- Easing the Pain of Fibromyalgia Naturally
- Natural remedies for 10 common fibromyalgia symptoms
- The complex symptoms of fibromyalgia
- Who does fibromyalgia affect?
- How to diagnose fibromyalgia
- #1 Widespread pain
- #2 Fatigue
- #3 Sleep problems
- #4 Fibro-fog
- #5 Digestive problems
- #6 Headaches
- #7 Sensory sensitivites
- Stress & anxiety
- #10 Mood swings
- The Fibromyalgia Diet
- Natural Fibromyalgia Treatment
- Top Supplements for Fibromyalgia
- Lifestyle Remedies & Complementary Therapies for Fibromyalgia
- Mind-Body Practices to Help Fibromyalgia
- Emotional & Mental Health Therapies for Fibromyalgia
- Natural Pain Relief – Harnessing Nature’s Potential
- 4 Pillars of Natural Healing
- Take Your First Steps Toward Fibromyalgia Pain Relief
- Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia
Easing the Pain of Fibromyalgia Naturally
If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, no one needs to tell you about the almost daily widespread muscle pain you live with, along with constant fatigue, sleeplessness, fibro fog, and low-grade depression.
The chronic muscle pain of fibromyalgia affects about 1 in 50 Americans — mostly women. Because there is no cure for fibromyalgia and the cause is not understood, the quest to find the best fibromyalgia pain relief is ongoing.
Research shows fibromyalgia may start as young as childhood or the teenage years, particularly in adolescent girls, and it gradually worsens with age. Some findings show that because of the common symptoms, fibromyalgia may be misdiagnosed in mature adults, who often view the mysterious pain in their bodies as just another sign of getting older. Fibromyalgia is not a sign of aging.
Though it’s a commonly underdiagnosed syndrome, fibromyalgia is the most common arthritis-related disease next to osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear arthritis. Fibromyalgia syndrome is characterized by the following:
- Concentration problems (fibro fog)
- Decreased pain threshold on trigger points
- Higher levels of stress and anxiety
- Incapacitating fatigue
- Increased sensitivities to stimuli in the environment
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Low mood
- Tension headaches and migraines
- TMJ disorder
- Widespread pain
Women are 10 times more likely to get fibromyalgia than men. And there is no specific laboratory test or abnormal X-ray finding that leads to diagnosis.
Researchers believe fibromyalgia may be related to the following:
- Elevated substance P levels, which produce higher levels of pain
- Genetic predisposition (clusters in families)
- Hypersensitivity to pain
- Malfunction of pain processing in the spinal cord
- Nervous system trauma
- Overweight or obesity
- Sedentary lifestyle
Additionally, some research indicates that fibromyalgia pain may be the result of lower levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that sends messages from one brain cell to another. Lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are linked to poor sleep and a lower pain threshold.
The good news is that the different symptoms of fibromyalgia can be managed. Many people find natural remedies for fibromyalgia helpful: About 90 percent of those with fibromyalgia have tried some form of them. There is a growing body of research in support of many nonpharmacologic therapies such as the ones listed below, and many have been shown to be safe. More research is needed though to confirm for which populations it is effective in. Talk to your doctor about what might be most appropriate for you.
Natural remedies for 10 common fibromyalgia symptoms
The complex symptoms of fibromyalgia
Pain all over, exhaustion, bloating and constantly forgetting things are but a few of the many symptoms often associated with fibromyalgia. You may experience all of these symptoms, some of these symptoms or other symptoms. For some, the symptoms are present every day, for others, only on some days. This is not to mention the varying intensity of symptoms from day to day… confused yet? Now you know why it is so frustrating for you and your doctor when trying to diagnose this syndrome.
The effect of fibromyalgia on the system varies from person to person; however, there are some common symptoms which frequently occur together. Recognising these symptoms and understanding how to treat them naturally can help you to manage your fibromyalgia better.
Who does fibromyalgia affect?
Just like its many symptoms, the reason fibromyalgia affects certain people and not others is confusing and frustrating. The medical community is still a little baffled as to the cause of fibromyalgia. Some studies, however, suggest that high stress levels, poor eating habits and sleep problems can all contribute to its onset.
It’s possible that several trigger factors coming together will set up a fibromyalgia-like situation, and a final trigger factor will then tip the person into fibromyalgia. As tipping factors will be different for different people it is very tricky to pin down ‘causes’. Studies have, however, found that it appears to affect more woman than men.
How to diagnose fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose because there is no specific test (such as blood test, X-ray or scan) to determine if it is fibromyalgia. Furthermore, the symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions.
If your doctor thinks you may have fibromyalgia, any other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis, will have to be ruled out first. However, such ailments may also be present at the same time as your fibromyalgia.
Typically, you will have to answer a great many questions about your symptoms, including how long, how often and how widespread they are before a diagnosis is made, so understanding the common symptoms of this syndrome is very important.
#1 Widespread pain
One of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia, which most sufferers are likely to experience, is widespread pain. People can describe this as a deep throbbing ache, a stabbing pain or a burning sensation which can be felt throughout the body, but is often concentrated in certain areas, such as your neck or back. The pain can often affect a sufferer’s ability to carry on with day-to-day tasks.
When diagnosing fibromyalgia most doctors rely on locating pain trigger points on the body.
How you can help yourself:
- Increase your magnesium intake – a lack of magnesium increases our pain perception and also makes it harder for muscles to relax, so try including magnesium rich foods in your diet, such as dark leafy greens, beans, grains and pulses
- Reduce your caffeine intake – cut out or reduce the amount of tea and coffee you drink because caffeine increases nerve pain and lowers magnesium levels
- Exercise more – gentle exercise, such as swimming, yoga and walking, has been found to have a number of important benefits for people with fibromyalgia, including helping to reduce pain. Stepping up exercise very gently and gradually is sensible – don’t overdo it.
A helpful remedy…
Due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and pain-killing properties, Devil’s claw has been traditionally used to relieve any additional inflammatory pain accompanying your fibromyalgia. The root of Devil’s claw is used in herbal remedies for the treatment of muscle and joint pain, backache and rheumatism.
Due to the number of potential causative factors entangled in fibromyalgia, inflammatory processes can be adding to the overall pain levels. Stress, for example, is an inflammatory factor present for many people with fibromyalgia. Working to reduce any inflammation present can help to reduce the overall symptom burden.
People with fibromyalgia often find they feel tired easily or tired all the time, experiencing extreme physical and mental tiredness, known as fatigue.
How you can help yourself:
- Keep stress to a minimum – being stressed can sap your energy, causing more fatigue
- Exercise can help again – while this may be the last thing you feel like doing, lack of exercise has been found to be linked with constant feelings of tiredness. Gentle exercise can actually make you feel better, reduce stiffness and make you feel more energised, but take it slowly and don’t push yourself. Exercising outdoors, e.g. walking in the park, has been shown to increase the health benefits of exercise
- Stay hydrated – dehydration is another thing which can quickly sap your energy, so it’s important to drink plenty of water
- Address sleep issues – obviously poor sleep quality can cause you to feel more tired so it’s important to get a good night’s sleep.
