Many things can contribute to the already unbearable ‘all over pain’ of fibromyalgia. I thought I would list some natural treatments, that have worked for many people I know who suffer with this type of chronic pain every day. Medication can work and should not be discounted completely. Still, while there are many prescriptions your doctor can give you for pain, the side effects can often be problematic for some and even dangerous for others.
That is one of the main reasons why many people are now seeking natural fibromyalgia pain relief. In this post, the term ‘natural’ can include anything from supplements and exercises to avoiding certain foods. Please keep in mind however, that everyone is different and what might work for one person may not necessarily work as well for another.
It is also important to discuss any changes you want to make to your diet with your doctor first, as some natural supplements can interfere with certain medications you may be currently taking. Keep in mind that natural products and therapies sometimes take longer to work than medication. Some notice a drastic improvement right away while other FMS patients take considerably longer to reap the benefits… patience is always key.
What causes fibromyalgia pain
To address fibromyalgia pain properly, it is important to understand what causes it. When a person without FMS injures themselves, signals will travel from the injured site, up the spinal cord to the brain. Our brains interpret these signals as pain. The pain, however, will eventually go away when the injury heals. When someone has fibromyalgia, there doesn’t have to be an injury for them to feel pain.
FMS patients feel pain in places that shouldn’t be painful, the pain is usually wide spread and it never goes away. The chronic pain that most FMS patients suffer from is due to the brain’s neurons being in ‘overdrive’, constantly sending pain signals where there shouldn’t be much or any pain at all.
This results in a hypersensitive response to sometimes only a very little pressure on the body. The pain from seemingly small injuries is amplified and a what is known as central sensitization occurs. For this reason, those who suffer from FMS tend to have a much lower pain tolerance.
It is not so easy to treat fibromyalgia pain because there isn’t just one type of fibromyalgia pain. There are in fact three different types. Some may experience one type more than the other three, a combination, or all three types with the same severity. When it comes to treating pain, it may be beneficial to know which type of pain you’re treating.
According to Dr. Ginevra Liptan, M.D. author of The Fibro Manual, the three types of pain include: (1) the flu-like aching caused by high levels of chemicals in the blood stream, (2) muscle tenderness due to inflammation in the fascia and (3) all over body sensitivity from overly sensitive nerves. The latter can be the most difficult type of pain to treat. Click here if you would like to read my personal review on The Fibro Manual book.
Exercising and stretching
Appropriate daily exercise training will aid in reducing the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia. Physical activity has also been shown to relieve anxiety, depression and improve mood. But can it help relieve pain. Stretching improves tight fascia, while exercising stimulates blood flow to the tissues and releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers. It will also increase energy and promote better sleep.
So, the answer is yes! it can help reduce pain if done correctly. Our muscles are living tissue and if they are not used or stretched, they will eventually become short and stiff. Exercising may be the last thing those with fibromyalgia pain want to do, and that is understandable. However, this shortening and stiffening of the muscles can lead to more pain later on and the functioning of these muscles will progressively decline.
Having said all this, it is still important to talk to your doctor about physical activity first, and perhaps enlist the help of a qualified trainer, who has experience training those with fibromyalgia. Here are a few things that you should avoid doing no matter what:
- Insufficient stretching or warm up prior to exercise
- Sudden forceful movements
- Jarring or bouncing movements
- Using improper body mechanics
- Repetitive motions
- Exercising for too long or with too much intensity
- Insufficient post workout cool-down
Swimming and under water aerobics have been shown to be a very beneficial exercise for fibromyalgia. Muscle movement is much slower under the water and there is much less stress on the joints. The water should be warm; this will help to sooth sore muscles and relax the body. Yoga is also enjoyed by many who suffer with fibromyalgia pain. As a trainer, we are taught that the trick with FMS clients is for them to focus on ‘health training’ instead of on ‘sports training.’
You should always keep in mind that it’s not about winning a race or how much you sweat in the gym. Exercising with this mind set can in fact defeat the purpose of exercising and cause injury, resulting in more pain. There is also no need to work out in a gym; working out at home can be just as beneficial. If you are new to exercise, the best way to start, is just by doing a few more regular daily activities at home.
Stress in a killer
Stress can be a huge factor for overall health, but especially for those who suffer from fibromyalgia. Anxiety and stress affect the immune system in a big way and can exacerbate FMS symptoms, including pain. It is important to identify the stresses in your life and do whatever you can to at least minimize them if you cannot eliminate them completely.
Some find that meditation and or deep breathing, known as ‘belly breathing’ helps. You can experiment and try a few deep breathing exercises with some soothing music. Others have reported an improvement in stress, over-all muscle pain as well as the vague ‘flu-like pain’ from massage therapy.
