Fibromyalgia is pain and inflammation in the muscles and soft tissues of the body, and was once called Fibrositis. The pain can be widespread, and NHS Choices provides these symptoms:
- increased sensitivity to pain
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- muscle stiffness
- difficulty sleeping
- problems with mental processes (known as "fibro-fog") - such as problems with memory and concentration
- irritable bowel syndrome - a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
Conventional Medical Treatment
Fibromyalgia can be a very painful condition, and NHS Choices confirms that:
“There is no (conventional) cure for fibromyalgia, but treatment can ease some of your symptoms and improve quality of life”.
It says that your GP may refer patients to a variety of specialists, including rheumatologists (a specialist in conditions that affect muscles and joints), neurologists (a specialist in conditions of the central nervous system), or psychologists (a specialist in mental health and psychological treatments). Conventional drugs used for this condition include:
NHS Choices recommends ‘simple painkillers that are available over-the-counter from a pharmacy’, such as paracetamol. When these fail to relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia, your GP can prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine or tramadol (another narcotic painkiller). It warns that these drugs can be addictive, and their effect weakens over time, so as they do not cure the condition the dose will be increased over time, and ultimately, serious withdrawal symptoms are likely. They also have side effects, such as diarrhoea and fatique.
If this sounds depressing, antidepressant drugs are the next treatment suggested by NHS Choices. This can be used “to help relieve pain in some people with fibromyalgia”, and goes on to say that the choice of drug will depend on the severity of your symptoms, “and any side effects the medicine may cause”. The side effects given by NHS Choices include:
- nausea (feeling sick)
- dry mouth
- feeling agitated, shaky or anxious
- weight gain
But the side effects of antidepressant drugs are more widespread of severe than those admitted by NHS Choices (go here for more details.
As fibromyalgia can stop you sleeping, and as there is no conventional cure for it, NHS Choices next mentioned drugs to help sleeping.
Muscle relaxant drugs
These drugs, not specified by NHS Choices, are supposed to reduce tension in muscles, and so ease the symptoms. They are also supposed to have sedative, or sleep-inducing effects too.
They also cause anaesthesia, anxiety, muscle pain and spasm (?), cerebral spasticity, cervical dystonia, chronic myofascial pain, cluster headaches, dystonia, Fibromyalgia (?), Huntington’s disease, hyperthermia, migraine, neuralgia, leg cramps, sciatica. spasticity, tetanus, and urinary incontinence (see this website for more side effects of these drugs).
NHS Choices say that you may also be prescribed anticonvulsant, or anti-seizure drugs such as Pregabalin and Gabapentin, normally used to treat epilepsy, with the ‘common’ side effects given as dizziness, drowsiness and oedema (swelling of hands and feet). But the drugs mentioned above cause many more side effects than this, so click on the links above to see a more comprehensive list).
NHS Choices say that antipsychotic drugs are sometimes used to help relieve long-term pain, and mentions that the possible side effects include drowsiness, tremors (shaking) and restlessness. Again, this is a serious mis-statement of the dangers of these drugs, click here to read more about the dangers of these drugs .
Other treatment options
NHS Choices offers little else, other than cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, physiotherapy, counselling - all in recognition that patients will have to continue coping with the pain, or ‘self-help’ methods of dealing with the pain, such as swimming, sitting or exercising in a heated pool, relaxation techniques, and getting in touch with supportive patient groups.
However, NHS Choices do suggest that “some people with fibromyalgia try complementary or alternative treatments such as acupuncture, osteopathy and aromatherapy” but go on to say that “there is little scientific evidence that such treatments help in the long term”. And then it suggests that before using these treatments patients should consult with their GP, although gives no reason for doing so. It is a strange recommendation, as most GPs know little, if anything at all, about these therapies!
To this list of alternative medical therapies you should now add homeopathy - and consult with a homeopath about homeopathic treatment.
The Homeopathic Materia Medica has many remedies,each of which has to be selected on the basis of the patient’s individual symptoms. To match remedy with patient for this painful condition it is always best to consult with a qualified homeopath. But the following remedies are often used, and the descriptions have been taken from the “True Star Health” website.
This remedy is indicated when any body area feels bruised and sore, after exertion, overuse of muscles, or injury. Sometimes Arnica is enough to soothe a chronic condition; often, other remedies follow Arnica.
