How I Conquered Fibromyalgia Without Prescription Drugs

Fibromyalgia tender points
Fibromyalgia tender points

Why do I feel so lousy?

At the age of 38, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was in near-constant pain, my muscles were sore and stiff, my joints ached, and I started every day feeling as exhausted as I did the night before. A headache was my constant companion and I was finding it increasingly difficult to focus at my job and other mental activities such as paying thebills or helping the kids with their homework.

My doctor, after ruling out other illnesses with similars ymptoms, concluded that I had“fibromyalgia,” a condition characterized by tender points in muscles, tendons,joints, and other soft tissues. Other common symptoms include morning stiffness, headaches, fatigue, and depression. According to the National Institute of Health, about 5 million adult Americans have fibromyalgia and 80 to90 percent of the cases occur in women.

My doctor prescribed a muscle relaxant for the pain and stiffness and an antidepressant to help promote restful sleep. He explained that the antidepressant would also heighten the effects of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing substances. He instructed me to start with a very small dose of the muscle relaxant only, explaining that a lower dose would allow my body time to adjust to the medication and minimize unpleasant side effects. I was instructed to add a low dose of the anti-depressant once I had been on the muscle relaxant for two weeks.

The results of the muscle relaxant were immediate: I took my first dose that night and awakened the next morning with no muscle pain or stiffness, and I remained pain-free for the entire day. However, I didn’t like the way the drug made me feel: detached, spacey, and emotionless. The doctor had warned that some people cannot tolerate the “drugged”feeling, but suggested I allow at least two weeks for the effect to wearoff. I hated the feeling so much,though, that I quit taking the medication after five days. Upon hearing my experience with the muscle relaxant, the doctor said I probably wouldn’t like the anti-depressant, either,as it had a similar “spacey” effect. So,I chose not to take the antidepressant.

With that, I left the doctor’s office resigned to feeling lousy for the time being, but determined to find a way to feel better. I began reading everything I could find about fibromyalgia. Its association with poor sleep, high stress, and poor nutrition were particularly striking to me, so I set about researching ways to help with each of those areas. I came up with a five-step plan that I knew I could accomplish even with my busy schedule, and within three months I was no longer experiencing headaches, my energy level was back to normal, my body was pain-free, and I was able to focus better at work and at home.

 Danilo Rizzuti, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=851
Danilo Rizzuti, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=851

1. Get a good night's sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep might be the single most beneficial thing you can do for your fibromyalgia. Much of the body’s healing work occurs while you sleep. Chronic lack of sleep has been associated with a multitude of problems, including obesity and diabetes,and just one or two nights of too little sleep can cause muscle pain and headaches.

Whether my fibromyalgia caused my sleep problems or my sleep problems contributed to the fibromyalgia, I knew that I had to find a way toget a better night’s sleep. The first thing I did was make sure that I went to bed at the same time every night with plenty of time to get eight hours of sleep. Because I was waking up frequently at night, I searched for ways to make my sleep more restful and began taking Valerian about an hour before bedtime. Valerian is a plant native to Europe and Asia that has been used for hundreds of years for sleeping problems, anxiety, and headaches. I found that it helped me fall asleep and stay asleep all night long. It only took about two weeks for me to establish a consistent good night’s sleep, and after that I was able to discontinue the use of Valerian and still get a good night’s sleep on my own.

2. Make better food choices

Most of us know what is good for us and what isn’t, but it’s easy to develop bad eating habits. I decided to pay more attention to what I was eating and drinking. I didn’t go on a diet or count calories; I merely followed a few simple guidelines and almost immediately I began to feel better.

First, I made sure I drank six to eight glasses of water a day, eliminated soda, limited myself to one cup of coffee per day, and drank one or two cups of green tea each day. Water is an essential nutrient, and dehydration is one of the most common causes of headaches, fatigue, and sore muscles. Green tea is particularly rich in health-promoting flavonoids and has been shown to boost the ability of the immune system to fight off infections. However, both green tea and coffee contain caffeine, so if you’re still having trouble sleeping, remove or limit consumption of both of them.

Second, I ate more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide fiber and essential vitamins and minerals and contain a number of antioxidants that may reduce the risk of certain cancers. These antioxidants help the body become more efficient at recovering from stress and illness. In addition, the higher amount of fiber and water contained in fruits and vegetables make them lower in calories and more filling.

