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How to Obtain Relief for Fibromyalgia – Part 1: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

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Fibro Patient Education & Support is a Chicago organization devoted to spreading awareness of fibromyalgia and providing education through cable television.  In this four-part series, Founder Necie Edwards offers tips on how to feel better with fibromyalgia. 
Dealing with chronic pain can drag you down physically and emotionally; it can make your quality of life much less than it should be. 

Here are some complementary and alternative therapy suggestions to help you feel better: 

  1. Have a massage. A massage can help alleviate aches and pains and make you feel brand new again. Use a massage therapist who understands your chronic pain and who can do their job without exacerbating any of your pain. There are many types of massage therapy, some of which are better for chronic pain than others, a professional will know exactly what to do.

  2. Take part in meditation. Meditation induces the relaxation response that helps alleviate chronic pain, and may make it occur less often. Mediation also reduces stress, which is known to make pain worse. Meditation takes just a few minutes and can be easily learned. It can be done just about anywhere and by anyone for better health overall emotional, physical and mental health on top of its pain management benefits.

  3. Practice distraction. Instead of focusing on your pain, engage in an activity you enjoy that can leave you concentrating on just about anything but the pain you are in. Develop a hobby that you enjoy and that doesn’t put too much stress on your level of pain. Coloring can be a soothing hobby that doesn’t result in any pain. You can buy adult coloring books on line or at certain craft stores.

  4. Practice sensory splitting. This is a mental technique in which you focus away from your pain and toward some other part of your senses. If, for example, you feel a hot pain down your leg, concentrate on the sensation of heat rather than on the sensation of pain. Sensory splitting can be applied to both chronic pain and acute exacerbations of chronic pain.

  5. Learn dissociation. Dissociation is a way of separating your mind from your body so you don’t have access as much to the pain. This can be learned in such a way that you can keep yourself from experiencing the pain. Dissociation comes naturally to some people but can be taught by a psychotherapist who understands the process.

  6. Practice altered focus. This involves focusing your mind on a part of your body that is not hurting. Think of the warmth of your hand and let your mind focus on that rather than on the experience of pain in another part of your body. You can learn this technique yourself or from a pain specialist or psychotherapist.

  7. Practice guided imagery. Imagine yourself in a beautiful and different place while focusing on your breath. You can imagine yourself in a lovely meadow, on a rustic beach or in the gentle forest. See, hear and smell what you would if you were actually there and your worries and pain will gradually recede. Guided imagery is a type of meditation that works better for some when compared to other forms of mediation. Various guided imagery is available on CD.

  8. Practice yoga. Yoga involves doing different kinds of poses while focusing on your breath. These poses, known as asanas help induce the relaxation response, strengthen the joints and muscles, improve flexibility, and calms nerves, all of which supports healthy and effective pain management. It can be done by just about anyone at any fitness level and can be modified for those people who suffer from chronic pain. Restorative yoga is especially useful for those who live with chronic pain.

  9. Practice Tai Chi. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that is used in Western health circles to improve balance and flexibility. It is a slow form of meditative movement that is low impact and ideal for those who suffer from various chronic pain conditions. You can learn it from a master or purchase a DVD that will show you how to do it. It can lessen your stress level and improve your experience of chronic pain. Tai chi can be done by those who are healthy enough to tolerate mild exercise and is best done in the morning.

  10. Practice Qi Gong. This is another form of meditative movement with roots in Chinese martial arts that has turned into a healthful activity for anyone at any fitness level. You can even practice this in bed if you feel you can’t get out of bed because of your pain and will help you feel better. Qi Gong DVDs that teach the process can be purchased online.

  11. Try acupuncture. This is an ancient Asian technique in which special needles are used to relieve pain in various body areas. Acupuncture is a way of mobilizing qi energy through specific acupoints in the body so that pain in various parts of your body can be relieved. Seek the advice of a qualified acupuncturist who understands the concept of qi and the ways acupuncture can be used to deal with chronic pain.

  12. Try acupressure. This is a less invasive way at mobilizing qi and relieving chronic pain. There are specialists in acupressure who can push on various parts of your body to improve the flow of qi and lessen your perception of chronic pain. You can practice acupressure on yourself or have a specialist in acupressure use this type of technique on you.

  13. Try reflexology. This involves pushing on the soles of your feet and putting pressure on specific areas corresponding to parts of your body that are in pain. This can relieve pain without using anything that is invasive. There are reflexologists in the same places that do massage therapy or you can learn reflexology from a book or DVD.

  14. Try hypnosis. Hypnosis can relax your mind and can help you reduce your perception of pain. See a reputable hypnotherapist who specializes in chronic pain. You can learn self-hypnosis from them and use what you learn in your everyday use. You can also learn self-hypnosis from CDs or DVD.

  15. Study biofeedback. Biofeedback can lessen stress and can decrease your perception of chronic pain. You can learn ways to relax your muscles and tendons so that you can be pain free without any medications. Biofeedback is usually taught by physicians or physical therapists who understand the process and have the necessary equipment.

As noted by Necie, many people find complementary and alternative therapies helpful in relieving the symptoms of fibromyalgia.  ProHealth has many resources about these options, including:

Fibro Patient Education and Support is the only organization of its kind in the Chicago metro area devoted exclusively to spreading awareness of Fibromyalgia and providing education via cable television through their flagship program, Fibromyalgia Talks

Fibro Patient Education and Support is focused on providing programs that educate patients and caregivers about Fibromyalgia, including causes, symptoms, treatments, and how it interacts with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, migraine, insomnia, multiple chemical sensitivity and Gulf War Syndrome. 

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2 thoughts on “How to Obtain Relief for Fibromyalgia – Part 1: Complementary and Alternative Therapies”

  1. MarcieRose says:

    As someone on traditional Medicare now and United Healthcare prior, neither covered alternative therapies. I use them but trade off the things I want to do for fibro relief. So if I feel better, I still can’t afford travel of concerts or festivals, if I spend those things, I can’t pay for the alternative therapies and feel crappy. damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  2. alaskamarci says:

    While I understand the intent of this article and the suggestions made, one might at least come up with a different name for this technique. As a person with FM, struggling daily with pain and other symptoms, but also as a survivor of childhood trauma, I must say dissociation is not something I feel like practicing. It’s something I struggle to live with, just as I struggle with the effects of FM, but arguably a good deal more difficult and troubling than FM.

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