When you hear the word fibromyalgia, you think of pain. Although there are other symptoms that usually accompany the pain, it is the pain that is the primary symptom of FM. In fact, it is the only symptom used in the original diagnostic criteria established by the American College of Rheumatology in 1990. The proposed new diagnostic criteria does take other symptoms into consideration but pain is still the main requirement.
So how do we cope with the pain of FM? The first fibromyalgia treatment option most people turn to is medication. While medication can definitely make a difference in reducing pain, it is seldom the only treatment we need to control our pain. There are a wide range of other therapies available that can have a positive impact in reducing FM pain.
Today I'd like to give you a brief review of both the medications and the other treatment options available to help with FM pain. There will be links to more in-depth articles about each. Then at the end, I'd like you to share what has helped you cope with your FM pain.
Medications for Fibromyalgia Pain
Three medications have received FDA approval for the treatment of fibromyalgia:
Since each of these medications only works for about 30 to 40% of people with FM, there are a number of other drugs that are prescribed off-label for the treatment of FM. Some of those drug categories include:
- Opioid Pain Relievers
For more information about these medications, please read: Medications Prescribed for Fibromyalgia
Additional Therapies for Fibromyalgia Pain
There are a wide variety of therapies that researchers and/or individual FM patients have found helpful in reducing pain. Following are several of them:
Exercise – I know sometimes it seems like exercising with FM can make the pain worse but study after study has shown that exercise is an essential component in successfully treating FM pain. The key is choosing the right exercise and starting very slowly.
Water Exercise – Utilizing warm water exercise for FM is perhaps the best and easiest form of exercise you can do. The water makes movement easier, less painful and more effective.
Myofascial Release Therapy – Myofascial Release Therapy is a hands-on type of therapy that is similar to massage but much more gentle. For me, it's been one of the most effective treatments for easing FM pain that I've tried.
Massage Therapy – There are many different forms of massage therapy that different people with FM have found effective, such as Swedish massage, Shiatsu and deep-tissue massage. If you've tried one type and it didn't help, you might want to consider trying another type that may be more effective for you.
Watsu – Watsu is a unique form of water therapy that combines the benefits of water exercise and Shiatsu massage to relieve pain. It is incredibly relaxing and therapeutic.
Acupuncture – The practice of treating pain with acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and is still quite popular today. In fact, a very recent study analyzing multiple studies that looked at acupuncture as a treatment for chronic pain concluded that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and that more doctors should consider recommending it as a treatment option for their chronic pain patients.
Tai Chi – Tai Chi is an Eastern form of martial arts that combines meditation, slow, gentle movement, deep breathing and relaxation. A 2010 study of Tai Chi for fibromyalgia had some pretty impressive results – 35% of participants were able to stop taking their medication and most reported significant improvement in pain and other symptoms.
Yoga – Yoga has long been known to be helpful for people with FM. A 2011 study confirmed that yoga reduces fibromyalgia pain and identified at least one of the mechanisms involved in the improvement.
Meditation – Studies have found that meditation can be effective in reducing pain. One of the ways meditation appears to help is by reducing stress and triggering a relaxation response, which in turn reduces pain.
Supplements – People with FM are often found to be deficient in certain nutrients like magnesium, malic acid, vitamin D and others. Replenishing those nutrients with supplements may help reduce FM pain.
Lifestyle Options – In addition to these therapies, there are a number of things we can incorporate into our lifestyle that may help us cope with our pain such as:
Soaking in a hot bath
Using hot and/or cold packs on painful areas
Strategically placed pillows in bed or when sitting
A new mattress – memory foam and air beds are popular options.
Now I'd like to hear from you. Have you found any therapies or lifestyle changes I haven't mentioned that have reduced your pain or helped you to cope with it better? Have any of the options I've mentioned worked particularly well for you? Sharing what you've found effective may help someone else better cope with their fibromyalgia pain.