Alternative Therapies for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Whether you have been recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, if you have been a long-time sufferer, or if you simply have concerns that you may be exhibiting symptoms of one of these diseases, you probably already know that these are elusive and tricky syndromes that present many challenges both to the people they affect and to their medical providers. Many medical professionals are reluctant to confirm a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, or other chronic pain syndrome, instead preferring to focus on ruling out other serious illnesses and providing prescription drugs to help manage pain, fatigue, and depression. However, if you suffer from one of these diseases, you should be aware that beyond traditional Western medicine, there are many holistic treatments for fibromyalgia and effective natural ways to manage these conditions. While there are no known fibromyalgia cures, many alternative therapies offer substantial hope for improved quality of life and reduction in overall perceived pain.
The latest exciting development in treating symptoms of fibromyalgia is the ancient Chinese martial art, Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a holistic mind-body practice that uses slow, gentle movement, along with focused breathing and relaxation to move energy, known as qi, through the body. A recent university study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, focused on a small group of fibromyalgia patients who participated in a regular tai chi program for several weeks, measuring their pain levels and quality of sleep against a control group of patients who participated only in stretching and health education. The study found markedly better sleep quality, less depression, and reduced pain levels in the group that committed to tai chi practice. It isn't yet clear how tai chi caused the improvements, but it is likely that the combination of relaxation, gentle development of muscle strength, and positive psychological aspects of tai chi may be a unique and valuable combination for those who suffer from fibromyalgia.
Books on Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia
Many people seeking treatment for chronic fatigue or pain successfully experiment with acupuncture. Acupuncture is scientifically proven to cause a measurable release of endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are naturally released by the body in stressful situations, such as childbirth, in which the body may experience distress; they are the body’s natural pain blockers. Therefore, stimulating the release of endorphins through acupuncture may provide pain relief for a variety of conditions. Furthermore, acupuncture may affect brain chemistry by changing the way neurotransmitters are released, altering the brain’s ability to prevent and stimulate nerve impulses, including those that signal pain. Consequently, acupuncture may inhibit the brain’s ability to recognize fibromyalgia pain, thus elevating pain tolerance. Acupuncture has admittedly produced inconsistent results in studies of fibromyalgia patients, providing extensive benefits in some studies and no discernible results in others. However, many fibromyalgia sufferers confirm that acupuncture treatments are a critical part of their plan of care.
Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia
One of the most indisputably helpful treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia is massage. Unfortunately, massage tends to be expensive, and is generally not covered by health insurance, but massage is a very promising form of therapy for fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Scientifically, massage seems to function like acupuncture, inhibiting the perception of pain by releasing pain-blocking hormones into the bloodstream. Additionally, massage stimulates blood flow to the muscles, thereby speeding up the healing process for muscle damage. Massage can also increase flexibility, reduce stiffness, and create a deep state of relaxation which can promote healthy sleep patterns. Some practitioners insist that simply the act of scheduling time for oneself to enjoy a massage can be a healthy and healing gesture for the type-A overachievers who tend to be afflicted with these conditions. There are many different varieties of massage, all of which apparently provide benefits for fibromyalgia patients. However, deep-tissue massage may not be the most suitable form of massage for those with advanced muscle pain and stiffness, as the deep, penetrating strokes used in this form of massage may result in some pain during the treatment as well as some brief soreness afterwards.
Meditation and Relaxation Therapy
Relaxation therapy is a broad term used for a variety of stress-reduction techniques, including deep breathing, meditation, progressive relaxation, even yoga. All of these activities help correct sleep disorders, headaches, depression and other symptoms which commonly occur in fibromyalgia. The form of the exercise is less important than the content, so choose a form of relaxation therapy that you feel most comfortable with. These mind-body techniques are convenient because once they are learned, they can be performed almost anywhere, and are rewarding to both body and spirit. All of the forms of relaxation therapy focus to some extent on the breath, a powerful point of awareness which can help direct the attention of the practitioner towards the positive attributes of the body.
These represent only a few of the most common complementary therapies undertaken by people diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but they represent a good point of departure for exploring the diverse world of alternative therapies. Use the links below to locate a good fibromyalgia treatment center; finding doctors and practitioners with special understanding of these complicated disorders is essential. Of course, any effective treatment plan for managing fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome should include many dimensions, including strategies for promoting excellent nutrition, adequate exercise, and medical supervision, but these therapies may well become one of the stepping stones on the return to a functional and more energetic life.
Helpful Resources for Fibromyalgia Treatment
- The CFIDS Association of America
- National Fibromyalgia Association: Welcome to the national fibromyalgia association
Your fibromyalgia support destination! To develop and execute programs dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with fibromyalgia.
- Welcome To Fibromyalgia Network News
Ad-free patient educational resource on fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
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