A helpful remedy…
Siberian ginseng has traditionally been used for its positive effect on energy, giving your body a natural boost without resorting to stimulants, helping to lift fatigue.
#3 Sleep problems
Being in pain can make it difficult for you to switch off and sleep at night, therefore it is not uncommon for fibromyalgia suffers to experience sleep problems. While you are asleep, your body regenerates, relaxing and resting muscles and tissues; so not getting a good sleep means your muscles can’t restore properly. People who sleep badly have also been known to feel more pain.
How you can help yourself:
- Make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible – as fibromyalgia sufferers often struggle to sleep due to pain, it’s important to ensure your sleep position, mattress and pillows are not contributing to this discomfort. Read my blog post on why sleeping can cause neck pain for more information
- Improve your sleep environment – eliminate light, noise and distractions as much as possible and try to introduce good sleep habits
- Try not to nap during the day – this will help your body to understand that night-time is for sleeping
- Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, before bedtime – these put your nervous system on red alert, rather than in a relaxed state ready for sleep.
A helpful remedy…
A combination of Valerian and Hops, which are both soothing and naturally sedative herbs, taken just before bed can help you to achieve a more restful and deeper sleep, as well as promote a better sleep pattern. Valerian has also been used traditionally as a muscle relaxant.
Those with fibromyalgia often find it difficult to concentrate and can have trouble remembering simple things or learning new things. This ‘fibro-fog’ can lead to frustration, increasing stress and anxiety levels, especially if it causes you to forget appointments, important dates and names or just feel constantly distracted.
How you can help yourself:
- Get a good night’s sleep – ‘fibro-fog’ can worsen after a night of poor sleep, so it’s even more important to address any sleep issues
- Make lists – to-do lists, shopping lists and diaries are good, practical ways to tackle this problem and help you to feel more in control
- Have some game time – cognitive games, such as crosswords, brain teasers (like the ones below) and Sudoku, can provide daily brain training which can help to reduce episodes of fibro-fog; plus they are fun to do!
#5 Digestive problems
People suffering from fibromyalgia can experience a whole variety of digestive problems, including bloating, excess wind, stomach pain, diarrhoea and constipation. These symptoms can often be diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
How you can help yourself:
- Check your medicine – digestive problems could be a side effect of a prescribed medication that you are taking for fibromyalgia or another condition
- Avoid caffeine and refined sugar as much as possible – these are difficult for your digestive system to cope with and can result in digestive problems
- Try to eat more slowly – chewing your food more allows it to be digested and broken up more easily in the stomach, reducing risk of digestive problems, such as acid reflux, indigestion and bloating.
A helpful remedy…
Molkosan Fruit can be helpful because it contributes to the normal function of digestive enzymes. A delicious fermented whey drink, simply add it to water or even your favourite morning smoothie.
People with fibromyalgia tend to suffer from three different types of headache: muscle tension headaches, migraines and combination headaches. Headaches can make fibromyalgia even harder to deal with. Aside from being very painful, headaches can also cause even more problems with concentration (fibro-fog) and difficulty controlling emotions.
How you can help yourself:
- Avoid becoming dehydrated – not drinking enough water can easily result in a headache
- Eat more foods rich in magnesium – just as with helping to ease pain throughout the body, magnesium can also help relieve headaches, so it’s important to eat more magnesium-rich food or take a magnesium supplement
- Eat regularly – this will help to stabilise your blood sugar level. Dropping blood sugar levels can result in headaches, so rather than eating one or two big meals a day, try to eat smaller amounts more regularly.
#7 Sensory sensitivites
Symptoms of sensitivity to bright light, noise, tastes and smells are common among fibromyalgia sufferers. It is thought that the pain associated with fibromyalgia occurs because of over-activity in the sensory receptors, so it is likely that for this reason, other senses are also more alert and responsive.
In naturopathic terms, a disturbed liver can cause extra sensitivity to noise and light, as well as smells, and many people with fibromyalgia have other liver symptoms, such as trouble digesting fatty foods.
How you can help yourself:
- Identify what’s causing your sensitivity and manage it – keeping a diary could help. Note down when you experience sensitivity and if possible what caused it. This can help you to find ways to handle your sensory overload, for example wearing sunglasses if you find lights too bright or avoiding strong smells from air fresheners and scented candles
- Support your liver – bitter herbs can help to stimulate, cleanse and protect your liver.
Fibromyalgia can make you feel stiff, often at its worst in the morning. It can be difficult to get going and ready for the day ahead as movement can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful when first getting out of bed.
How you can help yourself:
- Have a warm bath or shower – warmth relaxes the muscles and encourages them to loosen up. The warm water can relieve the worst of morning stiffness and help you to get going
- Stretch it out – perform gentle stretches at night before going to bed and in the morning when you get up, to ease stiffness
- Devil’s Claw – this natural remedy not only helps to ease pain (as mentioned above), it is also useful in helping to ease muscle and joint stiffness.
A helpful remedy…
For faster relief of a painful episode, Arnica gel can be applied to painful muscles and help ease stiffness.
Stress & anxiety
As well as physical symptoms of fibromyalgia, there are a number of emotional symptoms, including stress and anxiety. There is a lot of worry related to fibromyalgia, especially as it is a relatively unexplained condition. This worry can lead to anxiety, which is often increased by stressful situations or the stress of dealing with troublesome symptoms.
These emotional responses have also been linked to increased nerve responses to stimuli, including touch. This makes those with fibromyalgia hypersensitive to physical sensations, particularly pain. Additionally, anxiety can cause muscle tension, resulting in tenderness and pain, while stress can cause poor sleep, all of which impacts many of the physical symptoms of fibromyalgia.
How you can help yourself:
- Breathe slowly and fully for a count of ten – slow, deep breathing can relieve nervous tension, anxiety and reduce the stress response of the body
- Take time to relax – read a good book, go for a walk or have a bath. Take time out and distract yourself from your worries
- Laugh more – laughter produces the feel-good chemical, serotonin, reducing symptoms of anxiety and easing stressful situations. Perk yourself up by watching something funny, or talking to an amusing friend who can help you see the bright side of things
- Seek further help – make time to see a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist to learn tools that help you manage stress, anxiety and pain.
A helpful remedy…
There are several calming herbs, such as the herbs Valerian and Avena sativa, which can help to calm the nerves, ease anxiety and help you to deal with stressful situations more effectively. These herbs have the ability to relax both the mind and the muscles.
#10 Mood swings
Feeling relaxed and cheerful one minute, then down, angry, frustrated or upset the next, is not uncommon for those with fibromyalgia. Mood swings are another emotional symptom which can be difficult for you and those around you to cope with. It is thought that the pain experienced and poor sleep can all contribute to mood swings.
