Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Many people with fibromyalgia also report varying degrees of success with complementary and alternative therapies, including massage, movement therapies (such as Pilates and the Feldenkrais method), chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, and various herbs and dietary supplements for different fibromyalgia symptoms. (For more information on complementary and alternative therapies, contact the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. See “ More Information About Fibromyalgia?”)
Although some of these supplements are being studied for fibromyalgia, there is little, if any, scientific proof yet that they help. FDA does not regulate the sale of dietary supplements, so information about side effects, proper dosage, and the amount of a preparation’s active ingredient may not be well known. If you are using or would like to try a complementary or alternative therapy, you should first speak with your doctor, who may know more about the therapy’s effectiveness, as well as whether it is safe to try in combination with your medications.
Besides taking medicine prescribed by your doctor, there are many things you can do to minimize the impact of fibromyalgia on your life. These include:
- Getting enough sleep – Getting enough sleep and the right kind of sleep can help ease the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. (See “Tips for Good Sleep”.) Even so, many people with fibromyalgia have problems such as pain, restless legs syndrome, or brainwave irregularities that interfere with restful sleep.
- Exercising – Although pain and fatigue may make exercise and daily activities difficult, it’s crucial to be as physically active as possible. Research has repeatedly shown that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia. People who have too much pain or fatigue to do vigorous exercise should begin with walking or other gentle exercise and build their endurance and intensity slowly. Although research has focused largely on the benefits of aerobic and flexibility exercises, a new NIAMS-supported study is examining the effects of adding strength training to the traditionally prescribed aerobic and flexibility exercises.
- Making changes at work – Most people with fibromyalgia continue to work, but they may have to make big changes to do so. For example, some people cut down the number of hours they work, switch to a less demanding job, or adapt a current job. If you face obstacles at work, such as an uncomfortable desk chair that leaves your back aching or difficulty lifting heavy boxes or files, your employer may make adaptations that will enable you to keep your job. An occupational therapist can help you design a more comfortable workstation or find more efficient and less painful ways to lift.
If you are unable to work at all due to a medical condition, you may qualify for disability benefits through your employer or the Federal Government. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) are the largest Federal programs providing financial assistance to people with disabilities. Although the medical requirements for eligibility are the same under the two programs, the way they are funded is different. SSDI is paid by Social Security taxes, and those who qualify for assistance receive benefits based on how much they have paid into the system; SSI is funded by general tax revenues, and those who qualify receive payments based on financial need. For information about the SSDI and SSI programs, contact the Social Security Administration. (See “Where Can I Get More Information About Fibromyalgia?”)
- Eating well – Although some people with fibromyalgia report feeling better when they eat or avoid certain foods, no specific diet has been proven to influence fibromyalgia. Of course, it is important to have a healthy, balanced diet. Not only will proper nutrition give you more energy and make you generally feel better, it will also help you avoid other health problems.