Third, I avoided processed foods, particularly anything containing white flour or sugar, and increased the amount of whole grains in my diet. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and selenium. Some easy ways to get whole grains into the diet include substituting whole grain bread for white bread (be sure the label says “100% whole grain”), having oatmeal for breakfast, and choosing brown rice instead of white rice. [For a delicious and easy way to cook brown rice, see How to Cook Brown Rice: An Easy, Foolproof Method | Brown Rice Recipe.]

Fourth, I took a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement. Certain deficiencies in vitamins and minerals have been linked to sore muscles, headaches, fatigue and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. In particular, deficiencies in B vitamins, Vitamin D, and magnesium are fairly common and associated with muscle and nerve problems. Taking a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement can help you correct any deficiencies you may have.

3. Move your body

Even though it might feel counterintuitive to exercise when you’re already tired and achey, moderate exercise has repeatedly been shown to increase energy levels and brighten mood. For me, all it took was 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace every day to help me feel happier and more energetic. If you have an office job like I do, use your morning and afternoon breaks to step outside and walk and you will have accomplished your 30 minutes of moving. Also, stretching at your desk is an excellent way to help keep your muscles and joints from stiffening up from too much inactivity.

4. Consider taking some herbal supplements (but check with your doctor first)

Since my doctor had wanted to treat my fibromyalgia with an anti-depressant, I looked for a natural alternative, hoping to find a solution that would not have the side effects of prescription anti-depressant medications. St. John’s wort is a plant with yellow flowers that has been used for centuries for treating multiple ailments, including nerve pain, menstrual cramps and nausea. The most common modern-day use of St. John’s wort is for the treatment of depression. St John’s wort has been repeatedly shown to be an effective treatment for mild-to-moderate depression.

I began taking the smallest suggested dose of 200 mg of 0.3% standardized hypericin content per day. After two weeks, I increased to 300 mg and stayed at that dosage for approximately three months. At the end of three months, I was feeling my normal self again, so I gradually decreased the dosage until I was off of the herb. It is important that you consult your physician before taking St. John’s wort, as it can have serious negative reactions with certain prescription medications.

In addition to St. John’s wort, I began taking Siberian Ginseng , a woody shrub with a carrot-like root that is native to East Asia, China, Japan, and Russia. It is sometimes referred to as eleuthero Siberian ginseng and belongs to a different genus than Chinese or American (panax) ginseng, although they share similar properties.

Siberian ginseng is an adaptogen, a term for herbs that maintain health by increasing the body's ability to adapt to stress, both environmental and internal. Adaptogens work by strengthening the immune system, nervous system, and glandular systems. Research indicates it may alleviate symptoms of sore muscles, adrenal exhaustion, and dark under-eye circles.

I chose Siberian ginseng for its abilities to help the body properly adapt to stress, as well as its documented ability to improve cognitive and physical performance. I began taking 300 mg per day. It is recommended that a treatment period last six to eight weeks at a time, with period of breaks lasting one to two weeks. Dosage can be started again after the break, if needed.

Michelle Meiklejohn http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=901
Michelle Meiklejohn http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=901

5. Clear your mind

As part of my overall goal of reducing stress, I incorporated15 minutes per day of simple meditation. There are many ways to meditate, and I encourage you to do some researchto find what best suits you. Theimportant thing is that you quiet your mind and remain focused. The regular practice of meditation provides anumber of well-documented health benefits, including reduced anxiety, increasedconcentration, and a general feeling of well being. I found that meditating before bedtime helpedme sleep better, and doing it first thing in the morning helped me stay calmand centered throughout the day.

Causes and Prevention of Fibromyalgia

Just as there is no definitive diagnostic test for fibromyalgia, there is no definitive cause. Researchers are still looking at possible explanations for its occurrence, and it is likely that fibromyalgia results from a combination of physical and emotional stressors such as heredity, trauma, chemical imbalances, and hormonal disturbances.