How you can help yourself:
- Watch your blood sugar – your diet has an important role to play in managing your mood. Eating refined sugar and drinking alcohol or caffeine-containing drinks may help to boost your mood initially, but the big crash, which comes soon after, can make your mood worse than before
- More magnesium – ensuring that you are including enough magnesium in your diet, or taking a magnesium supplement, can also help to balance your mood, as well as improve many other symptoms of fibromyalgia.
A helpful remedy…
Hypericum is a lovely remedy to turn to for help if your mood is low. Known as the ‘sunshine herb’, it is used to support the nervous system whilst calming tension. The herb works by influencing the chemical balance in your brain, encouraging a happier or more positive mood.
Chronic pain affects millions of people in the United States. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, fibromyalgia affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. and approximately 3 percent to 6 percent of the global population. (1) Researchers estimate that somewhere between 75 percent and 90 percent of all of those with fibromyalgia are women.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease with the most common fibromyalgia symptom being profound widespread body pain. In addition, extreme fatigue and sleep problems are common. Many of those diagnosed experience symptoms from overlapping conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, restless legs syndrome, Sjögren’s Syndrome and Raynaud’s Syndrome. (2)
According to the American College of Rheumatology, diagnosis requires a history of widespread pain and accompanying other symptoms including fatigue, headaches, and difficulty sleeping; brain fog or poor cognitive function; anxiety and depression. Diagnosis can be difficult as pain is subjective; physicians knowledgeable about this disorder, or a rheumatologist, should be consulted whenever possible. (3)
Research suggests genetics play a role in fibromyalgia as it is often seen in siblings as well as in mothers and their children. And, for some, fibromyalgia symptoms can begin after an acute illness, injury or prolonged emotional stress leading researchers to believe fibromyalgia can be triggered by a trauma, either physical or psychological. (4)
Fortunately, there are a number of natural fibromyalgia treatment options that can help alleviate the symptoms. Natural fibromyalgia treatment can include:
- Changing to a fibromyalgia diet
- Adding supplements to your diet
- Using essential oils and complementary therapies like massage, meditation and counseling may also help relieve pain and fatigue
The Fibromyalgia Diet
Diet plays a big role in successful natural fibromyalgia treatment. The overall goal is to eat real foods that help to reduce inflammation and avoid any foods that cause inflammation. To accomplish this, eating a low FODMAP diet has been shown to significantly reduce fibromyalgia symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms and pain according to a longitudinal study published in Scandinavian Journal of Pain. This small study implemented dietary FODMAP restrictions. To support the findings, researchers urged more and extended research on dietary therapy. (5)
So, what are FODMAPs? They are a group of sugars that aren’t completely absorbed by the body. This results in fermentation in the digestive tract leading to gastrointestinal upset.
Foods to Eat On a Low FODMAP Diet: (6)
Vegetables: Bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, summer squash and winter squash.
Fruit: Bananas, berries, cantaloupe, grapes, honeydew melon, kiwi, kumquat, citrus fruits, pineapple and rhubarb.
Dairy & milk alternatives: Raw hard cheeses, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, goat milk yogurt and kefir.
Protein sources: Eggs, grass-fed beef and lamb, free-range chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish and tempeh.
Nuts & seeds (preferably sprouted or as butter): Macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
Seasonings & condiments: Avocado oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil, grass-fed butter, all-natural mayonnaise, mustard, olives, maple syrup, vinegar, soy sauce and salad dressing made with ingredients on this list.
Foods to Avoid:
The following foods have been identified as high in FODMAPs by Monash University, where researchers Peter Gibson and Dr. Sue Shepherd developed the low FODMAP diet. (7)
Fructose: Certain fruits like apples, honey, high fructose corn syrup
Lactose: Cow’s milk dairy, including yogurt and kefir, goat’s milk, products with added lactose and soft cheeses
Fructans: Wheat, rye, garlic, onion and inulin
Galactans: Legumes, lentils and soybeans
Polyols: Sweeteners including sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, isomalt and stone fruits including avocados, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums
Excess alcohol and caffeine.
Processed foods and foods with additives.
Fermented products to avoid: Sauerkraut from common cabbage; cow’s milk yogurt and kefir; pickled onions and pickled mixed vegetables (8)
Natural Fibromyalgia Treatment
Top Supplements for Fibromyalgia
1. Magnesium Citrate (500 mg daily)
Fibromyalgia has been linked to magnesium deficiency and research shows that magnesium supplements may help to reduce troublesome symptoms, including pain. According to a study published in the journal Rheumatology International, women given 300 milligrams of magnesium citrate daily for eight weeks experienced improvement in the number of tender points, tender point index, FIQ and Beck depression scores. (9)
In addition to pain relief, magnesium supplements may also dramatically improve insomnia, sleep time, sleep latency and sleep efficiency according to a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. In this double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, participants were given 500 milligrams of magnesium or a placebo daily for eight weeks. (10) As sleep problems are common for those with fibromyalgia, a high-quality supplement and boosting intake of magnesium-rich foods should be a top priority and can help as a natural fibromyalgia treatment.
Fortunately, there are plenty of low-FODMAP foods that are also rich with magnesium. Add cooked spinach, bananas and pumpkin seeds to your diet to boost this essential mineral that may help relieve both pain and sleep problems for those with fibromyalgia.
2. Fish Oil (1,000 mg daily)
Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, taking a high-quality fish oil supplement may help to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as improve immune system functioning. Select a high-quality omega-3 fish oil or cod liver oil. They are both packed with vitamins and nutrients beyond just essential fatty acids.
As a precaution, if you are on high blood pressure medications, anticoagulants, have asthma or are pregnant talk to your doctor before taking a fish oil supplement. Fortunately, it is safe for most people to enjoy omega-3 rich foods. Several times a week, enjoy wild-caught fish including salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring as well as walnuts and eggs.
3. Vitamin D3 (5,000 IU daily)
Vitamin D deficiencies are astoundingly common today, with some researchers estimating nearly 90 percent adults being deficient in this essential nutrient. (12). Vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate autoimmune conditions including fibromyalgia and in a meta-analysis published in the Korean Journal of Pain, patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia have a significantly lower level of vitamin D serum levels than those without a diagnosis. (13) Boosting your vitamin D intake could be a helpful natural fibromyalgia treatment.
Vitamin D3’s proven health benefits include enhancing the immune system, improving mood and strengthening cognitive functioning. (14, 15) The best way to boost your vitamin D serum levels is to get out in the sun for 10 to 20 minutes each day — without sunscreen. In addition, there are plenty of foods that are low-FODMAP that you can enjoy to increase levels, including wild-caught fish.
