There is a wide range of conventional and natural treatments for fibromyalgia (FMS) and its symptoms. However, a comprehensive treatment program customized to your particular needs is a wise approach.
- Antidepressants. The tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or combinations of both, produce mild to moderate improvement in symptoms. Some people’s symptoms worsen on these drugs.
- Analgesic Therapy is used for patients with moderate to severe pain or significant functional impairment and for those in whom other therapies are ineffective or contraindicated. Patients requiring intermittent relief from pain may be given appropriate dosages of oral narcotic analgesics combined with acetaminophen. There is a possibility of dependence.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Agents (NSAIDs). Although commonly prescribed in analgesic doses, NSAIDs have not been proved to be effective..
- Growth Hormone Therapy. In a small study, treatment with recombinant growth hormone is highly effective in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia and low insulin-like growth factor I levels. There were no significant side effects. Unfortunately, the cost of growth hormone is prohibitive for most patients.
- Cognitive Behavior Training. A program of relaxation response training and movement therapy was found to be effective in treating patients with low back pain including 28 patients with fibromyalgia. Participants reported reduced pain and other symptoms, as well as improved function and general health.
- Guided exercise program. Women who undergo regular exercise are more functional and have less pain. Regular exercise also gives you an increased feeling of control over the disorder.
- Coping skills education. Coping skills and stress management are an important but overlooked treatment. For example, chronic stress leads to increased stress hormones that disturb the HPA axis. In addition to stress management, a valuable coping skill is finding a support group. Women who are in support groups tend to do better than those who are isolated.
- FMS diet. FMS appears to be partly a defect in oxidative phosphorylation, which is a biochemical pathway that is required for proper function of your cells. Some women also have a disordered hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This group of glands plays a central role in balancing and controlling biochemical processes in your body. Good dietary choices can favorably influence both oxidative phosphorylation and the HPA axis.
- Identify and eliminate food allergies, which can cause a number of symptoms.
- Avoidance of all sugar and refined carbohydrates (white flour products and starches) improves energy overall.
- Increase magnesium rich foods such as legumes, tofu, seeds, nuts, whole foods, and green leafy vegetables.
- Focus on a whole foods diet comprised mainly of good quality protein (lean animal protein, fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Food Additives. Some patients with FMS are very sensitive to the food additives MSG and aspartate, and experience complete or nearly complete resolution of their symptoms after eliminating them from their diet.
- Selective vitamin therapy. In some cases, such as smokers, specific nutrient therapy may be indicated in order to provide the precursors necessary for improved muscle cell metabolism.
- Magnesium. Impaired mitochondrial energy production is a factor in fibromyalgia. This may be related to magnesium deficiency. People with FMS often have a magnesium deficiency.
- Vitamin D deficiency can be a cause of fibromyalgia. Symptoms improve with supplementation in many people. Vitamin D should only be supplemented with a physician’s supervision and after a blood test to assess levels.
- S-Adenosylmethionine (SAM-e). This compound has anti-inflammatory, pain-killing, and anti-depressant effects and helps to reduce pain and improve mood. SAMe should not be taken in conjunction with certain medications. Consult your physician before taking SAM-E if you are taking any medications, particularly Carbidopa or antidepressants.
- Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Patients with fibromyalgia often have problems with the production of the hormones serotonin and melatonin. 5-HTP is an amino acid which the body converts to these hormones. With supplementation, FMS patients experience improvement in all their symptoms. 5-HTP should only be supplemented with a physician’s supervision. Consult your physician before taking 5-HTP if you are taking any medications, particularly Carbidopa or antidepressants.
- Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone involved with sleep. People with fibromyalgia may have lower than normal melatonin, which can contribute to poor sleep at night and fatigue during the day. With supplementation, there may be improvement with sleep, energy, and pain. Melatonin should only be supplemented with a physician’s supervision.
- Thiamine. Symptoms of thiamine deficiency are similar to symptoms of FMS. Supplementation improves symptoms in some patients.
- Myer’s Cocktail. Intravenous nutrient formula that is beneficial for treating fibromyalgia.
- Ascorbigen and broccoli powder. Ascorbigen is a dietary nutrient (an indole) derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. In a small study, fibromyalgia patients treated with ascorbigen showed a 20% decrease in their physical impairment score and a mean 18% percent decrease in their symptoms, reduced sensitivity to pain, and improved quality of life.
- Malic acid. Malic acid is an important substance for producing energy in the cells. Apples are one source of malic acid. Clinically, malic acid has been found to reduce the fatigue and pain of fibromyalgia. A typical dosage for FMS is 1200 to 2000 mg per day, taken in divided doses.
- CoQ10. This supplement helps promote energy production in the cells and improves mitochondria function, which is sometimes not working well in fibromyalgia.
- B-Complex Vitamins help support energy production in the cells.
- Vitamin B5 and Vitamin C both support adrenal gland function. This may be supplemented in FMS when cortisol levels are low.
Botanical (Herbal) Medicine
- Adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, licorice, rhodiola and cordyceps all help support adrenal gland function and promote overall well-being, energy, and balance.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements such as Boswellia, Curcumin, Quercetin, and bromelain may be used effectively to decrease pain and inflammation.
- Other herbs may also be used depending on the complete symptom picture. Herbs may be used to detoxify the liver and blood and to support mood.
- Physical therapy. Some women with fibromyalgia syndrome respond to physical therapy, such as trigger point therapy or osteopathic manipulation.
- Acupuncture. Studies show that acupuncture is an extremely useful adjunctive treatment for many patients with fibromyalgia.
Supplement Quality Is Important
Nutritional and botanical supplements used in these treatments are intended to have a physiological effect and clinical benefit, i.e., they are effective and your health improves.
The quality of nutritional supplements in the general marketplace is suspect. In order to get the maximum benefit to your health, be sure you purchase the highest quality nutritional supplements.
The doctors at The Connecticut Center for Health are quite experienced in how to treat fibromyalgia.
If you would like to learn more about natural medicine approaches to fibromyalgia, contact one of our clinics for a free consultation about fibromyalgia or an appointment.