Cheap Home Remedies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Topical Pain Relief

Fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) come with dozens of symptoms that can range from annoying to debilitating. Treatment regimens are generally aimed at the worst of them, but so far we don't have any treatments that relieve all of our symptoms.

Where treatments leave off, self-management takes over. You have a lot of simple, low-cost options for managing these leftover symptoms.

Many pain-relief rubs and patches are on the market that may help relieve some of your aches and pains. Some of the common ones include Capzacin (capsaicin), Tiger Balm (camphor and menthol), Aspercreme (trolamine salicylate), BioFreeze (menthol USP) and SalonPas patches (camphor, menthol and methyl salicylate).

Of these products, only capsaicin has been shown effective against FMS tenderness in studies. However, evidence is preliminary and more work needs to be done. Still, a lot of people with FMS swear by these products. Many have a long history as arthritis treatments.

Because they only work where you put them, rubs and patches are best used for localized pain, which can be present in both FMS and ME/CFS. They're not likely to help the FMS pains that move randomly around your body.

Capsaicin may not be a good choice for everyone, though. It pays to learn about this medication before slathering it all over your body.

Whatever products you choose, don't expect miracles from them and always use them as directed. Using too much of them, or wrapping the area, can be dangerous and even lead to a fatal overdose. If you have sensitive skin, it's best to start with small doses to check for reactions.


Heat is a great option for relaxing tight muscles, especially for those who are frequently cold and may have a hard time warming up.

A lot of heating products are available, including:

  • heating pads (make sure you get one that shuts off automatically if you use it in bed)
  • hot water bottles
  • rice bags (rice inside a soft bag, heated in the microwave)
  • electric blankets or mattress pads
  • heated socks or slippers

A hot bath is the favorite for a lot of people with FMS and ME/CFS.

Cooling Products

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The temperature sensitivity of FMS and ME/CFS can also include the tendency to overheat and have trouble cooling down.

Again, the bathtub can help, with a cool bath or just soaking your feet.

A lot of cooling products are also on the market, though, and they're a lot more portable than a tub.

Epsom Salt

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This may sound like something your grandma used to use, but many people with FMS, ME/CFS, and other chronic pain conditions do still use Epsom salt and say it helps. It's usually added to a bath, but you can find the salts in other products, such as lotions, as well.

Epsom salt is a traditional folk remedy that hasn't gotten a lot of attention from researchers. Because Epsom salt contains magnesium, some speculate that it raises the level of magnesium in your blood, and magnesium is thought to help ease muscle symptoms (primarily cramping). One study supports this belief about Epsom salt.

Deep Breathing

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It may sound too simple, but breathing deeply may help relieve the anxiety that can come with these illnesses.

A lot of people take short, shallow breaths, which can trigger a "fight-or-flight" response in your autonomic nervous system (ANS). When you consciously slow your breathing, it likely has the opposite effect on the ANS, allowing your body and mind to relax.

Mindfulness, which has gotten a lot of recent attention for these conditions, involves deep breathing as well as other practices that may help you.

Your shoulders shouldn't move upward when you take a deep breath. Instead, direct it lower, to below your ribs, and breathe slowly. You can use this technique to try calming your body when you feel anxious, and you may want to practice it at other times as well. Here's how:

Massage Devices

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Be sure to choose gentle massage tools and avoid scented products. Stockbyte/Getty Images

A ton of different massage devices are on the market, and some of them only cost a few dollars. They may help you relieve tight muscles.

Some cautions for those with FMS, though: if you have pain from light touch (allodynia), these devices may actually increase your pain. Vibration may also bother you, so choose carefully.

Also see: Improvised Massage Devices for FMS & ME/CFS

The Right Bedding & Pillows

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Soft sheets are a must for someone with allodynia, and you also want to avoid wrinkles that can cause a lot of pain when you lay on them. If you have this problem, you may want to find some clip-on sheet stays to keep things taut and flat. They're also called sheet suspenders or sheet garters.

Morning pain is a common symptom for us, but you may be able to relieve some of it with the right pillow or pillows. Experiment with different thicknesses, body pillows, etc. to see what works best for you.

If you feel you need to invest in better bedding or a new bed, see:


De silva V, et. al. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2010 Jun;49(6):1063-8. Evidence for the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines in the management of fibromyalgia: a systematic review.