4. D-Ribose (5g 3x daily)
Ribose is a sugar found in our bodies that fuels organs and tissues in the body and it is often used intravenously to measure heart damage and as a treatment for certain symptoms associated with myoadenylate deaminase deficiency as well as for those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and coronary artery disease. (16)
Research indicates that taking a ribose supplement may help to improve sleep, improve energy levels, improve your sense of well-being and decrease pain for those diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A small study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found D-Ribose significantly reduced clinical symptoms for those with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In the study, participants were given 5 grams daily and 66 percent of patients experienced significant improvement. (17)
If you are diabetic, D-ribose may lower blood sugar and if you are on insulin or other common diabetes medications including glimepiride, glyburide, pioglitazone, glipizide and others, you should not take D-ribose. In addition, there is evidence that D-ribose interacts with aspirin, alcohol, choline magnesium trisalicylate, propranolol and salsalate. Use extreme caution if you take any of these medications. (16)
5. Ashwagandha (500–1,000 mg daily)
Adaptogen herbs like rhodiola and ashwagandha help to normalize physiological functions after stress and may help to increase your tolerance against stressors. (18) While the medical community is still exploring potential health benefits, ashwagandha shows promise in the treatment of chronic pain.
In a small study published in the Journal of Ayurveda Integrated Medicine, researchers found that ashwagandha shows analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Participants who were given 250 milligrams daily experienced significant reduction in pain. (19) Additionally, ashwagandha promotes restful sleep and boosts the immune system while rhodiola is shown to enhance mental and physical performance, boost immune system response and improve memory function. (20)
6. Turmeric (1,000 mg daily)
Many of the proven health benefits of turmeric can help relieve common symptoms of fibromyalgia including pain, inflammation, gastrointestinal upset and depression. In fact, according to a study published in Oncogene, curcumin is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents available, beating both aspirin and ibuprofen. (21) Select a high-quality CO2-extracted form of turmeric that also has black pepper, or piperine to make sure it is absorbed into your system.
Lifestyle Remedies & Complementary Therapies for Fibromyalgia
In addition to changing your diet and adding high-quality supplements to your diet, the following lifestyle changes can help improve fibromyalgia symptoms.
1. Regular Exercise
According to a cross-sectional study published in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, a higher level of physical fitness is consistently associated with a lower severity of fibromyalgia symptoms in women. Aerobic fitness as well as flexibility are both indicated by researchers who urge further study of women with fibromyalgia and the role of physical fitness. Try to exercise daily to improve your overall fitness level; walking, running, weight training and Burst training are good options. (22)
Exercising outside in the sunshine is also a great way to boost vitamin D and may improve mental wellbeing, according to researchers. In a review of 11 clinical trials, they found that exercising outdoors is associated with increases in energy and engagement and decreases in depression, anger, confusion and tension. Take a short walk during your lunch break or after dinner, play a game of tennis with a friend or even go on a day hike to improve both your physical and mental wellness. (23)
You may want to try acupuncture as a natural fibromyalgia treatment. A small randomized, controlled, double-blind study published in the journal Revista Brasileira De Reumatologia, has found that acupuncture is an effective tool for immediate pain reduction in patients with fibromyalgia. (24)
Additionally, a meta-analysis conducted by researchers from RMIT University in Victoria, Australia have found that electro-acupuncture (EA) may be more effective than manual acupuncture (MA) for people with fibromyalgia. Their results indicate EA may be better for reducing pain and stiffness and it improves overall well-being, sleep and generalized fatigue. (25)
In a systemic review of nine clinical trials researchers found that massage therapy had immediate benefit for patients with fibromyalgia. Participants in the trials experienced improvement in pain, depression and anxiety after 5 or more weeks of massage therapy. Researchers encouraged larger trials and further research. (26)
This Japanese hands-on healing practice may be effective at relieving chronic pain and anxiety according to a review of clinical trials. Reiki sessions can instill a relaxed and even dream-like state, inducing relaxation. Sessions can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes and researchers urge further study. (27, 28)
5. Stress-Relieving Activities
Stress and depression are common for those with fibromyalgia and finding a way to manage your stress is essential. Stress-relieving activities that may be helpful include journaling, scheduling a pedicure with friends, or using a lavender cream for a foot massage. In a small clinical trial published in Journal of Caring Sciences, lavender cream used with or without a foot bath resulted in reduced anxiety, stress and depression. (29, 30)
Mind-Body Practices to Help Fibromyalgia
Researchers from the Department of Psychology at York University in Toronto, Canada has found that yoga improves several common fibromyalgia symptoms. (31) In the study, participants participated in 75 minutes of yoga twice a week for eight weeks and reported improved pain, cognitive functioning and cortisol levels.
Researchers urge further randomized-controlled trials with a larger sample size to determine the full benefits of practicing yoga for women with fibromyalgia.
2. Tai Chi
A clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that tai chi may be helpful for people with fibromyalgia. Significant improvements were measured in pain, sleep quality, depression and overall quality of life. Participants in this trial practiced tai chi for 60 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks and at 24 weeks the improvements measured remained sustained. (32)
3. Mindfulness Meditation
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has found that mindfulness meditation reduces pain. In this small study, volunteers either meditated, did a placebo condition, a sham meditation or listened to a book.
While all of these resulted in some improvement in pain intensity, mindfulness meditation was the most effective at reducing pain intensity by inducing pain relief in regions of the brain associated with pain. (33) Because of its pain-reducing capability, meditation could be useful as a natural fibromyalgia treatment to help alleviate symptoms.
Guided Meditation can be done from your home, and in addition to relieving pain, research indicates it is also effective for relieving stress, lowering depression, discourages binge-eating, and helps to improve sleep quality. (34, 35, 36)
Learn to connect your mind and your body through meditation and start practicing daily. Ideally, meditate for at least 20 minutes, and if you are stressed or in pain, continue your session for 10 to 15 minutes longer. Try just starting with five minutes a day and build up to 20 minutes or more.
Emotional & Mental Health Therapies for Fibromyalgia
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
One of the most successful types of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach where patients work with a therapist to help change the thoughts and fears that influence behaviors. In a review of clinical trials, researchers have identified that CBT is effective for a wide range of conditions including anxiety disorders, insomnia, anger, stress, distress due to medical condition, fatigue and chronic pain. (37)
One of the keys to effective CBT is to find a therapist who you are comfortable with and who has experience with individuals with chronic medical conditions. Interview several therapists until you find one who complements your goals.
2. Music Therapy
Listening to music may be a potential natural fibromyalgia treatment. In a pilot study published in the journal Pain Management Nursing, study participants with fibromyalgia who were given music therapy experienced a significant reduction in both pain and depression. In this small study, patients were instructed to listen to music daily for four consecutive weeks. Researchers encourage further study and investigation for music as a self-management intervention to reduce both depression and pain. (38)
A chronic disorder like fibromyalgia can cause significant emotional distress. Options for natural fibromyalgia treatment such as switching to a healthy diet and making lifestyle changes may help with lingering symptoms including poor sleep, chronic pain and depression.
Left untreated, many people with a chronic illness pull away from friends, family members and events — leading to a solitary and lonely life. Talk to a counselor, seek out friends and family who understand and most of all, be kind to yourself.
Fibromyalgia Treatment Key Points
- Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S.
- Somewhere between 75 percent and 90 percent of those with fibromyalgia are women.
- The most common symptom is widespread, sometimes debilitating, pain.
- Genetics are believed to play a role, but some may get fibromyalgia after a physical or emotional trauma.
