Natural Treatments for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What Works?

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

Have you wondered what kinds of natural treatments are available for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome? Because these conditions are generally difficult to treat, many of us do explore natural treatment options, either instead of or in addition to mainstream medicine.

The tough thing about natural treatment options is that they're typically not as well-researched as drugs. It can take a lot of time, energy, money, and experimentation to find treatments that work for you.

However, many people find significant relief from natural treatments.

The term "natural treatment" covers a lot of ground. Here's a look at some of the main areas that have been researched for these conditions.

Supplements

You can find a lot of information online about supplements for these illness, but the fact is that no one supplement or supplement regimen is proven to help all of us. However, we do have some evidence backing up certain supplements. The key is to do your research and proceed slowly and cautiously, with the expectation that not everything you try will work for you.

Here are some frequently recommended supplements and what we know about them:

Here are some other resources to help you:

Exercise/Activity

Exercise is an especially difficult area for us, since even small amounts of exertion can make us worse.

For fibromyalgia, we have strong evidence that gentle, moderate exercise—geared to our personal abilities—can alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.

It's more difficult when you're talking about chronic fatigue syndrome, in part because the physical toll of exertion is generally more severe than in fibromyalgia, and in part because of differences of opinion.

Some research shows that a treatment called graded exercise therapy (GET) can be beneficial in chronic fatigue syndrome, but this research is often criticized for being of low quality, and GET is a highly controversial subject. Still, we know it's beneficial to overall health and to your lifestyle to increase stamina and fitness.

Regardless, we know it's essential for people with chronic fatigue syndrome to understand the symptom called post-exertional malaise, which makes for an especially difficult recovery from exertion.

Here's more information on getting started with exercise, as well as some forms of exercise that are recommended for us:

Acupuncture

The ancient Chinese practice of placing needles in key places around the body has successfully transitioned to the west. We have a fair amount of research being done on acupuncture in general as well as for specific conditions, including fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Here's what we know about it:

Some people are afraid that acupuncture hurts or have other reservations about it. Here's what to expect from a treatment:

Massage & Other Bodywork.

"Bodywork" is a term used for a bunch of treatments that involve the practitioner using hands directly on your body.

Therapeutic massage is the best-known type of bodywork. It offers more than one kind of treatment, and different types of massage have had different results in research.

Myofascial release is a type of massage that's shown a lot of promise for fibromyalgia. It involves manipulation of the fascia, which may be inflamed in some cases of the illness.

The depth of massage gets a lot of attention in these conditions, since we tend to be sensitive to touch and pressure. This article looks at several types of bodywork and how they've fared in research on fibromyalgia:

Mind-Body Treatments

Mind-body treatments aim to change how you feel by changing thought patterns. A lot of different ones are in use, making claims about all kinds of conditions.

Types of mind-body therapies that have been tested for these conditions include hypnotherapy, biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT for chronic fatigue syndrome is extremely controversial, in part because of competing definitions that are in use in the research community. CBT for fibromyalgia is much more accepted.

Mindfulness for fibromyalgia has gotten a lot of media attention thanks to recent research. It involves focus and attention to how you're feeling without making judgements. Mindfulness is often combined with yoga, Tai Chi and qigong.

What's Right for You?

Whatever treatments you decide to try, be sure you're familiar with the possible side effects and talk to your doctor to be sure you're making safe choices.

It may take time for natural treatments to bear fruit. Be patient, celebrate every improvement, and keep looking for the right combination of treatments for you.

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