Approximately 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes pain throughout the body. Areas of the body that may be especially painful when pressure is applied are called "tender points." Common tender points include the back of the head, elbows, shoulders, knees and hip joints and around the neck.
Fibromyalgia may also cause stiffness, sleep problems, fatigue, anxiety and depression. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, conventional medicine and non-drug therapies can help relieve pain.
The most essential part of managing pain from fibromyalgia is an aerobic exercise and strength training program. This has been shown consistently in research studies to the key element to success in improving and maintaining fibromyalgia symptoms.
In addition, below are four non-drug therapies your doctor may recommend as an alternative or a complimentary therapy to pain medicine.
Yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation. You may find yoga effective at reducing your fibromyalgia pain and stiffness, especially in combination with regular cardio and strength-training exercises. Yoga may also help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Tai chi combines meditation, slow movements, deep breathing and relaxation. A 2010 study concluded that tai chi is beneficial for people with fibromyalgia. The exercise can improve sleep quality, mood, musculoskeletal pain and depression.
Acupuncture can help with fibromyalgia pain. A practitioner inserts thin needles into specific points on your body (or uses an electrical acupuncture) to stimulate your body's painkilling chemicals and increase blood flow. Acupuncture can also help reduce muscle stiffness and tenderness.
Massage therapy uses a variety of techniques to manipulate the soft tissues of the body for relaxation and improved well-being. It can provide short-term relief of some symptoms of fibromyalgia, including anxiety. Massage therapy should be gentle in the beginning and increase intensity over time to help avoid additional pressure on the tender points.
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms often overlap with other health conditions. Talk to your doctor if you are suffering from chronic pain and fatigue.
The Christ Hospital Physicians rheumatology providers specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia. Learn more about the care they provide.