Fibromyalgia Treatment: Complete Guide
Whenever we are in pain, we find a way to make it stop. However, when you have fibromyalgia, the pain comes and goes as it pleases, sometimes without any trigger or warning, and varies in severity. How can you stop the pain in that case? What is fibromyalgia? What are the medicinal and natural fibromyalgia treatment? Is it curable and how do can it be managed? Find out how CogniFit helps those who suffer from the condition with their online test!
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that has no known cause and is known for its chronic, widespread, continual pain in joints, tendons, and muscles. It affects a wide spectrum of people, all of whom need individualized fibromyalgia treatment. The pain/areas of tenderness that is associated with fibromyalgia are known as trigger points. Even the slightest touch can bring on a bout of pain. One study shows that 5 million people in the US (roughly 2%) suffer from the condition and that it affects women more than men in a 7:1 ratio as well as affecting more adults than children. The condition affects a person not only physically, but also in cognitive areas (known as fibro-fog).
Fibromyalgia can cause symptoms that are similar to those of arthritis, tendinitis, and bursitis. Because of this, some experts group arthritis and fibromyalgia together and as related disorders. Others see the two as two separate conditions. The conditions are different in that the pain that is associated with arthritis and tendinitis is often localized in the same, single area. However, the pain with fibromyalgia is widespread and is known for its morning stiffness, deep muscle pain, and tender, painful points. That said, all of these conditions make it difficult to be physically active or exercise due to the intense pain.
When it comes to treating fibromyalgia, there are three points to focus on: medication, therapy, and cognitive training programs. However, there are many fibromyalgia treatments used these days.
Fibromyalgia treatment: Medications
Considering that there is no cure for fibromyalgia, the medication taken for the condition treats the symptoms- especially the pain. However, depending on the medication or combination of medication, one can have improved sleep, fewer aches and pains, and a boost in energy.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three specific drugs to treat fibromyalgia. Although, doctors may also use what is known as “off-label medications” that aren’t approved to treat fibromyalgia specifically, but that may have a positive effect on the condition. The three medications that are FDA- approved take part in two categories- anti-seizure and antidepressants. The one anti-seizure medicine is known as Lyrica (pregabalin). The two antidepressants are Savella (milnacipran) and Cymbalta (duloxetine).
How is it that medication made for stopping seizures and aiding depression can help with fibromyalgia? Well, the anti-seizure medication works for fibromyalgia by curbing the pain and helping fight sleep and fatigue problems. The medication is able to prevent sensitive nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Another medication like the FDA-approved one, pregabalin, works in the same way by lessening fatigue and pain. This new drug is known as Neurontin (Gabapentin). The antidepressants can help ease pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia, even if the person isn’t depressed. This is due to the effect that antidepressants have in the brain. Each antidepressant works by raising the levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain such as norepinephrine and serotonin– both of which are neurotransmitters that help ease and control both physical and emotional pain. Both of the FDA-approved medications are serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) which are known to help sleep problems, elevate mood, and help with overall pain.
People can also use over-the-counter painkillers as a fibromyalgia treatment to help ease the pain of the condition. Some of these medications include NSAIDs and acetaminophen drugs such as naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. However, these drugs have been proven to raise one’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and cause liver damage, as well as causing bleeding and ulcers in the intestines and stomach over a long period of time which make them an unreliable fibromyalgia treatment option overall. Opioid painkillers aren’t recommended as a fibromyalgia treatment because they might actually worsen the pain and are highly addictive.
Fibromyalgia treatment: Natural
Sometimes, au natural is how people prefer to heal from conditions such as cancer and fibromyalgia. Some common methods to naturally relieve fibromyalgia pain are using moist heat on the painful areas, relaxation techniques and stress reduction, physical therapy, and exercise.
Fibromyalgia treatment: Exercise
Exercise is an important thing to do whether you have fibromyalgia or not. However, numerous studies have shown that exercise can be one of the most important treatments for fibromyalgia known today. Often, people with fibromyalgia avoid working out because they think it’ll increase their pain. Aerobics and Tai Chi are both proven to be incredibly effective at relieving both depression and pain. Furthermore, regular exercise increases our body’s production of natural painkillers, known as endorphins, which can also boost our moods. In order to avoid more pain than necessary, try to start the workouts slow while gradually increasing the intensity and duration of the workout.
Fibromyalgia treatment: Stress
Stress is a big thing to tackle in any case- little on if one is in physical or emotional pain because of it, too. While there are many ways to manage stress, it’s important to manage it well and often while dealing with fibromyalgia. Stress can actually age and shrink the brain and body which is why it makes sense that a high amount of stress can lead to an increase in fibromyalgia pain.
