It can be difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia, because there’s no particular test for this condition.1 What’s more, its symptoms may vary, and are similar to those of other ailments. Before you can be confirmed to have fibromyalgia, your physician will test and rule out other illnesses, like multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.2
Take note that there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, and the only course of action is to treat the pain and relieve the symptoms. Once a person is diagnosed with it, most conventional physicians will likely prescribe pain relief medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants, muscle relaxants and even anticonvulsants.3
However, be aware that these drugs usually come with a plethora of side effects. For example, antidepressants may increase your risk of developing mania and bipolar disorder,4 and pregnant women who take these medications may put their babies at risk of autism.5 Meanwhile, anticonvulsants like pregabalin and gabapentin may cause drowsiness, dizziness, weight gain and swelling in the hands and feet.6
The best way to alleviate fibromyalgia pain and its other symptoms is through safe holistic methods. Fibromyalgia natural treatment options include:7
Acupuncture. This Chinese medical system is based on the idea of restoring normal balance of life forces. It works by inserting very fine needles through the skin. Western theories claim that acupuncture needles relieve pain by positively affecting blood flow,8 as well as levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord.9
Another technique you can try is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). This acupuncture-like practice uses a combination of finger tapping and saying affirmations to help banish pain and other physical and mental ailments.
Massage therapy. By moving and stimulating your body's muscles and soft tissues, a gentle massage can relax your muscles, reduce your heart rate, help stimulate the production of your body's natural painkillers and improve your joints’ range of motion. Getting a massage can also relieve stress and anxiety.10
Yoga and Tai chi. Combining meditation, slow movements, deep breathing and relaxation, these two have been both found to be helpful in managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Researchers from Oregon Health and Science University found that people with fibromyalgia who took yoga classes had less pain, reduced fatigue and improved mood.11
Use of essential oils. Because of their stress-relieving and relaxing properties, certain fragrant herbal oils may be beneficial in treating fibromyalgia pain. These oils are best diluted in a carrier oil (like coconut oil or argan oil), and then added to bath and body oils, diffused in the air or simply inhaled. Some of the best essential oils for fibromyalgia relief include:12
Taking supplements. Taking certain supplements to complement a healthy diet may help relieve fibromyalgia. Magnesium deficiency, for example, has been found to contribute to the muscle pain associated with fibromyalgia,13 so taking supplemental magnesium may be helpful. Another supplement you should consider is krill oil, as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
For those dealing with impaired sleep, a melatonin supplement may be helpful. Melatonin is a natural supplement that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
K-Laser Therapy. This treatment enhances microstimulation, and by stimulating red blood cell flow to the affected areas, it reduces pain and inflammation, while promoting tissue healing. It also enhances venous and lymphatic return, as a result of oxygenating tissues (Read more about the benefits of K-Laser Therapy). One study published in the Journal of Lasers in Medical Science states:
“… [L]aser therapy is effective on pain, muscle spasm, morning stiffness, and total tender point number in fibromyalgia and suggests that this therapy method is a safe and effective way of treatment in the cases with fibromyalgia.”14
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There’s evidence that CBT may help fibromyalgia patients deal with chronic pain and negative moods.15 However, further research is still needed in this area. You also need to consult a health practitioner who is knowledgeable in this type of therapy, which focuses on defining and setting limits.
Mild exercise. Getting some movement into your daily routine may help you deal with fibromyalgia pain. Walking is a low-impact aerobic activity that can bring oxygen in your joints and decrease your pain and stiffness. Stretching is another great activity, but be sure to never stretch to the point of pain. Weight lifting significantly decreases pain as well, as long as the weights are light and the intensity is increased lightly.
Aquatic exercises can also be beneficial. A 2007 study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy found that women who did aquatic exercises in a heated pool, for an hour three times a week, had less fibromyalgia symptoms than those who did not.16
Getting enough vitamin D. Your fibromyalgia symptoms may decrease if you optimize your vitamin D levels, as this nutrient can help hinder the production of cytokine,17 an inflammation-causing protein. A study published in the journal Pain, conducted by researchers in Vienna, Austria, found that fibromyalgia patients that had higher levels of vitamin D had less pain and fatigue than those with lower levels.18
The best way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure, but if this is not possible, taking a vitamin D3 supplement is the ideal alternative.