I hesitate to say that I “cured” my fibromyalgia, but I do believe that the steps I took were instrumental in correcting an imbalance of nutrients in my body. The widespread nature of the symptoms of fibromyalgia may be the result of too much stress, not enough sleep, and poor eating habits. While the steps I took helped me eliminate the symptoms of muscle and joint pain, fatigue, headaches, and stiffness, it is important to consult your physician if you have these symptoms to rule out other causes. Also, always check with your doctor before taking any herbal remedies, especially if you are taking prescription medications, as many herbs negatively interact with some medications.

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Comments 23 comments

Page Thorn 6 years ago

Very interesting and educational. I think this will help people. Thank You


PrettyPanther profile image

PrettyPanther 6 years ago from Oregon Author

Thank you, Page. Glad you liked it. ;)


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

It sounds like you have it well in hand!! Kudos!!!!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 6 years ago from Maui and Arizona

What a great article and I'm glad to know you beat the odds. I agreed with everything you said in here except the whole grains suggestion. Many people who are having this bundle of symptoms have become intolerant of lysene, I think it is. (Memory not great this morning.) A naturopath I know -- who was the president of all naturopaths in Canada for years -- explained to me that the mainstream doctors just put labels on things, but it is a bundle of symptoms which results due to the body being out of balance and needing more water and pure nutrients. Your article explains all of this. The mainstream doctors label things such as gout or fibromyalgia or lupus. Pain caused by the production of uric acid is the result of the lysene intolerance and is labeled gout. I've had it so bad I couldn't walk without crying. My arm muscles were so painful and I could barely move them in the morning. I've had doctors (not naturopathic doctors, but mainstream doctors) diagnose me with lupus, fibromyalgia and the beginning of leukemia -- even with all kinds of blood tests. They made a lot of money doing tests on me. Then I went to a naturopath. Turns out I just needed to avoid processed foods (like you said) and certain fruits and vegetables and also whole grain foods. Thanks for some great reminders.


PrettyPanther profile image

PrettyPanther 6 years ago from Oregon Author

Pamela, sounds like your symptoms were much worse than mine! I'm glad you were able to find relief through a naturopath. Mainstream doctors are so focused on a disease model versus treating the whole person that they often miss the obvious. I am certainly no expert and only offered up my own experience, but I do believe that many illnesses can be helped by restoring the proper balance to our bodies. Thank you for your comment!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

I am so glad to read that you decided to take control of your health. Take one drug and it creates other problems - there are no magic and safe pills. And if it does not feel right - as in your case - so something about it!

With fibromyalgia affecting so many - I appreciate your step by step list - it will work. As always prevention is best.

Good for you! (Love your avatar by the way - looks like a friend of mine)


PrettyPanther profile image

PrettyPanther 6 years ago from Oregon Author

Thank you for stopping by, BK. My avatar is my own cat, Storm. She's a cutie!


cherryrainbows 6 years ago from Australia

Wow , what an awesome story of love and devotion. thank you Pretty Panther for such an inspiring story. I am now battling to try to overcome an incurable illness that became mine due to a violent act against me. So your story of devotion and encouragement by you and your loving family is a peace of heart for me to know that Love does exist and people do care . There is still hope xxx


cosette 6 years ago

i believe wholeheartedly in pursuing any option first before pumping drugs into a person's body. taking advantage of natural remedies and using vitamins and rest goes a long way towards health and well-being, as you said. my sister suffers from that and her doctor has her on all kinds of pills, including ones for anxiety, even though she is not anxious, he said they would help her with her pain. strange...

congratulations on overcoming your struggle with this. great hub.


PrettyPanther profile image

PrettyPanther 6 years ago from Oregon Author

Hi cosette. My mom has been on an anti-anxiety medication for years for similar reasons, to alleviate body pain and help her sleep. I often wonder what other effects it may have had on her after all of these years.

As an aside, when I had to visit the emergency room a few months ago, every single nurse and doctor who saw me commented on how unusual it was for someone my age (51) to not be taking any prescription drugs. I found that rather disturbing!

Anyway, thank you for your reading and I hope your sister can find a way to get better.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

This is an excellent article. I have several diagnosed diseases(lupus, arthritis, sjogrens) and fibromyalgia is the other one. I was put on Lyrica which definitely helped but it is expensive, make you gain weight and I was already on too many meds so I quit taking it. I have improved my diet and done many of the things you listed but I think I will try some of those herbs. Thanks for the great suggestions.


