve your range of motion and strengthen the muscles. This can also help reduce FM pain. Your therapist will tailor a program to help manage specific symptoms. They can also teach self-care techniques, including FM education, to help you manage the fatigue and pain on your own. Research shows that pain management education can lead to increased performance during exercise.
Fatigue is a common symptom of fibromyalgia. You may wake up in the mornings tired despite sleeping through the night. Simple everyday activities can be exhausting. Options for treating FM fatigue include:
7. Vitamin D
People with FM often have low levels of vitamin D. In a 2013 study, researchers found that people with FM felt physically better and experienced less fatigue when they took vitamin D supplements. Talk to your doctor before taking vitamin D supplements, as too much can be toxic.
Exercise is also an effective way to combat tiredness and improve your energy levels. Exercise increases the brain’s production of endorphins, improves sleep, and reduces depression. Suggested activities for people with FM include walking, biking, and swimming. For some, getting started is difficult with widespread pain; start slow and increase gradually. While this article presents options to consider trying, exercise is the only solution that continues to show benefit in controlled trials.
You can incorporate alternative treatments to ease FM symptoms. Talk to your doctor about the following options.
9. Medical marijuana
Medical marijuana can ease symptoms of fibromyalgia. One study found that people with FM who took medicinal cannabis experienced:
- a reduction of pain and stiffness
- enhanced relaxation
- an increase in sleepiness
- feelings of well-being
- improved mental health
More research is needed about the benefits of medical marijuana for FM. Side effects can include unfocused judgment and concentration, and long-term effects need further research.
Biofeedback is about learning how to control your body functions. This can help reduce muscle tension and FM pain. There are no side effects associated with this technique, but some people can feel overwhelmed or exhausted after a session. Speak with your doctor to see if you’re a good candidate for biofeedback.
11. Tai chi
This mind-body technique involves deep breathing, meditation, and controlled movements. Tai chi can improve muscle strength, balance, and stamina. It’s not strenuous, but you can develop sore muscles or sprains if you overdo it.
12. Massage therapy
Massages can relax your muscles, improve range of motion, and reduce stress and anxiety. You could experience temporary bruising, swelling, and pain if your therapist applies too much pressure.
13. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
The basis of CBT is about helping people set realistic goals. Patients work on identifying dysfunctional thought patterns and developing techniques to manage negative thoughts. The techniques you learn through CBT can help to reduce or minimize your FM pain.
Clinical trials are crucial to developing new treatments and drugs for certain conditions. Participating in clinical trials provides invaluable information to researchers who are learning more about FM and chronic pain. Visit Center Watch to find a clinical trial near you, if you’re interested in taking part.
Fibromyalgia can be a lifelong condition that causes pain, fatigue, and tenderness. While there’s no single cause, there are many treatment options available to provide relief from FM pain. Talk with your doctor about options. From medication to physical therapy, there are plenty of treatments to try if one doesn’t work for you. You can still live a healthy, active life with FM.