Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Because fibromyalgia is so misunderstood, there is no proven treatment for fibromyalgia. An expert evaluated four separate studies into fibromyalgia treatments and said the results were “all over the map.”
While those studies failed to turn up a cure, they found several common factors that may help those suffering from fibromyalgia. And, just like the uncertainty surrounding the disease itself, it’s not clear which treatments address root causes and which simply alleviate some of the byproducts from chronic pain or fatigue.
1 - Exercise.
One of the most commonly recommended treatments is also among the most difficult. While increasing physical activity or weight loss can address some symptoms of fibromyalgia, many patients are seeking relief from pain that comes from heightened activity. For some patients, exercising can make the symptoms worse.
It can help to focus on types of exercise you enjoy, and it’s important to be mindful of your symptoms and seek exercise on days when you feel up to it. Give yourself a break on days you don’t.
Moderate exercise is generally recommended, as intense workouts can exacerbate pain or lead to flare ups. But if you find a particular exercise exciting, that motivation may outweigh the drawbacks for the activity.
Low-impact workouts can reduce the chance of painful side-effects, particularly for folks who are overweight. Experts suggest exercises like swimming, cycling or yoga.
2 - Cognitive Behavioral therapy.
Counseling with a professional may help address the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It’s important to realize that addressing the depression or anxiety associated with the disease does not mean that the symptoms are make-believe or “all in your head.”
Therapy may help patients rule out other underlying causes for anxiety or depression, and it may help them develop coping strategies for chronic pain, chronic fatigue and the feelings of isolation that many patients experience.
3 - Surgery or drugs.
There is no surgical cure for fibromyalgia, but some who experience symptoms may have issues relating to their spine. Spinal surgery is risky, so only those with years of untreated symptoms and a clear diagnostic path forward should consider surgery.
Doctors generally agree that opioid pain medications are not helpful in treating fibromyalgia or other chronic pain conditions, and the risk of dependency and addiction make them a poor choice for relief. Some may find help in the form of NSAID medications or anti-inflammatories.
The research is mixed, but some anti-depressants have been found to help with fibromyalgia. The effectiveness is related to specific chemical reactions rather than treating depression, so different drugs may have different results for different people.
4 - Treating the things you can treat.
Fibromyalgia patients are encouraged to find relief where they can, even if there is no proven way to address the disease itself. Massage therapy may or may not treat the pain, but it can provide relief from the symptoms.
Likewise, paying attention to posture and stressors on your neck and other joints can reduce stiffness, soreness and pain. Custom footwear can lessen the impact on sensitive areas of your body like your feet.
Therapies or medicines that focus on restful sleep may also be helpful in mitigating the effects of chronic fatigue, or reducing the stress that builds up from lying awake at night.
While strategies to manage stress will not eliminate fibromyalgia, things like meditation or yoga or other mindfulness practices can help with the associated mental health stressors the condition causes. Soreness, stiffness and insomnia are all closely related to stress, and reducing it where you can may make the condition more manageable.