- Fibromyalgia symptoms may co-occur with irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, Sjögren’s syndrome and Raynaud’s syndrome.
12 Natural Fibromyalgia Treatment Options:
- Eat a low-FODMAP Diet to reduce inflammation, pain and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia including IBS symptoms.
- Take 500 mg daily of magnesium citrate to improve pain and promote restful sleep.
- Take 1,000 mg daily of fish oil to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Take 5,000 IU daily of vitamin D3 and go outside in the sunshine.
- Take 5 grams of D-ribose 3x daily to reduce pain and fatigue.
- Take 500 to 1,000 mg daily of ashwagandha and rhodiola to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system and enhance both physical and mental performance.
- Take 1,000 mg daily of turmeric to reduce pain, inflammation, depression and gastrointestinal upset.
- Exercise daily to improve overall physical fitness.
- Practice yoga at least twice a week to improve pain, cognitive functioning and cortisol levels.
- Have acupuncture to relieve pain and stiffness.
- Practice mindfulness meditation daily to reduce pain.
- Listen to music every day to help relieve pain and depression.
Read Next: 8 ‘You Won’t Believe It’ Natural Painkillers
There are numerous approaches when it comes to fibromyalgia treatments that provide pain relief. Some topical or over the counter remedies temporarily relieve minor aches. Some use technology or pharmaceutical interventions to intervene in some way––either short or long-term. And, others use natural, holistic means to address root issues related to fibromyalgia pain.
I’ve tried them all.
Perhaps you have, too? Different remedies suit different circumstances. I’ve found topical remedies that can be wonderful for sore muscles that ache after a long walk, a workout, or a minor injury. When first diagnosed, I took medications as prescribed with the belief that soon the pain would abate and my life would be restored. It didn’t happen that way.
Eventually, I did find methods that allowed pain to release its firm grip on my body. I’m grateful to share that my life has been more than restored. But in all fairness, it wasn’t as simple as applying a liniment or swallowing a capsule.
When it comes to chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia … healing is possible.
But, there’s no magic wand.
Natural Pain Relief – Harnessing Nature’s Potential
There are ways to find lasting solutions to our fibromyalgia symptoms rather than a temporary respite. Natural solutions can provide sustained pain relief without harmful or hazardous side-effects. Natural solutions provide root-level, foundational reinforcement to nourish, replenish, and boost the body’s innate healing abilities.
Natural solutions support the body’s biological functions in a systemic way. For example, natural remedies that support healthy digestion (command central for your overall health), can also provide targeted support for other operations of the body including the immune, circulatory, endocrine, and nervous systems.
If you’ve read my books or articles, you may recall that I lived with relentless pain for quite some time. In fact, it took more than 15 years to get a diagnosis (and, I had to come up with it myself).
What I thought was the end of my journey, was really just the beginning.
I then had to figure out how to handle my condition. I was unable to manage my pain through either the pills I tried or the lotions I applied. Nothing helped and my list of fibromyalgia symptoms only grew. Frustrated with a lack of progress, it seemed to me that looking for alternative treatments was akin to throwing in the towel.
Little did I know then, that the very treatments I considered “Plan B” options would later become my primary methods of care.
Listed here are the four basic pillars of natural healing from a holistic health approach. These foundational categories of health protocols provide profound and lasting healing benefits.
4 Pillars of Natural Healing
This statement may shock you. A frighteningly large portion of the chronic illness community is malnourished. They’re trying to heal, but their basic cellular resources to do so are already at a deficit. This population lacks the basic and essential nutrients needed for healthy day-to-day bodily functions.
In this context, malnourishment has nothing to do with hunger or lack of food. In fact, it’s possible (and even common) to be overweight yet still malnourished. The rate of malnourishment has reached epidemic proportions. It’s estimated that 85% of Americans, for example, do not consume necessary amounts of essential nutrients needed for physical and mental development.(1)
Many (and dare I say most) of the chronic illness community consume fewer than the recommended five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables.(2) Sadly, many of us fall short of this mark. Many of my clients confess to consuming far closer to zero servings than five. The effects of this deficiency in nutrients is devastating.
It’s amazing to think that in this age of enlightenment, people still contract ancient-sounding diseases such as scurvy from poor nutrition. These diets lack even the most fundamental levels of essential micronutrients.(3) Pirate-afflicting diseases aside, the disastrous effects of malnourishment on the general public is greater than you may expect. Consuming a Standard American Diet of fast, processed and packaged foods takes a toll.
Lack of the vital nutrients found in fresh produce can create a host of symptoms including rashes, hair loss, muscle spasms, mood disorders, and numbness in the hands and feet. For example, Joseph Mercola, MD, states “An estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. It’s a crucially important mineral for optimal health, performing a wide array of biological functions.”(4)
Fortunately, the remedies to a nutrient-deficient diet are fairly simple. Consuming recommended servings of fresh vegetables, healthy proteins, and healthy fats can help to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms as well as promote healing. The power of fiber, antioxidants, folate, essential fatty acids and other key nutrients can kick start any healthy eating plan. For more information on a healthy fibromyalgia diet, check out “The Fibromyalgia Diet: HELP! I Don’t Know What to Eat.”
Additionally, you may choose to take nutritional supplements to augment your diet. A holistic health nutritionist can assist you with recommendations.
2, Body movement
What’s one of the most familiar behaviors demonstrated at chronic illness support groups? It’s very common to share descriptions of your symptoms with one another. This “compare and share” behavior is observed in online support environments as well.
Looking at our symptoms from a collective point of view, we’re able to feel validated in our experiences. We can see what’s similar and what’s different from the group.
The following list of symptoms is shared by many in the chronic illness community. How many of these apply to you?
Do you –
- Have intense cravings for unhealthy foods?
- Have significant sleep issues?
- Have little to no stamina?
- Have a weakened immune system?
- Have a short fuse (often on the brink of “losing it”)?
- Have weak bones?
- Have a tendency toward injuries?
- Have a shortened life span?
- Have a tendency toward sadness and mood disorders?
- Have a sluggish metabolism that leads to easy weight gain?
Most of us wouldn’t wish these symptoms on our worst enemies and feel victim to them ourselves.(5) In the fibromyalgia and chronic illness communities, mood disorders, digestive dysfunction, sleep concerns, and energy shortages prevail.
Take heart. What if I told you that you could experience these benefits instead?
- Improved self-confidence
- Improved weight management
- Stronger immune system
- Improved digestion
- Strengthened muscles
- Improved posture
- Improved sleep
- Improved memory
- Improved ability to rest and relax
- Regulated and balanced blood sugar
- Enhanced creativity
- Enhanced problem-solving
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved memory and recall
- Improved mood and sense of positivity
Think it would take a miracle?
There is one natural healing method that can help every symptom listed earlier and foster improvements in every benefit listed above. This healing method comes from – exercise.
Is exercise a dirty word to you?
