Holistic Management for Fibromyalgia
Holistic management for fibromyalgia is not only a worthy course of action, but it typically yields better results than an allopathic medical protocol. Therefore, today we explore the natural ways to support the body out of a sympathetic state and into the parasympathetic as a way to manage fibromyalgia holistically.
Fibromyalgia is a painful neuropathic pain syndrome that is poorly understood in the allopathic medical paradigm. However, more holistic modalities like traditional Chinese medicine and other functional medicine practitioners have made great strides in managing fibromyalgia using holistic practices 1.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Natural Ways to Manage Fibromyalgia
Meditation can be any meditative practice (like silent, guided, with mantras, or counting beads), promoting presence. Being in the present, instead of thinking about the past or future, has profound benefits for the mind and body. Various studies have linked meditation to reducing fibromyalgia symptoms and generally reducing perceived stress 2-3.
A meditation practice puts many people off because it can be pretty daunting. Find a method that works for you, and start slow. For example, you can set a timer for under five minutes to start and opt for a guided meditation if you are not into just sitting in silence. Over time, you can adjust your style of meditation and how long you sit. The key is simply consistency, so start small enough so that you can integrate a daily practice into your life.
Like meditation, yoga is a practice that originates in India to bring people into the present moment by following a certain set of physical poses 4. Although yoga has evolved in the West to include intense workout-type sessions, ideally, you want to find a more spiritual-based practice if your goal is to support fibromyalgia. Many yoga-fitness classes can be quite intense and may add more stress to your life. Instead, find a studio or class that helps bring you into a calmer state of mind.
Yoga may mitigate fibromyalgia symptoms on a steady base, so long as the practice is kept up 5-6. If the thought of a yoga class stresses you out, consider trying an online yoga class to start.
Although mindful movement can be exercise, not all exercise is mindful movement. When it comes to fibromyalgia, you must listen to your body and not push through a type of exercise simply because it’s “healthy.” Unfortunately, many people’s relationship to exercise is very unhealthy, either by overdoing it, pushing too hard too often, or simply approaching exercise from a place of self-hate.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong are two forms of moving meditation that provide relief from fibromyalgia symptoms. Results were experienced practicing once or twice per week, making it a very gentle and sustainable practice to implement. 8
However, you don’t have to limit movement to gentle practices like tai chi, yoga, or qi gong. Aerobic activity and weight training have both can improve fibromyalgia symptoms 7. Working with a trainer when you’re getting started with weights can be useful to ensure you learn proper form and technique to avoid injury.
Various kinds of bodywork may be supportive in mitigating fibromyalgia pain. For example, massage is one way to reduce stress and improve pain and anxiety symptoms 9. Acupuncture is another form of bodywork that has shown to be more beneficial than medication in treating fibromyalgia symptoms in both the short and long term 10.
It’s no coincidence that many fibromyalgia diagnoses are preceded by or concurrently come with an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diagnosis since gut health plays such a vital role in immune and overall health 11. In addition, various lifestyle habits, including poor sleep, too many processed foods, stress, and microbial imbalances, can lead to gut permeability 12.
Some things you can do to support gut healing include:13-14
- Eat unprocessed, chemical-free food
- Cut out foods you are intolerant or allergic to from your diet
- Avoid gluten and artificial sweeteners
- Eat prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods
- Manage stress
Overall, one of the biggest factors for managing fibromyalgia holistically is stress mitigation. All of the mentioned remedies above play into this heading because practices like meditation, yoga, qi gong, movement, and bodywork all support stress reduction in their own ways. One of the most important ways to mitigate stress is to cultivate strong boundaries 15.
Setting boundaries is essentially learning what your authentic self wants and needs and protecting yourself from things not in alignment with that. It is vital to protect your energy with fibromyalgia and know to say no to things, events, people, and opportunities that will drain you. The capacity to set boundaries and honor yourself is always important, even more so when dealing with a chronic illness.
Fibromyalgia Supplement Recommendations:
Fibromyalgia is an illness that is not well understood by mainstream medicine but is being managed well through alternative holistic approaches. Managing fibromyalgia holistically requires stress-mitigation and mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and qi gong, and relaxing bodywork like massage and acupuncture can also help. Gut health is another vital piece since so much of our immune system and vitality comes from a healthy gut.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Revelation Health. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Revelation Health and associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Revelation Health encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
1 Camacho, L. M., Deng, S., & Parra, R. R. (2010). Uranium removal from groundwater by natural clinoptilolite zeolite: Effects of ph and initial feed concentration. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 175(1-3), 393–398. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2009.10.017
2 Cash, E., Salmon, P., Weissbecker, I., Rebholz, W. N., Bayley-Veloso, R., Zimmaro, L. A., Floyd, A., Dedert, E., & Sephton, S. E. (2014). Mindfulness meditation alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms in women: Results of a randomized clinical trial. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 49(3), 319–330. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-014-9665-0
3 Adler-Neal, A. L., & Zeidan, F. (2017). Mindfulness Meditation for Fibromyalgia: Mechanistic and Clinical Considerations. Current rheumatology reports, 19(9), 59. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11926-017-0686-0
4 Worthington, V. (1989). A history of yoga. Arkana.
5 Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Jones, K. D., Mist, S. D., & Bennett, R. M. (2012). Follow-up of yoga of awareness for fibromyalgia. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 28(9), 804–813. https://doi.org/10.1097/ajp.0b013e31824549b5
6 Shete, S. U., Verma, A., & Doddoli, G. (2020). Yoga therapy for fibromyalgia syndrome: A case report. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 9(1), 435. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_816_19
7 Sosa-Reina, M Dolores et al. “Effectiveness of Therapeutic Exercise in Fibromyalgia Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.” BioMed research international vol. 2017 (2017): 2356346. doi:10.1155/2017/2356346
8 Wang, Chenchen et al. “Effect of tai chi versus aerobic exercise for fibromyalgia: comparative effectiveness randomized controlled trial.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 360 k851. 21 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1136/BMJ.k851
9 Li, Y.-hui, Wang, F.-yun, Feng, C.-qing, Yang, X.-feng, & Sun, Y.-hua. (2014). Massage therapy for fibromyalgia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS ONE, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0089304
10 Li, Y.-hui, Wang, F.-yun, Feng, C.-qing, Yang, X.-feng, & Sun, Y.-hua. (2014). Massage therapy for fibromyalgia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS ONE, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0089304
11 Irritable Bowel Syndrome - UNC School of Medicine. https://www.med.unc.edu/ibs/wp-content/uploads/sites/450/2017/10/IBS.pdf.
12 Vanuytsel, Tim, et al. “The Role of Intestinal Permeability in Gastrointestinal Disorders and Current Methods of Evaluation.” Frontiers in Nutrition, vol. 8, 2021, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.717925.
13 Suez, Jotham et al. “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.” Nature vol. 514,7521 (2014): 181-6. doi:10.1038/nature13793
14 “Set Boundaries to Manage Stress.” Eugene Therapy, 21 Oct. 2021, https://eugenetherapy.com/article/set-boundaries-to-manage-stress/.