Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterized by severe muscle pain, tender body points, disturbed sleep, depression, fatigue, and anxiety. It is often difficult to diagnose, because symptoms can vary in severity and mimic other chronic conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Lupus. Approximately 3.7 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia to some degree, and about 90% of the cases occur in women.
As part of the comprehensive program of nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle modification, you may want to consider some of the supplements and treatments listed below to help support your body.
Vitamin D and Magnesium
Both vitamin D and magnesium levels have been found to be low in people with fibromyalgia, but as of yet there is no evidence that taking vitamin supplements are an effective fibromyalgia treatment. Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, does have some effects on nerve and muscle function, and some studies have suggested that low levels of vitamin D may be associated with chronic pain of fibromyalgia. In a small clinical study published online in the January 2012 issue of Pain Medicine, fibromyalgia symptoms improved in 30 women after 8 weeks of vitamin D supplementation.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of treatment for chronic pain and is based on ancient Chinese medical practices. There have been several studies on the usefulness of acupuncture in fibromyalgia. Three studies support the use of acupuncture combined with a pulsed electric current, a treatment called electroacupuncture. Although this fibromyalgia treatment seems to relieve pain, the results are not long-lasting.
Massage therapy is another alternative pain treatment that is one of the most commonly tried for fibromyalgia. The benefits of massage are hard to demonstrate in a clinical study, but it does seem to be helpful for many types of muscle pain, including fibromyalgia. Massage is generally safe.
Capsaicin comes from cayenne peppers and is considered a natural pain reliever. It’s the active ingredient in a variety of over-the-counter sprays and lotions. When applied to a painful area of the body, it stimulates the release of a body chemical called substance P. As substance P is depleted, the pain sensation seems to decrease. Capsaicin has been used for chronic pain in diabetes, cancer, and cluster headaches.
Chiropractic medicine is an alternative form of treatment that uses spinal manipulation and realignment to relieve pain, improve function, and promote natural healing. Chiropractic has been studied in many chronic pain conditions. Most studies suggest it may be effective for relief of back, neck, or headache pain.
The supplement 5-HTP is thought to work by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. There is preliminary evidence that it may reduce the number of tender points in people with fibromyalgia, possibly by effecting pain-modulating systems in the brainstem.
A double-blind, placebo controlled study looked at 5-HTP or placebo in 50 people with fibromyalgia. After four weeks, people taking 5-HTP had a significant improvement in pain, the number of tender points, stiffness, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep.
If you want to try one of these fibromyalgia treatments, always check with your doctor first.