Complementary and alternative therapy
Most people with fibromyalgia try some type of
alternative therapy.4 They may relieve stress, ease
muscle tension, and help you feel better and healthier. Some of these therapies have been shown to be effective for many people. But for other therapies, such as tender point injections, there is no evidence that they help.
Therapies that have been shown to
be effective for many people include the following:
- Biofeedback has been
shown to help people who have fibromyalgia.2
- A small study found that tai chi may help people who have fibromyalgia. In this study, people who took part in a tai chi class felt better. They had less pain, slept better, and were able to exercise more and be more active.5
Other treatments that have been used to treat
What to think about
You may find one or more
complementary or alternative therapies to be helpful in relieving some of your
symptoms. Keep in mind that there is only limited information about how well these treatments (and others you may have heard about) work for
If you have fibromyalgia and are thinking
about trying a complementary therapy, get the facts before you begin. Consider
these questions with your doctor:
- Is it safe? Talk with your doctor about the
safety and potential side effects of the treatment. Remember that fibromyalgia
doesn't physically harm you or damage your body. A treatment that could be
harmful may not be worth the risk, especially when its benefits are unproven.
Avoid treatments that may be harmful, such as unusual diets or excessive
vitamin or mineral supplements. (A daily multiple vitamin-mineral supplement is
okay. Try to avoid taking more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance for
any vitamin or mineral unless your doctor prescribes a special
- Does it work? Because the symptoms of
fibromyalgia can come and go, you may find it hard to judge whether a
certain treatment is really working. Symptoms of fibromyalgia often improve
on their own. Or the treatment may be causing a
placebo effect that is making you feel better. Keep in
mind that when you get better after treatment, the treatment may not be the
reason for the improvement. Also remember that a treatment that works for one
person may not work for you. It may take time. And you may have to try several
different treatments to find an approach that works for you.
- Will it improve my general health? Even if
complementary therapies aren't effective in treating fibromyalgia, many of
them are safe, healthy habits that may improve your general well-being and
may be worth trying.
With a hard-to-treat condition like fibromyalgia,
it can be tempting to jump at the promise of an effective treatment. Be
careful. Avoid products that claim to have a secret ingredient or that claim to
cure fibromyalgia. Avoid those that encourage unhelpful behaviors such as
excessive resting or avoiding activity.
Also make sure you know
how much a treatment is going to cost before you agree to it. An expensive,
unproven treatment that may or may not help you may not be worth the high cost.
Beware of treatment providers or products that require a large financial
investment at the start or a series of costly treatments.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Karin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology
October 20, 2011
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