Alternative Pain Treatments For Fibromyalgia
- Understanding Fibromyalgia
- Fibromyalgia-Induced Depression
- Pain Medications for Fibromyalgia
- Dealing With Trigger Points – A Health Guide for People With Fibromyalgia
- Managing Sleeping Problems Among Fibromyalgia Patients
- Treating Fibromyalgia Pain With Water Exercise
- Alternative Pain Treatments For Fibromyalgia
An increasing number of fibromyalgia sufferers are resorting to alternative pain treatments. They usually follow their instinct and apply icepack or heating pad to the affected regions to relieve themselves from pain. Acupuncture is also gaining popularity as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia, thanks to the endorsement of medical authorities such as NIH and the World Health Organization.
Along with this trend, scientists are investigating how these alternative treatments work.
Cold and hot treatments and acupuncture work by regulating the flow of hormones. Pain relieving chemicals and stress hormones are reduced, while mood-related chemicals such as serotonin are stimulated.
Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia
As early as 1970s, scientific studies have been conducted to probe on the therapeutic effects of massage. Notable among these were studies that established the interrelationship between the physiological processes involved in sleep and the biochemistry behind pain control. The studies, conducted by Dra. Tiffany Field, tracked patients’ sleep patterns and monitored the levels of a brain chemical called “substance P”. This chemical is mainly responsible for the stimulation of pain in people with fibromyalgia. Findings showed that people with fibromyalgia pain had higher levels of this substance P in their spinal fluid. The levels of mood-boosting serotonin were also lower among fibromyalgia subjects.
After getting a message, the substance P levels in saliva of the subjects dropped, and pain was likewise reduced subsequently. The subjects also experienced less pain in their tender joints.
Massage sessions in the said studies usually lasted for 20-minutes. This is only practical if someone close to the person being massaged is trained to do it. Interestingly, masseuses and masseurs, like their customers, experience a drop in stress hormone!
Moderate pressure should be applied to get the most benefit. The pressure is the one that stimulates therapeutic effects, regardless whether the massage is in the form of stroking, rubbing or kneading. An indication that the right amount of pressure is being applied is the presence of finger indentations in the massaged area. It does not really have to hurt, but the massage should not be too light. It has been shown that light massage has no pain relieving effect.
Aside from pain relief, massage also alleviates mental depression. Low level of serotonin and dopamine and higher cortisol cause depression. Through massage, these biochemicals are regulated and brought to normal level. Indeed, massage brings a lot of health benefits.
Treating Fibromyalgia Through Acupuncture
Another alternative treatment for fibromyalgia symptoms is acupuncture. This traditional Chinese treatment reduces pain, anxiety, insomnia and stress by regulating brain chemicals.
Acupuncture works by improving the flow of chi/Qi. In Oriental medicine, chi/Qi refers to the vital energy that travels through meridians, the body’s energy pathways. Acupuncturists claim that inserting needles at points on the body improves the flow of chi/Qi.
Claims on the healing benefits of acupuncture are not anecdotal. There are various clinical studies that attest to the therapeutic properties of this treatment. Acupuncture has been proven to improve breathing rate, blood flow and EEG. Higher levels of endorphins (natural opiates), serotonin, cortisol and other brain chemicals are also linked to acupuncture.
Fibromyalgia symptoms can also be remedied by acupressure. The therapeutic mechanism of acupressure is similar to acupuncture; the difference is that acupressure involves finger pressure rather than needles. Acupressure affects the same meridians and chi points as acupuncture does. Acupressure is often chosen above acupuncture by people who are hesitant to have needles inserted under their skin.
Heat and Cold Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Like pressure therapy, heat and cold treatment are proven remedies for many ailments. It has been a common practice to apply ice packs in burnt areas of the body. Notice that moist heat is usually used to remedy painful joints.
The pain control mechanism of temperature and pressure are very similar. Both pressure and temperature reduce inflammation by working on pain signals. This “gate theory of neuron” mechanism works because temperature and pressure neurons are more insulated than pain neurons. As a result, signals traveling through temperature and pressure neurons run ahead of pain signals. As moist heat, cold water or pressure is applied, the gate to the next signal, the pain signal, is closed.
Fibromyalgia sufferers should be able to manage pain by simply keeping the above concepts on neural signals in mind. Rubbing hard objects on painful areas should stimulate pressure receptors and subsequently block pain signals.