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What is the Best Treatment for Fibromyalgia?

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Created November 15, 2013

Question:

"I've been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for about three years now, and I've had a really hard time finding treatments that work for me. Some things haven't worked at all, and others only help a little. Nothing takes care of all of my symptoms.

It seems like every time I look on the internet I see different advice, and I'm really confused. What is the best treatment out there for fibromyalgia?"

Answer:

With the treatments that are available to us right now, there's no way to say which single fibromyalgia treatment is "the best." One of the few things doctors tend to agree on is that we need to use several types of treatments, and that the treatment regimen has to be tailored to each individual case of fibromyalgia.

The big problem here is that fibromyalgia isn't a one-size-fits-all condition. We each have our own unique blend of symptoms and symptom triggers. Most researchers believe that fibromyalgia actually consists of several subgroups, and once subgroups are properly identified, it will help us choose which treatments are most likely to help us.

Until then, we each have to go through a process of experimentation to identify which treatments are right for us. Don't expect a miracle from any single thing, but look for worthwhile improvement from several that, hopefully, will eventually amount to a significant change in how you feel. If you try a drug or supplement that improves several symptoms by five percent, consider it a victory and look for other treatments to add to it.

We have a lot of options for interventions:

  • Prescription drugs: Three drugs are FDA-approved for fibromyalgia, but doctors prescribe many others as well. They work for some of us but not for all, and side effects can be a problem.
  • Supplements: Some are well researched and others are not, but people with this condition take a wide array of supplements. While they can be effective, it's important that you watch for side effects, as well.
  • Dietary changes: Some of us have food sensitivities, which can cause a lot of problems. It's important to eat a healthy diet and see how different foods effect you.
  • Appropriate exercise: You've probably found that over exerting yourself makes you much, much worse. Many wonder how exercise could possibly help. The key is making it appropriate for you.
  • Acupuncture: This alternative treatment is gaining more acceptance for fibromyalgia. It's not for everyone, but it helps some.
  • Massage & Other Bodywork: A lot of different forms of bodywork are available, and some of them show promise for managing fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Myofascial release: Some research shows problems with our fascia (a body-wide network of connective tissues.) This treatment focuses on fixing fascial problems.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This psychological treatment helps with myriad physiological illnesses, especially for those who need help making positive lifestyle changes and coping with chronic illness.
  • Stress management: Stress makes us worse, so learning beneficial ways to deal with it is essential.
  • Lifestyle changes: This is a big category that can be overwhelming to tackle, so try taking it one thing at a time.

You may need to use things from multiple categories to find substantial relief.

The experimentation process can take a long time, a lot of energy, and, sometimes, a lot of money. We have to expect setbacks along the way, too. The pay off for all of that, though, can be reducing your symptoms enough to have fewer and less severe symptoms and a better quality of life.

Sources:

Goldenberg DL. Journal of clinical psychiatry. 2009 May;70(5):e13. Using multidisciplinary care to treat fibromyalgia.

Marcus DA, et al. Musculoskeletal care. 2013 Jul 23. [Epub ahead of print.] Including a range of outcome targets offers a broader view of fibromyalgia treatment outcome: results from a retrspective review of multidisplinary treatment.

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