fibromyalgia therapies

Fibromyalgia Therapies Worth Trying

Sometimes, pain relief comes with the right combination of medication, but for those with fibromyalgia, a pill may not be the best solution. While drugs can reduce discomfort, they can bring distressful side effects, and pain relievers – no matter how strong – can’t get to the source of each point of pain. To reach those trigger points, you need targeted therapy, for your mind as well as your body. Among the dozens of behavioral, physical, and artistic therapies designed to energize your muscles and calm the pain, these 10 fibromyalgia therapies show a lot of promise for fibro sufferers.

1. Massage Therapy

Physical therapy can be broken down into several targeted approaches, and massage is one of the most accessible – and customizable – physical therapies out there. Many patients agree that massage is by far the most effective nondrug therapy, especially once they develop a regular, long-term routine with their therapist. It’s important to find a registered massage therapist you trust, someone who has worked with chronic pain patients before: they should start very gently, and know how to change the therapeutic pressure according to how your muscles respond.

Trigger Point Injections

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2. Trigger Point Injections

While oral medication will dull your symptoms, stubborn trigger points can demand extra attention. Typically, this procedure is used for points in the upper back and shoulders where the muscles have become tightly knotted, leading to radiating pain and headache. An injection of anaesthetic right into the center of the trigger point can relax the knotted muscle quickly, which will bring relief in the long term, but it can leave the area sore right after the treatment. Some massage and a cold pack can reduce that initial discomfort.

Hot and Cold Therapy

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3. Hot and Cold Therapy

Simple heat and cold packs can do wonders for a fibro flare, as long as you know how to use them. Fibromyalgia leads to severely knotted muscles in very specific areas, and knotted muscles need a different approach than merely sore muscles. First, you need to relax the muscle gently so it can be stretched (this is where the heat comes in), and then numbed a bit with a cold pack to constrict the blood vessels, reducing the pain and swelling. In other cases, either heat or cold alone can be useful: muscle spasms typically respond better to hot, but inflammation should only be treated with a cold pack.

Isometric Strengthening

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4. Isometric Strengthening

There’s a fine line between strengthening and injuring your body when you live with fibromyalgia. Full-body movements can be challenging and fatiguing, especially when they demand lots of muscle coordination or put stress on the joints, but isometric strengthening can simplify your strengthening routine. The idea is to use stationary objects for balance and resistance: pressing legs, arms, neck or back against a wall or another sturdy object for several seconds (while breathing) can tone your muscles without consuming much energy. Consult a physiotherapist for good isometric exercises to try, and aim to work them in twice each day to protect against muscle strain and injury.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

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5. CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) isn’t quite as simple as reacting differently to challenging situations. Instead, it involves re-training your brain to support a new, positive perspective, and it can have profound physical effects. From better sleep and fewer flares to more energy, the consequences are far-reaching, and the improvement can become permanent –research suggests that CBT can produce physical changes in your brain. The therapy is led by a trained CBT therapist and involves three phases – education about your disease, learning CBT skill sets, and learning to apply the skills to your daily life.


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6. Hypnosis

You may think of hypnosis as a party trick, but it’s actually a powerful therapy for chronic pain relief. Trained hypnotists typically hold advanced degrees in medicine or psychology (or both), and they are experts at accessing the subconscious mind. For fibromyalgia patients, this means getting down to the source of your attitudes, learning to calm your mind, and ultimately changing your natural responses to your pain. Studies also show that hypnotherapy sessions – whether therapist-assisted or self-guided – can reduce activity in the pain center of the brain enormously. Fibro patients who use hypnotherapy report 80% fewer symptoms than those who don’t receive the treatment.

Art Therapy

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7. Art Therapy

Creative tension may not seem related to muscle aches, but self-expression can eliminate stress, and stress is a major player in fibro pain. All forms of hands-on art (painting, drawing, or sculpting) can achieve the same results, namely a decrease in anxiety and depression, and a better ability to cope with frustration. No experience? No problem – the focus should be on expressing your thoughts and feelings, not on creating a masterpiece. If you prefer a little structure to get you going and keep you motivated, consider using art therapy coloring books (many have pages of mandalas or other intricate designs to keep you calm and focused).

Water Therapy

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8. Water Therapy

Fibromyalgia may not affect the joints as arthritis does, but weight-bearing exercise can be excruciating on the muscles and tissues all over the body. Luckily, you can keep up your strength and soothe your muscles simultaneously when you take your workout to the water. The buoyancy allows for easier movement in every direction, which helps to strengthen each part of every muscle, and the hydrostatic pressure will reduce swelling and discomfort. A simple swim can be a good way to start, but once you start incorporating other movements like deep-water power exercises, kick training, and stretching, you will see a remarkable reduction in pain and an increase in stamina.

Dance Therapy

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9. Dance Therapy

Dance therapy rests on movement, but not only to improve fitness. Like certain other exercises, dance encourages a mind-body connection, and that can speed up healing and relieve anxiety. Regular dance classes can improve quality of life and self-image; research shows that six months of dance therapy brings a noticeable improvement in psychological function among fibromyalgia patients, and can significantly reduce their perception of pain. But don’t dismiss the physical benefits: better posture, alignment and flexibility that come with dance means less muscle tension and trigger point build-up, too.

Pet Therapy

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10. Pet Therapy

It’s no surprise that petting a dog or cat can relieve stress, but did you know that pets can also fight your pain and heal your immune system? A recent study found that just 15 minutes with a friendly dog was enough to reduce fatigue, stress, frustration, and pain – and 92% of patients said they were satisfied and appeared more cheerful after their visit. If you’re not in a position to get your own pet, contact your local humane society, veterinarian clinic, or community center to see if any programs would allow you some time with a furry friend.

Read more about fibromyalgia treatments over at NewLifeOutlook.