A massage also allows the body to naturally release toxins. Make sure you opt for a lighter massage, however, and let the massage therapist know if or when you feel any pain or discomfort. Deep tissue massages are not recommended and be sure to drink plenty of filtered water afterwards.
Good nutrition is key
While not everybody is the same, everyone benefits from a diet made up of whole, fresh organic foods. There may also be some benefits in supplementing with a multi-vitamin. Try to find a pharmaceutical grade vitamin complex from a brand that is GMO free and contains no added chemicals or sugar. Some people notice a reduction in fibromyalgia symptoms when they stop consuming dairy, with the exception of yogurt.
Some also notice less pain, flare-ups or stomach up-set when they completely remove gluten from their diet. Keep in mind, it takes some people at least 6 months of going gluten and dairy free for a noticeable difference. One of the most important things you can do, however, is drastically lower the amount of sugar you consume.
Be aware that excess sugar can be hidden in many grocery store items such as tomato sauce, veggie dips and yogurt. Read the labels. It is also extremely important to eliminate trans-fats and all processed foods from the diet. The body needs fiber, vitamins and nourishment and it’s hard to find that from something that comes out of a box.
Digestive enzymes, if taken right after meals, may aid with digestion and probiotics are needed to restore beneficial gut bacteria. Without this good bacteria, the bad bacteria take over, which can lead to gas, cramps, fatigue, bloating, weight gain, sugar cravings and many other symptoms. Many people with fibromyalgia already suffer with stomach problems, so a good probiotic is almost a must.
Artificial sweeteners and MSG (which are classified as excitotoxins) should be avoided at all costs! According to Dr. Ginevra Liptan, in addition to aspartame, almost all artificial sweeteners, including sucralose Splenda and saccharin Sweet’N Low, can actually increase fibromyalgia pain. If you are looking for a calorie free, non-sugar substitute, she suggests stevia. You may recognize Stevia by its commercial name ‘Truvia’. Stevia is natural and comes from the leaves of a plant.
Supplements that may work
L-Carnitine which is an amino acid that the body naturally produces, has been shown to lessen pain. It may also help with depression and fatigue. Turmeric extract is a natural anti-inflammatory, and many fibromyalgia patients report a reduction in pain after taking it for several weeks. Many individuals are also able to reduce their use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs) as a result.
Ginger and green tea may also help with inflammation and stomach up-set and in turn reduce discomfort and pain. Vitamin D is essential for improving mood but for pain as well since it plays such a big role in the function of the muscles and the mitochondria. It is best to consume this fat-soluble vitamin with healthy fats. Supplementing with Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to reduce pain and fatigue. Because CoQ10 is a fat-soluble vitamin it is best to take it with meals containing fat as well, for better absorption.
Omega-3 fish oil is often recommended for FMS patients by naturopathic doctors, dietitians and nutritionists to manage pain, including nerve pain, muscle pain and headaches. It has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression and brain fog associated with fibromyalgia. For more information on the benefits of omega-3 fish oil on fibromyalgia, click here.
In Canada, more evidence is supporting the use of cannabis for pain relief. In a large medical survey conducted in Arizona on the effects of cannabis on chronic pain, 77% of the fibromyalgia patients reported “a lot or almost complete overall relief. 94% of fibromyalgia patients also described their reduction in the usage of other medications as “a little or much less frequency.” Still, each State in the US have their own laws pertaining to medical marijuana and it’s uses.
Magnesium has been shown to aid in achieving deep sleep, something that those with FMS get very little of. When we are in this restful stage of deep sleep, our bodies, muscles and brains are finally able to repair themselves. Without it, feelings of exhaustion, pain and grogginess are heightened. Keep in mind, however, that some forms of magnesium are not well absorbed by the intestines.
This is especially true for magnesium oxide, so I wouldn’t recomend it. Magnesium glycinate and citrate seem to be the ones that are best absorbed by the body. Ask a doctor or integrative physician about a proper dosage for you. And be sure to let your doctor know before trying any of the supplements listed above. Because natural health supplements are not regulated by the FDA, quality can deffer from one product to the next. It is best to purchase a well-known brand, that adhere to strict quality standards.
We need more information
Fibromyalgia is still fairly new and more information is required to gain a better understanding regarding its causes and cure. We need to keep discussing this topic. With more information, we will no doubt have more knowledge on natural fibromyalgia pain relief as well. In the meantime it is always a great idea to join a fibromyalgia support group, discussing these symptoms with others that are going through the same thing can be very helpful. Others may have suggestions for pain relief you may never have thought of.
I hope this post has been helpful. If you have any questions, please let us know. If you know of any methods for natural pain relief that has worked for you, and you believe it could be beneficial to others, we would love to hear your suggestions. Please let us know what has helped you ease or manage chronic pain in the comments section below, as well as your thoughts on this article. Thanks for visiting!