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Odds are if you have fibromyalgia, you have heard about alternative treatments that may help you feel better. In fact, 90 percent of fibromyalgia patients have reported trying such alternative therapies as massage, acupuncture, dietary supplements or chiropractic treatment to ease their symptoms.
While research has yet to prove that all alternative therapies work in treating fibromyalgia, there is a lot of evidence that supports acupuncture as a successful treatment. Using super-thin needles, acupuncturists stimulate various pressure points to provide pain relief. Some studies show that electroacupuncture, in which an electric current is pulsed through a needle, is more effective than the traditional method.
Many people with fibromyalgia find different alternative methods effective. And like mainstream fibromyalgia treatments, what works for one person might have no effect on another. Bottom line: You have to shop around to see what is best for you.
Here are some other options:
Massage: Massage therapists work on the muscles and soft tissue of the body to alleviate pain, muscle spasms and stress. However, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reviewed research about the effectiveness of treating fibromyalgia with massage and found that the benefits are only short-term.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: Often called CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be among the most effective non-medication treatments for fibromyalgia. CBT helps change the way you think about pain with the goal of changing the way your body responds to pain, thus making the pain less severe. It may also help improve sleep.
Though studies on the following methods have been deemed insufficient by some medical experts, they are still widely used by people with fibromyalgia, with varying degrees of success.
Myofascial release therapy works to stretch, soften, lengthen and realign connective tissue to ease pain.
Chiropractic treatment manipulates the spine into proper alignment, helping to boost immune system function and reduce pain.
Dietary supplements magnesium and SAM-e are often used to treat fibromyalgia. SAM-e is a naturally occurring compound in our bodies that helps in the production of dopamine and serotonin, which regulate mood and control the pain response. Preliminary research has shown evidence that SAM-e supplements may work to keep symptoms in check, but further study is needed. Magnesium is helpful in hundreds of ways, like converting food into energy, strengthening the immune system, and maintaining normal nerve and muscle function. Some researchers believe that a deficiency of this mineral contributes to fibromyalgia symptoms, though research into its efficacy has been inconclusive.
Finding the alternative treatment that works for you will require some experimentation. Ask your doctor for recommendations and be sure to tell him or her which treatments you already are using. This is especially important with dietary and herbal supplements since they can interact with other medications and possibly cause side effects.
Reviewed by Steven A. King, M.D.