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7 Things To Know About Complementary Approaches for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic disorder involving widespread pain and tenderness, fatigue, and other symptoms that can interfere with a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects 4 million American adults. Fibromyalgia can affect people of all ages, including children. However, most people are diagnosed during middle age. Women are twice as likely to have fibromyalgia as men.

Treatment of fibromyalgia often involves an individualized approach that may include both medicines and nondrug therapies.

Here are 7 things you should know about what the science says about complementary health approaches for fibromyalgia:

  1. In general, research on complementary health approaches for fibromyalgia is preliminary. However, the evidence for some approaches is encouraging.

  2. With one possible exception, there is insufficient evidence that any dietary supplements can relieve fibromyalgia pain. The possible exception is vitamin D supplements, which may reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia who have vitamin D deficiencies.

  3. Meditative movement therapies, such as tai chi, may provide modest relief of some fibromyalgia symptoms. Some randomized controlled trials have had promising results.

  4. There is limited evidence that massage can be helpful. Massage therapy or a type of manual therapy called myofascial release, which is directed at connective tissue (fascia), may lead to a small improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms.

  5. Mindfulness meditation may provide short-term improvements in pain and quality of life in people with fibromyalgia. However, only a small number of studies have been done, and their quality is low.

  6. Biofeedback may have effects on physical functioning, pain, and mood in people with fibromyalgia. However, the quality of the evidence is low.

  7. Psychological and physical approaches such as tai chi, mindfulness, massage, and biofeedback generally have good safety records when done properly by a trained professional or taught by a well-qualified instructor. Your medical conditions may affect the safety of a practice. Talk with your health care providers and the practitioner or teacher about your individual needs.