A person who needs this remedy tries to stay as still as possible, since even the slightest motion aggravates the pain. People who need this remedy often feel extremely irritable and grumpy, not wanting to be touched or interfered with. Warmth often makes things worse and cool applications may be soothing. Pressure on the painful parts (or lying on them) often helps, because it minimizes movement.
Muscle soreness and weakness that are worse from exertion, and worse from getting cold and damp, may be relieved by this remedy. The person often is chilly with clammy hands and feet, easily fatigued, and has a tendency to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Cravings for sweets and eggs often confirm the choice of this remedy.
Soreness, weakness, and stiffness in the muscles—worse from being cold and worse from overuse—suggests a need for this remedy. The forearms often feel stiff, unsteady, and very weak. The muscles of the legs can feel contracted and sore, and the person may have restless legs at night. Problems tend to be worse when the weather is dry, and better in rainy weather (although getting wet aggravates the pain and stiffness). Warm applications and warming up in bed often relieve discomfort.
Cimicifuga (also called Actae racemosa):
People who need this remedy are often energetic and talkative, becoming depressed or fearful when physical problems trouble them. Soreness and stiffness of muscles may be accompanied by shooting pains and are usually aggravated by getting cold. The neck and spinal muscles can be very tight, and the person may have headaches and other problems during menstrual periods.
Severe pain in the muscles, extending from higher areas to lower ones, often responds to this remedy. Shooting pains may occur, along with stiffness, neuralgia, and numbness or a cold sensation. Pains can come on suddenly, and often shift around, being worse from motion and worse at night.
This remedy is often helpful with fibrositis and muscle stiffness, especially when the neck and back muscles are involved. Stabbing pains and soreness may be felt near the spine and shoulder-blades, especially on the left. Problems may be aggravated by cold damp weather, walking, and alcoholic beverages.
If a person feels very restless, with stiffness and soreness that find relief in warmth and motion, this remedy should be considered. Problems are aggravated in cold, damp weather. Stiffness and pain are worse on waking in the morning, and after periods of rest.
Tremendous stiffness of the muscles, with lameness, pain, and weakness (especially after overuse) may be soothed with this remedy. The legs and hips are sore and weak, and the person may find it difficult to stand after sitting in a chair. Muscles in the back and neck feel bruised, the tendons may be sore, and the wrists and hands feel painful and contracted.
Randomised Clinical Trials
An experimental double-blind clinical trial method in homoeopathy: Use of a limited range of remedies to treat fibrositis. Peter Fisher.
The results were analysed by non-parametric statistical methods, showing that homœopathy produced a statistically significant improvement, but only when the prescribed remedy was well indicated.
Effect of homoeopathic treatment on fibrositis (primary fibromyalgia). Peter Fisher, Alison Greenwood, E C Huskisson, Paul Turner, Philippe Belon
We showed that the homoeopathic medicine Rhus toxicodendron 6c was effective for a selected
subgroup of patients with fibrositis. The improvement in tenderness, which is the best discriminator of fibrositis,5 was particularly distinct. The improvement experienced by our patients while receiving active treatment was at least as great as that reported for any other treatment that has been assessed double blind.
Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualised homeopathic remedies versus placebo. Bell, Lewis, Brooks, Schwartz, Lewis, Walsh, Baldwin.
This is the second study in which homeopathy performed better than placebo in treating patients with fibromyalgia. Given the lack of definitive conventional treatments for fibromyalgia, the lack of improvement in pain over the natural history of the condition, and the high rates of utilisation of complementary medicine by fibromyalgia patients, homeopathy emerges as a potentially low-risk, evidence based option in an integrated package of care.
Healthcare provided by a Homeopath as an adjunct to usual care for fibromyalgia: results of a pilot Randomised Controlled Trial. Relton, Smith, Raw, Walters, Adebajo, Thomas, Young.
Given the acceptability of the treatment and the clinically relevant effect on function, there is a need for a definitive study to assess the clinical and cost effectiveness of adjunctive healthcare by a homeopath for patients with FMS.
These studies, and one other, were discussed in this interesting article written by Dana Ullman in Natural News. The additional study was undertaken by Iris Bell, and her colleagues at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, funded by National Institutes of Health. Four articles were published in peer-review medical journals (Bell et al, 2004a; Bell et al, 2004b; Bell et al, 2004c; Bell et al, 2004d). The primary clinical results from this study were published in the journal, Rheumatology (published by the British Society for Rheumatology), and it found statistically significant results from homeopathic treatment.