I get it. But, I’m here to set things straight. The word “exercise” itself isn’t the problem. The real issue is the negative association and meaning you attach to the word. When you hear the term exercise, if you think of a sweaty distance runner in a Nike ad, you’re likely to feel defeated from the get-go.
Moving your body in some form of fitness program can spark healing in ways you might not imagine. So, why not begin anew? Use your imagination to create a revised definition of the word. I’ve always preferred the term body movement to exercise, and that’s a good start. Moving the body in healthy ways means doing what works for YOU.
Just as with nutrition, it’s vital to discover ways to implement body movement into your daily life – and do it your way. Respect your personal range of motion, limitations, and resources. But respect doesn’t mean ignore.
Your body needs to move. Every day.
Moving your body gives you the vitality to build a stronger immune system, improve mood and sleep, and assist your body’s organs to function properly.
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Body movement strategies detoxify the body and produce happy and healthy hormones that lift the mood. Fitness practices tone the muscles, strengthen bones, and fortify your body’s structural integrity. You’ll also enjoy improved posture as an amazing side-effect.
If you’d like to discover what type of body movement is best for those with mobility challenges check out “What Fitness Training Works Best for Fibromyalgia?”
To begin a simple walking routine, check out “WALKING: The All-Season, All-Weather Fibromyalgia Fitness Solution.”
When it comes to body movement, there’s a huge span between expecting yourself to run a marathon and doing nothing. It’s the part somewhere in the middle where you’ll find the strategies of success.
3, Stress Management
Listing the negative impact of stress on the body would take more time than I’m willing to expend here. For starters, stress is a system-wide problem. Stress negatively impacts our brain, nervous system, immune system, circulatory system, endocrine system, and more.
In my article, “Is Emergency Stress Impacting My Fibromyalgia Body?” I list over 30 symptoms of dysfunction that can be traced to the effects of stress. The main theme of this article is to illustrate the impact of the body’s stress response system.
Stress triggers a hormonal deluge that causes the body to go into what’s commonly referred to as the fight or flight response. For us fibrofolk, we’re painfully familiar with an effect that’s often omitted from this description. We’re familiar with the fight, flight, or freeze response. Many of us feel the after-effects of holding our breath, remaining motionless, and having our thoughts go into overdrive. This deer-in-the-headlights experience washes the body in a cascade of stress hormones that keep us feeling under attack.
The body was not designed to stay in this hyper-aware state.
Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. Imagine going through life with a pebble in your shoe and doing nothing about it. It’s obvious that the pebble would bother your foot. But in short order, the effects of the pebble would travel to your ankle, knee, hips, and up through the spine. Ignoring the issue isn’t a solution.
One of the greatest misconceptions is that stress is inevitable and nothing can be done about it.
This is only half true.
Yes, stress is inevitable, but there are many practices that can circumvent its negative effects. Because stress triggers the fight, fight, or freeze response, it’s vital to intentionally practice protocols that trigger an opposite relaxation response. Applying a relaxation practice can generate health-promoting hormones which allow the body to reset and re-establish balance.
Our hormones communicate to the body information needed to function. For example, stress hormones tell the body to respond in one way, whereas relaxation hormones tell it to respond in another.
As you’ve probably experienced, stress hormones are triggered without much thought. It takes intentional thought, planning, and proactive behaviors to induce relaxation hormones.
Stress management practices listed in the above Emergency Stress article can help. Prayer, meditation, deep breathing, and EFT Tapping are some of my favorites. Make it a priority to take the steps needed to reduce your body’s burden from stress. Put your favorite stress-relieving practices into action and achieve the benefits your body needs.
While I’m not a big fan of most radical detox programs, it’s important to note that toxins and toxic exposures have a big impact on the fibromyalgia body. Those of us with chronic health challenges are hyper-sensitive to foods, lights, sounds, smells, touch and to our environment.
Exposures to toxic elements can happen at an external level (through the air and our skin) or at an internal level (through foods, medicines, cigarettes, vaccines, tattoo inks/dyes, dental amalgams, etc.). Depending on the exposure levels and the quantity, the body may not be able to process and release the toxins through normal bodily functions.
This build-up of toxins in the body creates symptoms ranging from insomnia to weight gain.
As I mentioned, while there are a few short-term medical food detox programs that I find useful, I prefer implementing practices that are geared to detox the body naturally over time. In fact, these practices are so effective, they’re perfectly suited to become part of your everyday protocols.
Technically, I consider this “detox pillar” of natural healing to be a subset of each preceding pillar.
- Pillar #1 – Natural, whole, nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods are amazingly helpful at helping the body to eliminate toxins.
- Pillar #2 – Body movement and regular exercise, is one of the best ways to not only strengthen but also detoxify the body. Body movement allows a natural detoxification process to happen with or without significant sweating. If you’re moving your body in healthy ways, don’t fret if you don’t necessarily sweat. It’s all good.
- Pillar #3 – Relaxation practices help the body to detoxify by enlisting the healing benefits of a calm and centered state of mind. The relaxation response generated by the central nervous system allows for improved circulation, organ function, and digestive processes. All of these assist in detoxification.
Other basic ways to detoxify include proper hydration, limiting processed and chemically-laden foods, limiting stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine, and detox protocols such as far infrared saunas, steam baths, and detox soaks.(6)
Take Your First Steps Toward Fibromyalgia Pain Relief
With the four pillars of natural healing firmly in place, you’ll provide your body with root-level methods to help the body do what it does naturally – restore homeostasis (a healthy balance).
It doesn’t take drastic measures to begin. Simply drinking water and starting a basic walking routine can help. I personally love practices that do double-duty. Because exercise is also a detoxification and stress management protocol, you can work on three pillars of health with one practice.
Successful nutritional changes take an optimistic approach. Get creative in the kitchen. Try something new. Give yourself some latitude for experimentation.
Incorporating fresh produce into your meals, moving your body in healthy ways, and dealing with the effects of daily stress will exponentially boost your results.
How will you choose to implement the Four Pillars of Natural Healing into your life today?
This article, originally published on February 9, 2017, was updated on July 10, 2019.
Sue Ingebretson is becoming a most sought after symptom-relief expert in the fibromyalgia and chronic illness communities. She’s known for getting to the root of her client’s health challenges and delivering long-term results using a light-hearted approach without quick-fix remedies that only mask symptoms. You can find out more and contact Sue at www.RebuildingWellness.com.
Do you know that breakfast has the greatest potential to contribute to your PAIN? Grab your free Stop Feeding Yourself PAIN guide here and learn why!
1. Hidden hunger: America’s growing malnutrition epidemic
2. Experts Recommend 5-9 Servings of Fruits & Veggies Daily
3. Scurvy Is a Serious Public Health Problem
4. How to Recognize Nutrient Deficiencies
5. What really happens to your body when you don’t exercise enough
6. Is There Toxic Waste in Your Body?
Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia
Herbal Formula #1: Antimicrobial Support
This synergistic blend provides core herbs, including Japanese knotweed (trans-resveratrol), andrographis, cat’s claw, and sarsaparilla, along with stabilized allicin from garlic to extend coverage against protozoa, viruses, and yeast.
