Fibromyalgia, also known as fibrositis or fibromyositis, is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain. It is far more common in women than men. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unclear.
Possible causes and risk factors are genetics, hormonal disturbances, trauma to the brain or spinal cord, surgery, rheumatic diseases, viral infections, disturbed sleep pattern, poor physical conditioning and stress. Researchers believe it may result from a combination of physical and emotional stressors.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include debilitating muscle pain; numbness or tingling sensations; sensitivity to noise, odors, bright lights, medications, certain foods and cold; stiff joints (especially in the morning); and fatigue.
Those suffering from this condition also tend to have migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression.
Fibromyalgia is not easy to treat as there is no definitive cure. The main goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. This can be done with medicines as well as complementary treatment and natural remedies.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for fibromyalgia.
1. Yoga and Meditation
Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and deep breathing, can be of great help in controlling fibromyalgia symptoms.
According to a 2010 study by Oregon Health & Science University researchers, yoga can help combat fibromyalgia symptoms like pain, stiffness, fatigue, poor sleep, poor memory, anxiety, depression and poor balance.
In 2011, Canadian researchers at York University found that a 75-minute hatha yoga class twice weekly for eight weeks helped increase cortisol levels in female participants with fibromyalgia, thus reducing pain and improving mindfulness. Those suffering from fibromyalgia tend to have lower than normal levels of the hormone cortisol.
- Practice yoga for 20 to 40 minutes daily.
- Join a tai chi class.
- Do mindfulness meditation for 20 to 30 minutes daily.
- Deep relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery may also help.
Taking part in a long-term exercise program has been found to be effective in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms. It prevents muscle wasting and restores the body’s neurochemical balance that boosts the levels of pain-fighting chemicals called endorphins. It also triggers a positive emotional state and reduces stress.
Start with about 20 minutes of low-impact exercises 3 times a week, then increase the duration and frequency. These may include walking, seated exercises, strength exercises, flexibility exercises, balance exercises and water aerobics. Range-of-motion, strengthening and aerobic conditioning exercises are safe for most patients.
It is suggested to begin with mild exercise and go slow to keep symptoms from flaring up. For example, you can start with some stretching and regular activities like taking the stairs, gardening or doing chores and gradually move to steady exercise.
Keep in mind that although the pain and fatigue may make exercise difficult, it is imperative to be physically active.
3. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath helps your body absorb magnesium. Fibromyalgia is often associated with magnesium deficiency. This soothing bath can also help reduce pain and induce relaxation.
- Mix 2 cups of Epsom salt in warm bathwater.
- Soak in it for about 20 minutes.
- Do this up to 3 times a week.
4. Acupressure and Acupuncture
Acupressure and acupuncture help control fibromyalgia symptoms by restoring the levels of vital energy that flow through energy pathways in the body and changing the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord. In addition to alleviating pain, these therapies also induce relaxation and reduce anxiety.
- Depending on your symptoms and the location of your tender points, gently press the sensitive trigger points for a few seconds. You can also rub the trigger points in tiny circles lightly without applying pressure.
- Ask your doctor, neurologist, or physical therapist to suggest a qualified acupuncturist or acupressurist who can select appropriate acupoints for your treatment based on your symptoms and qi energy.
For best results, combine acupressure and acupuncture with meditation, exercise, massage and other therapies.
Massage therapy helps relax your muscles and improve the range of motion in your joints. It also relieves stress and stimulates production of chemicals that act as the body’s natural painkillers.
A type of massage called manual lymph drainage therapy (MLDT) is also beneficial for fibromyalgia. It loosens up lymph blockages that could be contributing to the pain.
For best results, get your massage done by a massage therapist who has experience with fibromyalgia.
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that help decrease inflammation and neuropathic pain. They can also curb joint pain and stiffness.
- Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of fish oil daily.
- Also, eat fatty fish like herring, sardines, anchovies, tuna or wild salmon 2 or 3 times a week. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil and soybean oil.
- You can opt for fish oil or omega-3 supplements instead, but consult your doctor first.
Note: Fish oil or omega-3 supplements may interfere with blood-thinning medications.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar helps balance the body’s pH levels, reduce oxidative stress and improve circulation. This can help reduce fibromyalgia symptoms like gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, headaches, joint pain, swelling and inflammation.
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of water.
- Optionally, add a little honey.
- Drink it twice daily.
If you are not used to taking apple cider vinegar, start by adding 1 teaspoon to a glass of water and gradually increase the dosage.
Due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can help treat fibromyalgia accompanied by rheumatic disease. It contains a compound called curcumin that also helps relieve pain and stiffness.
- Mix ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in 1 cup of milk. Heat it to a boil, then allow it to cool. Drink it once or twice daily.
- You can also include turmeric in your cooking.
- Another option is to take this herb in supplement form, 400 to 600 mg 3 times a day. Consult your doctor before starting any supplement regimen.
Ginger, too, has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties that help reduce fibromyalgia symptoms.
- Add 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger to a cup of boiling water. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain and drink this tea up to 3 times a day.
- Alternatively, you can take ginger tablets. For proper dosage and suitability, consult your doctor.
10. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin that acts as a natural pain reliever. It is also good for proper blood circulation.
- Take cayenne pepper extracts or capsules. For proper dosage, consult your doctor.
- You can also include cayenne pepper in your cooking.
- Also, apply a small amount of capsaicin cream (containing 0.025% capsaicin) on the aching areas and leave it on for about 30 minutes. Repeat up to 3 times a day.
Note: Do not apply cayenne pepper or capsaicin cream on broken or inflamed skin.
- Establish a regular sleep routine and get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Try elimination diet to test for food sensitivities so that you can eliminate potential food allergens from your diet.
- Avoid caffeine as it may disrupt your sleep pattern and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and restlessness.
- Take a 300-mg magnesium supplement daily. Consult your doctor first.
- Take supplements like 5-HTP (50 mg, 1 to 3 times a day), SAM-e (400 mg, twice daily) and L-carnitine (500 mg, twice daily). Consult your doctor before trying these supplements.