As many as 90% of fibromyalgia patients actively seek out alternative treatments for fibromyalgia. And with good reason – now more than ever, many of these treatments are the focus of scientifically validated studies that prove their effectiveness.
10 alternative treatments for fibromyalgia
We have gathered ten of the most promising alternative treatments for fibromyalgia. Read through the list and then hit the comments below to let us know what’s worked for you in the past.
1. Float tanks
Although sometimes difficult to locate in smaller or more rural areas of the U.S., float tanks are an alternative treatment for chronic pain that relieve stress, promote relaxation, and help with both the quality and quantity of sleep. This last benefit is a boon to fibromyalgia patients who experience sleep disorders due to pain.
2. Mindfulness meditation
Recent research has shown that fibromyalgia patients who practice mindfulness meditation in a clinical setting for as few as 20 minutes a day three times per week experience a dramatic reduction in both pain intensity and the emotional aspect of pain. This study comes at a time when mindfulness meditation is rising in popularity as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia.
3. Chiropractic care
Spinal manipulation that is either done manually or with the help of instruments can help properly align the spine and relieve pressure on sensitive areas that may be contributing to fibromyalgia pain.
Individualized acupuncture was recently compared to standard placement of needles and sham acupuncture with startling results as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia. This tailored needle placement that takes into consideration pain location, frequency, duration, and intensity resulted in decreased pain, improved functionality, and improved quality of life.
Biofeedback is one of the alternative treatments for fibromyalgia that is minimally-invasive and side-effect free. This is a boon for fibromyalgia patients who are not interested in adding another prescription to their regimen. Biofeedback helps patients recognize the physical symptoms of pain and gives them tools to help handle them. Increased perspiration, rapid pulse, and shallow breathing are all physical manifestations of pain. Learning to regulate this physical response can help with not only physical pain but also a patient’s emotional response to it.
Reiki is a complementary medicine approach to the way that energy moves through the body. Practitioners may use their hands directly on the body, or they may hover an inch or two away from areas they feel are blocked. Proponents of this approach say that this alternative treatment for fibromyalgia promotes deep relaxation and healing in their body.
7. T’ai chi
T’ai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that focuses on slow, flowing movement from posture to posture. This liquid movement relieves stress, increases flexibility, improves balance, and can promote a sense of centeredness and well-being. Exercise is a primary recommendation for the treatment of fibromyalgia, but many patients are worried that strenuous exercise can cause more pain. T’ai chi provides a good balance between gentle strength building and flexibility.
8. Forest bathing
If stress intensifies chronic pain conditions, it makes sense that any therapy that relieves stress would decrease pain. The Japanese practice of forest bathing (simply spending time in the natural world, away from cars and other artificial stimuli) has been shown to decrease salivary cortisol levels, a key indicator of stress. Additionally, parasympathetic nervous system activity increased, relaxing the body’s automatic function such as heart rate and breathing rate.
Massage increases blood flow to affected areas and improves oxygen efficiency in the muscles of the body. For these two reason alone, massage is one of the most popular alternative treatments for fibromyalgia. There are a number of different types of massage that can be helpful for pain, including Swedish (lighter and relaxing) and deep tissue (more vigorous). A qualified massage therapist can help identify which type is best for you.
10. Aromatherapy and essential oils
Essential oils and aromatherapy have become rather controversial in recent years. Those who argue against them cite the lack of scientifically valid research and potential dangers, especially when taken internally. Proponents of this alternative treatment for fibromyalgia cite anecdotal evidence from personal experience and the experience of others. The least invasive form of this treatment is aromatherapy. Essential oils are breathed in with the use of a diffuser. Sprinkling lavender on the pillow at night may help promote restful sleep and relaxation.
Finding alternative treatments for fibromyalgia that work for you
The most important part of alternative treatments for fibromyalgia is finding a qualified practitioner. When looking for someone to work with, here are a few things to consider:
- Talk to your doctor first: Before trying any of these approaches, talk to your doctor to see if she has any concerns or recommendations. She may also be able to refer you to qualified professionals.
- Check out certifications: Many colleges are now offering courses in the study of complementary and alternative medicine. While practices such as reiki and t’ai chi are not regulated, practitioners should show evidence of training or schooling.
- Set up a consultation: Before working with someone new, ask if they will set up a free consultation. This will give you an opportunity to meet them and see their facility before placing yourself in their care.
- Ask for recommendations: Family and friends are often the best source of recommendations for complementary medical practitioners. They can share their experience and general impressions before you set up your first appointment. This saves precious time and energy at the very start!
- Recognize that it takes time: Alternative treatments for fibromyalgia are not a quick fix. Often it will take several sessions of chiropractic or more than one massage to start feeling the results of treatment. Be patient and don’t give up, but also recognize when it’s time to try something else.
Other alternative treatments for fibromyalgia include transdermal magnesium and anti-inflammatory diets. What alternative treatments have you tried, and what was the result?