Herbal Formula #2: Immunomodulation, Symptom Reduction
Reishi mushroom and cordyceps in this formula reduce inflammatory messengers (cytokines) generated by the microbes and normalize immune functions. Chinese skullcap, which provides activity against Mycoplasma and viruses, and rheumannia, which suppresses autoimmunity, are also key ingredients in the formula (initially this formula contained eleuthero, but it was too stimulating for some people with chronic illness).
Herbal Formula #3: Cellular Support, Optimal Detoxification
The natural ingredients in this formula, including glutathione and NAC, in this supplement are designed to optimize detoxification and counter damage caused by free radicals at a tissue level and inside cells. This is essential for restoring energy to the body at a cellular level. These same ingredients protect tissues from toxins and help remove toxins, including heavy metals from tissues.
Herbal Formula #4: Daily Nutrients, Cardiovascular Function
This formula provides essential vitamins and nutrients in activated form. This is very important for people with methylation mutations (MTHFR), who need activated B vitamins (5-methyltetrahydrofolate, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, methylcobalamin) to get well. The formula also contains herbal ingredients, including hawthorn, French maritime pine bark, and resveratrol, for optimizing blood flow and supporting cardiovascular function. Optimal tissue protection is provided by milk thistle for liver support and a variety of herbal antioxidants.
Once you’ve used herbs to build a foundation for recovery, you still need to complement them by creating a healing environment within your body. This requires a comprehensive holistic approach, which I’d like to share with you now.
Learn about Dr. Rawls’ Natural Herbal Protocol “
Step 2: Nourish with a Natural Diet
A steady diet of high-calorie, carb-loaded and processed food — the stuff of typical modern diets — contributes to digestive dysfunction, including leaky gut and food sensitivities, both of which are common among those with fibromyalgia. Excess carbohydrates and unhealthy fats disrupt all systems in the body, including immune system function and communication.
In short, you can’t get well without adopting a diet that matches your natural needs. A healthy diet can be boiled down to six basic guidelines. If you can adopt these, you will immediately notice increased energy, clearing of many fibromyalgia symptoms, and improved digestive function.
- Eat more vegetables than anything else. They provide vitamins, minerals, other essential nutrients, and beneficial fiber for balancing the microbiome and promoting optimal intestinal motility.
- Eat real food. Healthful eating isn’t about what’s on the label — it’s about eating freshly prepared foods from ingredients that don’t have a label! Strive to keep foods that come in a package or with a label listing ingredients to less than 10% of your total food.
- Choose healthful fat and protein sources. Wild-caught fish and farm-raised poultry and eggs are the healthiest sources of complete protein and healthful fats. Complete vegetarian protein sources include soybeans and fermented soy products such as tofu and tempeh, hemp, buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds, amaranth, spirulina, and rice and beans combined. The healthiest oils for cooking include olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, and ghee (clarified butter). Grapeseed oil, walnut oil, and avocado oil are good choices for salads.
- Diversify. Beyond vegetables, your diet should be proportionally divided among other natural food sources. The more diverse your diet, the closer you will come to fulfilling dietary requirements for optimal wellness.
- Hydration is key to keeping your body in top working condition, whether you have fibromyalgia or not. It helps to nourish your cells, detox the body, aid in digestion, control inflammation, and so much more.
This includes drinking eight glasses of water per day, yes, but also eating hydrating foods. Water from food is more alkalized (optimal for absorption) and, in some cases, cleaner than the water you can get from your tap. Good options are apples, berries, cucumbers, watermelon, and romaine lettuce.
- Up your omega-3 fatty acid intake. It’s a great way to stave off inflammation caused by fibromyalgia. It also helps alleviate oxidative stress, aids in cognitive function, and supports cardiovascular health.
To get more omega-3s, try to replace a few proteins in your weekly meal schedule with rich sources such as salmon, tuna, anchovies, or sardines. Flaxseeds, walnuts, and algae are good vegetarian options. Supplementing with krill oil is also a great way to get more omega-3s into your daily routine.
If you have significant digestive dysfunction, restrict your diet to cooked foods that are easily digested and don’t ignite food sensitivity reactions. This isn’t necessarily forever: many foods can be added back in once healing occurs. Here are the additional steps you need for successful, natural recovery:
Step 3: Purify Your Environment
Toxic substances can enter the body in three ways: by mouth, breathing, and skin. If you live in a contaminated environment (and the vast majority of us do), your wellness potential will be affected by toxic substances.
Fortunately, you do have choices — you can control what you eat and drink, what you put on your skin, and to a certain extent, the air you breathe. Here are some simple ways to detox your life:
- Once again — eat more vegetables than anything else. Fresh produce promotes normal digestive and liver functions, which enhances detoxification. Once toxic substances are neutralized, dietary fiber from vegetables and fruit hold onto neutralized toxins for removal from the body.
- Eat organic whenever practical. Foods produced using chemical pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics also have known health concerns.
- Filter your drinking water. In 2004, a World Health Organization expert consensus on water suggested that the healthiest water is hard water, filtered of any microbial and organic chemical contaminants, but still containing essential minerals, especially magnesium and calcium. Avoid drinking from plastic bottles whenever practical.
- Bring nature into your life. Simply being in the presence of plants and nature promotes wellness. Natural places with dense vegetation soak up artificial organic toxins like a sponge. Plants also emit beneficial oxygen, negative ions, and electron-rich volatile organic chemical compounds. Breathing negative ions neutralizes free radicals in the body; waterfalls and open water are also rich in negative ions.
- Scrub your indoor air. Bring plants inside for all the reasons listed above. Changing the filters on your HVAC system is also important for reducing the concentration of dust and allergens in the air. Reducing clutter helps free your home from accumulation of pollutants. Natural cleaners, such as ammonia and vinegar, are nontoxic — avoid using cleaners containing synthetic chemicals.
- Get rid of mold. Basements, crawl spaces, attics, bathrooms, water damaged areas, and sometimes wallboard can harbor mold. Mold is an issue best addressed by professionals, but take the time to find a good company — there are many scam artists out there.
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking adds yet another source of heavy metals, organic toxins, and electron-deficient positive ions.
- Minimize artificial energy. The energy emitted by cell phones, laptops, computers, and computer screens is disruptive to your natural energy fields. Don’t keep your cell phone constantly on your person, take breaks from computers whenever possible, unplug your Wi-Fi when it isn’t in use, and get outside in open, natural, tech-free spaces.
Step 4: Cultivate Calm
Modern life is stressful enough, but having fibromyalgia takes stress to a whole new, chronic level. Unfortunately, chronic stress over-energizes you to the point that your nervous system becomes irritable and agitated. The disrupted hormones that come with chronic stress interrupt communication between cells and tissues.
Try these simple tips for embracing calm and restoring optimal cellular communication:
- Take a walk. It’s a great stress reliever and almost anyone can do it. Yoga and other forms of exercise work as well.
