If you’re suffering from memory problems, poor concentration, and have widespread pain—in your back, shoulders or neck—you could be suffering from fibromyalgia, which may be relieved by natural and alternative treatment. However, the first step to treating this condition is knowing that you have it, which may be a challenge.

Although fibromyalgia affects about two to four percent of the population—ninety percent of whom are women—it is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. This is partly because some of its symptoms mimic those of other health problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome. But another reason may be the continued skepticism of some members of the health community that the condition even exists. “Fibromyalgia can be described as an invisible, ongoing nightmare that others cannot see or feel, says Jenny Fransen, a registered nurse and co-author of the Fibromyalgia Help Book along with I. Jon Russell, M.D.

The condition, also called FMS, has no visible symptoms, so many who have it think they’re imagining or exaggerating the pain. Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • anxiety and depression
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • soft tissue pain
  • stiffness
  • insomnia
  • a change in pain tolerance
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • irritable bladder
  • pelvic pain
  • restless leg syndrome
  • noise and temperature sensitivity

There are a few drugs on the market that treat pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as duloxetine HCl (Cymbalta®) and milnacipran HCl (Savella®). However, there’s also enough scientific and anecdotal evidence that natural or alternative treatment is also beneficial for fibromyalgia.

The types of alternative treatment the National Fibromyalgia Association recommends include acupuncture, massage, myofascial release, chiropractic treatment and yoga. Others that may also prove effective are: Exercise Physical therapy may take stress off the muscle system, improve postural fatigue and positioning, and condition weak muscles, according to the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Munich, Germany.

Also, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that graded aerobic exercise was more effective than relaxation at relieving fibromyalgia. Graded simply means that you increase the amount of activity over time; activities may be walking, swimming, or biking. The benefits of exercise held up over a 12-month period. Herbal Remedies Herbal remedies for fibromyalgia also seem to be promising. Research shows that acetyl L-carnitine (LAC) is significantly more effective than placebo for the condition, reducing the number of tender points and musculoskeletal pain patients experienced.

Melatonin is another alternative treatment that reduces the number of tender points and severity of pain, but it may improve sleep and quality of life as well. Infrared Sauna Therapy An alternative treatment called Waon involves sitting in an infrared-ray, dry sauna for about 15 to 20 minutes.

A small study showed that it reduced pain caused by fibromyalgia by about 50 percent after just one treatment. Lifestyle Changes Adjusting aspects of your life can also quell some fibromyalgia symptoms: Improve your sleep habits, practice stress reduction methods daily such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises, and practice relaxation. Also, consider making dietary changes such as switching to a mostly raw, vegetarian diet — or a vegan diet, which research shows improves pain, joint stiffness, and quality of sleep associated with fibromyalgia.


National Institute of Health; National Fibromyalgia Association, University of Maryland Medical Center Reference Journal: British Medical Journal, Vol. 325 Issue 185 Date: 2002

Study: Prescribed exercise in people with fibromyalgia: parallel group randomised controlled trial Website: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/325/7357/185?ck=nck Authors: Selwyn C M Richards, David L Scott

Journal: Internal Medicine (Tokyo, Japan), Vol. 47, No. 16., pp. 1473-1476 Date: 2008

Study: Efficacy of Waon therapy for fibromyalgia. Website: http://www.citeulike.org/group/6034/article/4411411 Authors: K. Matsushita, A. Masuda, C. Tei