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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Mind and Body Practices for Fibromyalgia: What the Science Says

September 2017

Clinical Guidelines, Scientific Literature, Info for Patients: 
Mind and Body Practices for Fibromyalgia

woman pain massage shoulder fibromyalgia

Recent systematic reviews and randomized clinical trials provide encouraging evidence that practices such as tai chi, qi gong, yoga, acupuncture, mindfulness, and biofeedback may help relieve some fibromyalgia symptoms. There is insufficient evidence that any natural products can relieve fibromyalgia pain, with the possible exception of vitamin D supplementation, which may reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia who have vitamin D deficiencies.

Current diagnostic criteria are available from the American College of Rheumatology. Treatment often involves an individualized approach that may include both pharmacologic therapies (prescription drugs, analgesics, and NSAIDs) and nonpharmacologic interventions such as exercise, muscle strength training, cognitive-behavioral therapy, movement/body awareness practices, massage, acupuncture, and balneotherapy.

Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga

Findings from some randomized controlled trials suggest that meditative movement therapies such as tai chi, qi gong, and yoga may provide modest relief of some fibromyalgia symptoms.

Massage

Results of a recent systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that massage therapy with a duration of 5 weeks or longer had beneficial immediate effects on improving pain, anxiety, and depression.

Acupuncture

Limited evidence suggests that when compared to a control, acupuncture may help improve symptoms of fibromyalgia such as pain and stiffness.

Balneotherapy (Hydrotherapy)

There is some qualitative evidence that suggests that balneotherapy (hydrotherapy) may provide small improvement in pain and health-related quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia syndrome.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness mediation may provide short-term improvements in pain and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia; however, the evidence is limited by a small number of studies with low methodological quality.

Biofeedback

There is some low-quality evidence that biofeedback, compared to usual care, has an effect on physical functioning, pain, and mood in patients with fibromyalgia; however, due to the lack of quality evidence, it is unknown if biofeedback has any therapeutic effect on these outcomes.

Guided Imagery

Studies on the effects of guided imagery for fibromyalgia symptoms have had inconsistent results.

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

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