PrettyPanther profile image

PrettyPanther 6 years ago from Oregon Author

Wow, Pamela, you have a lot to deal with. I am a little familiar with lupus, but know nothing about sjogrens. Now that my interest is piqued, I will check into it. I hope you can get your fibromyalgia under control; it is not easy for many people! Take care,

Sandra


Ms Dee profile image

Ms Dee 6 years ago from Texas, USA

I agree that I found diet of criticle importance! I couldn't sleep better though until I took amino acids -- those I found at supernutrient.com. It's really helpful to know your experience of how better care, alone, healed the pain, without prescription drugs. Hooray!


PrettyPanther profile image

PrettyPanther 6 years ago from Oregon Author

Hi Ms Dee. I will look into amino acids; that is a supplement I don't know much about. I still occasionally have some problems, but I find that if I refocus my attention on taking better care about how I eat and exercise, they improve. Thank you for your comment!


Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

Great advice. From talking to many people with this disorder, I have it as well, no two things work for the same person. The only consistent rule is to keep moving even if it hurts and eat the right foods. We have to do a trial and error test to see which foods are causing us pain.

For me dairy foods are a big no no and I eat red foods everyday. Usually strawberries. Some people can't have bread and some can't have potatoes. I have to limit my potatoes but a little is okay.

Just keep experimenting until you find the bad foods and stay away from them. Eating healthy makes a big difference.


barefoot princess profile image

barefoot princess 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I'm going to take it all into consideration.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 5 years ago from West Virginia

Excellent and I shared it on twitter and FB and voted it up and awesome!


UrsulaRose 5 years ago

Well written hub article PrettyPanther ... chock-a-block full of fabulous information for any Fibromyalgic/Fibromite who does not want a life of 'popping chemical-based medications'.


Lyn 4 years ago

I have fibromyalgia and I have done extensive research into treatment through the use of cannabis. I use it as treatment for fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression. I have not needed a single prescription for the past 7+ years for ANY of my symptoms. It is NOT addictive. It does NOT cause harm to your body. On the contrary, we actually have a system in our bodies called the endocannabinoid system. Many people could benefit from this simple plant. You don't have to smoke it to get the benefits, either. You can vaporize it, make the oil, put the oil in capsule form, make tincture from it, or eat it, even. I have been on a laundry list of prescriptions from anti-depressants to pain relievers to muscle relaxers and none of them have given me anything but side effects. In other words, the good never outweighed the bad. I no longer wanted to harm my body. I found out about cannabis and against better judgment, because of illegality, I tried it. It was like angels had swooped in and taken my pain, anxiety and depression away from me! I didn't hurt, my thoughts weren't racing, and I could sleep! I will never swallow another pill again unless it's a life or death situation. I have risked incarceration to get the relief I need all because of misinformation and an 80 year old law that's still being enforced today that had nothing to do with the effects of the plant itself. I follow some of these guidelines, but they don't always help or aren't physically possible, like getting sleep all the time. The anxiety keeps me from sleeping most of the time. Check out Granny Storm Crow's list. It's a resource full of legitimate medical studies done on the subject of cannabis as a treatment for a myriad of diseases and conditions. DARE lied to us. It's not dangerous at all. It's beneficial. I just wish the government would see that arresting and incarcerating people over a plant that's better for you and impairs you less than alcohol is just ridiculous. They need to get the racist and monetarily motivated laws off the books and come into the 21st century already! So please, don't judge me because of the misconceptions around cannabis. People get drunk all the time and no one says a word. There is no medicinal value to alcohol, or not enough to be a medication. Actually, according to law, alcohol and nicotine should be Schedule I substances, but they aren't. So if you're in a medical marijuana friendly state, please consider this as treatment. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. I do not condone or endorse people in non-MMJ states to use it, but that is your free will if you choose to do so. Knowledge is power! I wish you all the best in your treatments!


PrettyPanther profile image

PrettyPanther 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Lyn, I don't believe I've heard of cannabis as a treatment for fibromyalgia, but it makes sense that it would work for some people. I don't judge you at all. I hope that some day it will be legalized in all 50 states.


