Alternative Health

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

People who suffer from fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder with symptoms that include musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness, often seek relief from alternative-health practices. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) part of the National Institutes of Health, talks about the research:

In general, the research on alternative health practices for fibromyalgia is only preliminary. But the NCCAM says that the good news is that there is “encouraging evidence that practices such as tai chi, qi gong, yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, and balneotherapy may help relieve some fibromyalgia symptoms.”

For meditative movements such as tai chi, qi gong and yoga, the NCCAM says, a 2013 review of the scientific research found evidence that these therapies “resulted in modest improvements in sleep disturbances, fatigue, depressed mood, and health-related quality of life.” Participants in the tai chi group showed “significant improvements” in symptoms including sleep quality and depression. The investigators found that the improvement remained up to six months later. But they cautioned, the NCCAM said, that more study is needed. The NCCAM is sponsoring a current, larger study of tai chi and fibromyalgia sufferers.

These therapies aren’t for everyone. The NCCAM suggests that pregnant women as well as people with a hernia, a joint problem or back problem, fractures or severe osteoporosis should talk with their primary care physician first.

As for yoga, people who have high blood pressure, glaucoma, sciatica or who are pregnant should modify or avoid some poses.

Massage Although common sense might say that massage would be very effective for people suffering from joint pain, a systematic review of the medical literature said there were only modest, short-term benefits. At the same time, the investigators said, the studies they reviewed had methodological problems, and that more research is needed to establish whether massage is effective or safe for fibromyalgia sufferers.

Acupuncture The NCCAM says that a systematic review in 2013 found that there was only low to moderate evidence that acupuncture, compared with no treatment or standard therapy, improved pain and stiffness. Another study, conducted in 2010, found no evidence in favor of treating fibromyalgia with acupuncture. The technique is generally considered safe, the NCCAM says, when performed by experienced practitioners using sterilized needles. However, there have been serious, though rare, events including infections and punctured organs.

Balneotherapy Bathing in mineral waters, also known as balneotherapy, can cause patients to have a short-term improvement in pain. But again, the technique, which is often practiced at overseas spas, needs more examination before scientists can determine whether it’s beneficial. Balneotherapy is generally safe for everyone, the NCCAM says, although there are some mild side effects like mild flushing.

For more information on alternative and complementary health treatments, visit National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAMM).

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