From acupuncture to chiropractic, from massage to meditation, alternative treatments are in great demand. That’s especially true for people with pain-related illnesses such as fibromyalgia. Alternative medicine, including herbal therapy and homeopathy, it is used in place of conventional medicine. These systems are based on the belief that the body has the power to heal itself with multiple techniques including those that involve the mind, body and spirit. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine.
For people with fibromyalgia, some alternative treatments work well. That’s because holistic therapies influence your total being. In that way, they may allow you to reduce your medications and increase your normal activities.
Study findings show that standard acupuncture may be effective in treating some people with fibromyalgia. Both biofeedback and electroacupuncture have also been used for relief of fibromyalgia symptoms. However, before you try alternative treatments, talk with your doctor. Check to see what limitations might apply to you. Working with your doctor, you can find an acceptable way to blend conventional medicine with alternative treatments or natural remedies. When you do, you may be able to increase restful sleep and reduce your fibromyalgia pain.
Can acupuncture treat fibromyalgia?
With acupuncture, a practitioner inserts one or more dry needles into the skin and underlying tissues at specific points. Gently twisting or otherwise manipulating the needles causes a measurable release of endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are the body’s natural opioids. In addition, according to acupuncture practitioners, energy blocks are removed. Removing them is said to restore the flow of energy along the meridians, which are specific energy channels.
Studies show that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry. It appears to do this by changing the release of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses in the brain that relay information about external stimuli and sensations such as pain. In this way, the patient’s pain tolerance is increased. One acupuncture treatment in some patients may last weeks to help alleviate chronic pain.
What is electroacupuncture?
Electroacupuncture is another way of stimulating the acupuncture points. It uses a needle hooked up to small wires connected to very slight electrical currents. Heat — moxibustion — and massage — acupressure — can also be used during this electroacupuncture process.
Laser acupuncture is yet another offshoot of this alternative therapy. It may occasionally be effective for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. While it uses the same points, there are no needles involved.
There are precautions to take if you want to try acupuncture. First, make sure you find a licensed acupuncturist who has a lot of experience. Also, make sure the acupuncturist uses only disposable needles.
There are multiple styles of acupuncture. The style used depends on where the practitioner studied. For instance, Chinese acupuncture depends on larger bore needles and the practitioner may be more aggressive with moving them. Japanese acupuncture uses thinner bore needles with a relatively gentle approach. You’ll need to find the style that suits your fibromyalgia needs.
How can chiropractic help fibromyalgia?
Chiropractic care is a very common alternative treatment for fibromyalgia pain. People use it to treat pain of pressure points, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, and pain from musculoskeletal injuries. Chiropractic may be effective for fibromyalgia because it helps improve pain levels and increase cervical and lumbar ranges of motion.
Chiropractic is based on the principle that the body is a self-healing organism. To reduce pain and increase healing, the doctor of chiropractic uses spinal adjustments. The goal is to increase the mobility between spinal vertebrae, which have become restricted, locked, or slightly out of proper position.
Chiropractors do this by using hand adjustments. With gentle pressure or stretching, multiple gentle movements of one area, or specific high-velocity thrusts, the adjustments are said to help return the bones to a more normal position or motion. This return is said to relieve pain and reduce ill health.
Can massage ease fibromyalgia pain?
With Swedish massage, the practitioner uses a system of long strokes, kneading, and friction techniques. With these, the practitioner massages the more superficial layers of the muscles. The massage is combined with active and passive movements of the joints.
Oil is usually used to facilitate the stroking and kneading of the body, thereby stimulating metabolism and circulation. The massage therapist applies pressure and rubs the muscles in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart.
Deep tissue massage may be helpful for those with fibromyalgia. The reason is therapists use greater pressure than is used in Swedish massage. In so doing, they target the deep layers of muscle. Using a series of slow strokes and direct pressure, the therapist will strive to release chronic patterns of muscular tension. Sometimes, the therapists use their elbows or thumbs to push hard into the deepest grain of the muscle to reduce tension.
Neuromuscular massage combines the basic principles of ancient Oriental therapies, such as acupressure and shiatsu, with specific hands-on deep tissue therapy. The goal is to reduce chronic muscle or myofascial (soft-tissue) pain.
How does biofeedback work to ease fibromyalgia?
To individualize the reduction of stress in the treatment of fibromyalgia, biofeedback is often recommended. This mind/body relaxation technique uses electronics to measure stress-related responses in the body. The idea behind biofeedback is that people can use information about their body’s internal processes to learn to control those processes.
A consensus statement from the National Institutes of Health indicates there is good evidence that biofeedback might help relieve many types of chronic pain. For example, it might be useful in treating tension and migraine headaches. In one study at the University of South Alabama, 80% of children with migraines were symptom-free after receiving intensive biofeedback training. In other research, some headache patients who were able to increase hand temperature using thermal biofeedback also experienced fewer and less intense migraine headaches.
How does biofeedback work to ease fibromyalgia? continued…
With biofeedback, you are connected to a machine that informs you and your therapist when you are physically relaxing your body. Sensors detect muscle tension, heart rate, breathing pattern, the amount of sweat produced, or body temperature. Any one or all of these can let the trained biofeedback therapist know if you are learning to relax.
The instruments magnify signals that you might not otherwise notice. As a result, you can use this visual or auditory response to learn how to control certain bodily functions. The ultimate goal of biofeedback is to use this skill outside the therapist’s office when you are facing real stressors.
With fibromyalgia pain, you know the “real stressor” is the pain itself. Nevertheless, other daily stressors can cause your fibromyalgia to flare. What you want to do is respond in a healthy way to the chronic stressors. If learned properly, electronic biofeedback can help you control your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing patterns, and muscle tension, potentially reducing pain.
What is homeopathic medicine?
Homeopathy is a therapeutic system of medicine that started in the late 18th century. Homeopathy is based on the principle of “like cures like.” That means that remedies that would cause a potential problem in large doses will actually encourage the body to heal more rapidly if given in small doses. Practitioners use small diluted formulas of plant, mineral, and animal substances to treat various ailments. The hope is these formulas will stimulate the body to throw off the offender.
Can herbal medicine help fibromyalgia?
Herbal remedies have been used for generations. They can be put in tea or soup or taken in other forms. While some herbal therapies have not been shown to have a specific benefit for fibromyalgia symptoms, some patients have found improved sleep or more energy with herbal supplements.
How can meditation help fibromyalgia?
With meditation, you allow your thoughts to take a break from daily analytical routines and give support to the spiritual dimension of life. When you meditate, your body switches from the pumping “fight or flight” response to a calmer, more peaceful mood. Studies show that meditation produces brain waves consistent with serenity and happiness. Meditation provides nourishment for your soul, satiates inner spiritual hunger, and helps you to develop your ability to pay attention to all areas of life without distraction.
What should I remember if I want to try an alternative treatment?
It’s important to be openly discriminating when choosing alternative treatments. The fact that something is called “natural” does not mean it is safe. Working with your doctor, look for the alternative therapies that will best boost sleep and decrease pain. The right therapy can help get you on the healthy road again.