Beth37 2 years ago

I also have FM. I tried the antidepressants, but they made me a little crazy. I'm usually pretty even keel and they gave me huge mood swings. My doctor said that was abnormal, but possible in a few ppl. I believe too that you have to keep moving. I know if I'm still too long or too often, it leaves me feeling like Im 80. I haven't mastered the sleep thing yet, but Ive gone from 3 hours a night to 6 so I'm on my way. I haven't tried any supplements yet. You like St John's Wart? Maybe I should give that a try. Good hub.


bobbie 19 months ago

I have recently came to the same conclusions.. Scripts were not helping and i needed a new route so i gave up all meds and took care of what i knew my body was lacking. Im no where near cured but its only been ten days and i have improvement so Im on my way to good things.


Mary Lee 18 months ago

I also have Fibro. Going on 7 years now. I do take tramadol, but that's because I couldn't get out of bed without it. I know you build up a resistance and I am trying my best not to get on the strong pain killers, so I started at 1/2 pill twice a day. I am now at 3 pills 2x a day but it took me 7 years to get here. I have tried about every other prescription for fibro and while some worked for a little bit, then stopped, others didn't help at all. None gave any lasting relief. I take a LOT of natural herbs, as I have all the raging symptoms of fibro, including serious joint pain, muscle pain and stiffness, brain fog, NO energy and migraines. First, most fibro patients have been found to be seriously low in D3 and Magnesium. Addressing that helps. Here is my daily regimen:

3 Magnesium Malate, which gives you the recommended amount of magnesium and malic acid for us fibro patients.

5,000 D3 with K2 (200 M-7 and M-4 ea) 680 Strontium - Much better than Calcium. Take these 3 all together and away from everything else. Low D3 needs all of these for absorption and bone health and so the excess calcium doesn't end up in your arteries.

Probiotics, Enzymes, Beta Glucan, SAMe, GliSODin, Morniga, Siberian Ginseng (the last 2 for energy) first thing in the morning. I also put D-Ribose powder in my allowed one cup of coffee.

Olive Leaf extract, Raw One Womens once a day vitamin after breakfast.

For my joints I take a LOT, but it keeps my joints mostly pain free and moving. If I run out of just one, my joints tell me within 2 days: Turmeric Boswellia & Tart Cherry, Type II Collagen, NEM Eggshell Membrane, CetylPure and Hyaluronic Acid. I also want to point out that all these things are also really great for your skin, hair and nails. They up your collagen production among other things. I am 52 and people are shocked at my age. I also want to share that for years I took Glucosamine and Chondroitin and I ran out of them and woke up the next day in much less muscle pain than normal. I had become almost bed bound at that point. SO when I got them back in, I started them back and the pain came roaring back. Testing proved this was aggravating my muscle pain. So if you take this for joint pain, you might want to test it out yourself.

Lastly, I take Krill Oil because it is essential for not only joints, but getting your cells opened to be able to absorb the nutrients in food and these herbs.

I have heel spurs which makes most exercise impossible, so I swim OR do my Yoga in Bed (there's an app for that ;) while on an oxygen machine every day. Also, all my furniture is softly cushioned as touching anything hard will result in throbbing pain at the point of contact that lasts for a day.

I was vegetarian and went gluten free and soy free for 6 months and it didn't make that big of a difference to the pain, but it did help me lose weight. Unfortunately, it was a hard regimen to maintain long term.

Yes, its A LOT, but it's still cheaper than any one of the meds they tried to put me on and I am still not pain free. I still have bad days, but overall, the pain is much less and easier to deal with.

I find it odd, and my doctor concurred, that GMO's entered our food supply about the same time that fibro symptoms started showing up. It's one of the reasons I am a huge supporter of GMO labelling. Right now, it's practically impossible to avoid them, but make them label and when they start seeing sales drop due to that GMO label, food makers will start demanding non GMO sources for their foods. I personally think that would eradicate Fibro. At least in future generations. I think the damage has already been done to us. I eat organic as much as possible, but I also eat out a lot, because it's hard to cook when you are in pain. So it's impossible to avoid them.

So that's my story and it's my hope that one day they find a cure for this. I wish all of you living with this more good days than bad! If my post can help even one of you find any relief, then it was worth the hour I spent to write it! ;)

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