- Zero out your stress hormones at least twice daily. Stress tends to build through the day like a tempest — once the storm is raging, it takes a long time and a lot of effort to defuse. If you interrupt a building storm, it will never reach the scale of a full tempest. A 15-minute meditation, yoga session, or even a midday nap is enough to normalize your stress hormones.
- Set priorities. The simplest solution for stress is not thinking about things that are stressful. Admittedly, it’s easier said than done. One solution is to make a priority list. Things that have the highest potential to cause stress go at the top of the list — deal with them immediately and directly. Allow only three items on the list — only these priorities should enter your conscious mind. As you check items off, other items can move onto your list and into your consciousness.
- Take calming herbs: Herbs that are excellent for calming the nervous system and supporting normal sleep include bacopa, passion flower, and motherwort. More potent herbs that promote sleep include valerian and kava, but these should be used on a limited basis because they act very similar to sleep drugs and can have similar side effects.
- Get adequate sleep. You need at least eight hours of good quality sleep every night to support healing. Try to make a habit of turning down the lights, cutting off the technology, and listening to easy restful music for at least an hour before you turn in for bed. You will rewarded by better sleep at night and a good day the next day.
Step 5: Activate Your Lifestyle
I know moving might be the last thing you want to do when you’re suffering from fibromyalgia pain. But you must move to get well.
Movement generates endorphins — the important “feel good” chemicals that suppress pain. It increases blood flow, which removes toxins from the body and normalizes stress hormones. And it boosts the immune system and stimulates formation of stem cells, which are essential for repairing damaged tissues in the body.
How you move matters. Movement causes friction, which can do damage, especially to joints, ligaments, and muscles that are already inflamed. Excessive movement stresses an already over-stressed body. To gain the benefits of movement in your recovery, you have to start slow and easy. Here are some ideas for putting things into gentle motion:
- Warm up slowly and don’t overdo it. When your body is weak, maintaining posture and alignment is more difficult during exercise, so injury is much more likely. In this case, quality is more important than quantity.
- Start with walking. In the beginning, that may just be a lap around your house. As your strength improves, try to walk around your neighborhood. Stick to flat areas at first, then gradually build up to mild inclines. Whenever you can, walk in natural areas, like beaches and parks.
- Give qigong a try. The slow, gentle movements of this ancient Chinese art (pronounced chi-gung) increase endorphins without adding to your pain. Qigong exercises also enhance posture, alignment, and balance. A class with an instructor is ideal for learning, but the simple exercises can also be learned from a book, DVD, or YouTube videos.
- Sign up for a yoga class. Yoga is perfect for restoring your body. Most anyone at any level of fitness and stamina can participate at some level. Yoga poses stretch ligaments and improve posture. Yoga encourages blood flow to areas of the body where flow can be restricted, such as the spine. It’s is also a great way to generate endorphins. Classes are widely available in most every community; let your instructor know about any physical restrictions you have so they can help you modify poses for comfort and safety.
- Bounce back. A rebounder is a small personal trampoline that provides a safe way to ease back into movement. Simply bouncing 10-20 minutes a couple of times a day gets blood flowing, strengthens the autonomic nervous system, and increases lymphatic flow.
- Add some resistance. Once you’re able to tolerate light aerobic exercise, add light free weights to work the different muscle groups of the body. Start low with only 2-3 pounds, and gradually work up. Resistance training is designed to increase muscle tone and physical strength, not add bulk (which is unnecessary for robust health). Stay within your limits — injuring yourself is not the goal.
- Stop when it doesn’t feel good and don’t forget to cool down. If exercise results in a next-day exercise hangover, with pain and increased fatigue, allow time to recover and back down on the level of intensity. Generating pain is not the goal.
Step 6: Find Fast Symptom Relief
The biggest roadblocks to recovery from fibromyalgia are symptoms — chiefly pain and poor sleep. Healing takes time, and symptoms won’t go away until healing is complete. In the short term, suppressing symptoms can be essential for allowing recovery to progress in a forward direction.
Sometimes, that might mean taking pharmaceutical drugs, but if you can avoid drug therapy, you can also sidestep the potential for side effects and long-term problems like habituation. Fortunately, there are many herbs and other natural options for relieving symptoms.
- Adaptogens: Ashwagandha is exceptionally good for balancing stress hormones. Many other adaptogens, including reishi and cordyceps, provide similar benefits. Balancing stress hormones helps restore communication pathways in the body, which directly relieves many symptoms.
- Regular massage: It’s been proven to show improved range of motion, increased circulation, and muscle relaxation in problem areas. “I look forward to my regular massage,” says Emily Grimes, a health coach at RawlsMD. “I can feel the tension and knots releasing in my back, along with all of my other problem spots. It’s a true full system reset.”
- Reiki and polarity therapies: These energy-based healing methodologies are performed by a trained Reiki practitioner or polarity therapist. Both deal with movement of energy to help heal the body, though they have different origins and methodologies.
- Acupuncture: Another energy-based method, it involves insertion of needles at various places on the body to stimulate so-called acupoints. It’s among the most widely practiced forms of alternative medicine in the country, and is offered by many small practices and also hospitals. And one National Institutes of Health study found firm evidence to support acupuncture for chronic pain treatment.
- Far infrared saunas: They use light to create heat within your body, rather than making your surroundings hotter. These saunas help you with sweating out toxins, finding relief through increased circulation, and reducing inflammation.
- Cannabidiol oil (CBD): Derived from hemp, a legal form of cannabis, CBD is free of THC, the substance in marijuana that causes euphoria. CBD oil helps ease pain, supports immune system functions, calms an overactive nervous system, and brings on sleep in many people. Hemp products are legal in most states and can be purchased online.
- Pulsed Electromagnetic Field machines (PEMF): These machines use electromagnetic fields to stimulate cellular repair. They’ve been shown to help with chronic pain and inflammation, as well as bone repairs. These devices are safe and don’t necessarily have to have skin contact to work properly. Your healthcare practitioner can recommend a PEMF machine for you, but they don’t require a prescription. One popular brand among fibromalgia sufferers is the The Oksa Pulse.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units: TENS units use electricity to block pain signals from reaching your brain. They involve the use of electrodes, so those with sensitive skin might have to take preventative measures to avoid issues. With that in mind, many find that TENS units bring them the reprieve from pain in their problem areas that they need to focus on the other healing methods mentioned above.
There are a wide range of TENS units available, ranging from simple inexpensive devices (less than $100) available without prescription at a pharmacy or online, to more sophisticated devices available exclusively at a doctor’s office.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: This involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube, and it’s been shown to help many fibromyalgia sufferers improve their symptoms. Why? Because most stealth microbes are very oxygen sensitive. While hyperbaric oxygen should not be considered a stand-alone treatment, it can provide benefit.
To overcome fibromyalgia, you can’t just put your recovery in someone else’s hands — you must be the force that propels that recovery. The people who take ownership of getting well are the ones who go on to better lives. I want you to be one of those people, and by embracing the herbal therapy and natural remedies outlined above, I know you can be.