Some people use biofeedback therapy as a fibromyalgia treatment and stress management. This therapy works by reducing stress using a machine that can measure how the body reacts to stress. Armed with that knowledge, the theory is that then you can better control how your body reacts to and deals with stress which will lower the fibromyalgia pain. There are several studies such as this one and this one that prove how effective biofeedback therapy can be to help curb ones pain. There are also several clinical trials such as these two (here and here) that are trying to measure brainwaves and neurofeedback in biofeedback therapy.
Sleep is important for everything. Rest is key to cure just about anything. Not sleeping much or well can actually increase the amount of stress one feels daily as well as increase their reaction to stress. A combination of high stress and a lack of sleep could be making the fibromyalgia worse. However, sadly, many fibromyalgia sufferers also suffer from insomnia, too.
Trying relaxation therapy might also help as a fibromyalgia treatment. The goal of relaxation therapy is to calm the mind and the body by making conscious efforts to relax. Forms of relaxation therapy are meditation, yoga, and mindfulness.
Fibromyalgia treatment: Other relaxation, relieving techniques
Acupuncture has also been a proven method to be a valid fibromyalgia treatment. One in every five people who suffer from fibromyalgia use acupuncture within two years of diagnosis as a fibromyalgia treatment. With a myriad of studies out there, it’s a no-brainer that this treatment can work. This study proves that acupuncture can be used as an immediate pain reliever for fibromyalgia. This study actually takes a look at 9 different acupuncture-for-fibromyalgia-treatment studies and found that it can have great improvement results within one month of starting acupuncture treatment, overall fatigue levels were reduced, and one study even found that acupuncture was more effective than antidepressants as a painkiller after one month. That said, four of the nine studies reported no differences between the control group and the acupuncture group, or the acupuncture group and “other treatments” group, six-seven months during the follow-ups for the studies.
Going to a masseuse, massage therapist, or a chiropractor can also be a big relief for fibromyalgia. Numerous studies have found a link between managing/lessening the symptoms of fibromyalgia and chiropractic care such as fatigue, the overall quality of sleep, and pain levels. This study specifically found that chiropractic care actually improved the participants “cervical and lumbar ranges of motion, straight leg raise, and reported pain levels.”
Fibromyalgia treatment: Physical therapy
Many people also try physical therapy as one of their fibromyalgia treatments. Physical therapy can help fibromyalgia sufferers by showing them how to relieve their symptoms of pain and stiffness in everyday life that comes from the condition. Furthermore, it can help people build strength in their muscles and bones as well as improve their overall range of motion which is important for a fibromyalgia sufferer. A physical therapist can also help teach ways to get rid of deep, stiff muscle pain while also helping the sufferer learn how to make sensible decisions regarding their daily activities that can help prevent painful fibromyalgia flare-ups.
Fibromyalgia treatment: Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy has been theorized to also be another fibromyalgia treatment. It was actually found that hypnotherapy was a better treatment than physical therapy in a study with 40 patients who suffered from refractory fibromyalgia. The 40-patient group showed better outcomes in sleep/fatigue levels, pain, and global assessment. However, they did not show better results in the tender point examination.
Fibromyalgia treatment: Diet
When it comes to diet, it’s important to eat what makes your body feel good. Some of those who suffer from fibromyalgia try an elimination diet to see if there are certain foods that cause or worsen the pain. An elimination diet involves eliminating certain foods from one’s diet and seeing how the pain is affected. Certain studies have shown that a non-celiac gluten sensitivity can be an underlying factor for worsening fibromyalgia pain and symptoms. Some of the best foods to be aware of when dealing with fibromyalgia are food additives, processed foods, gluten, and cured meats. Food additives such as MSG (monosodium glutamate) or aspartame have been shown to worsen inflammation which can make fibromyalgia more painful. Processed foods such as sodas, frozen ready-made meals, many cereals, breads, and other sugary snacks contain refined carbohydrates which can cause inflammation. Gluten is an ingredient found in many pastas, beers, breads, and pretty much anything that comes from wheat (however gluten is not the same thing as wheat). Non=celiac patients who also have fibromyalgia has been shown to improve when they follow a gluten free diet. Cured meats such as lunch meats, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and anything with lots of added preservatives and salt aren’t shown to be beneficial for helping fibromyalgia. Overall, there is no set-in-stone diet that helps, treats, and eases fibromyalgia. However, it can’t hurt to see if some foods make the painful reactions worse or not, as well as staying healthy throughout the process.
Fibromyalgia treatment- is it curable?
Since the cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, it’s impossible to find The Cure. The best way to go about “curing” it is simply by treating the symptoms- a process known as palliative care. This can include taking pain medication or changing one’s diet to lessen the severity or occurrence of pain.
Fibromyalgia treatment- management
Like many conditions, one can learn to live happily with fibromyalgia, although it isn’t easy. It’s important to self-manage the pain by using palliative treatments such as physical therapy, acupuncture, or changes in diet.
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Anna is a freelance writer who is passionate about translation, psychology, and how the world works.