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Modern Medicines vs Traditional Healing For Fibromyalgia

Back painIf you suffer from fibromyalgia, you’ve likely heard some of the arguments for trying both traditional healing methods and modern medicine for easing your symptoms; you may have even tried out a few.

Advice on the NHS website reminds us that whilst: “there is no cure for fibromyalgia… treatment can ease some of your symptoms and improve quality of life.”

We’ve decided to outline some of the most common treatments for fibromyalgia, from both perspectives, and explore the benefits and potential side effects as we go along.

Is modern medicine or traditional healing more effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia? Let’s try and find out…

Modern medicine

According to the NHS, the following medical treatments may be offered by your Dr if you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia:

#1 Painkillers
Whilst over the counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, may ease some of the aches and pains associated with fibromyalgia, your GP may sometimes prescribe a slightly stronger drug such as tramadol or codeine.

Potential Side effects: (of stronger painkillers) may include fatigue, diarrhoea and potential addictiveness.

#2 Antidepressants
Antidepressants work by boosting the chemicals responsible for transmitting messages to and from the brain. These are known as neurotransmitters. It is believed that increasing the levels of neurotransmitters may help fibromyalgia sufferers by easing: the widespread pain associated with the condition.”  One of several different types of antidepressant may be prescribed, depending upon the particularities of an individual’s condition.

Potential Side effects: may include dizziness, constipation, nausea, dry mouth and shakiness amongst other things.

#3 Medication to help you sleep
Sleeping patterns may be adversely affected by fibromyalgia and, in a vicious circle, lack of sleep may also intensify your symptoms. If sleeping is an issue for you, your GP may recommend an over-the counter remedy or something slightly stronger, if they think it necessary.

Potential Side effects: some sleeping pills on the market have been associated with side effects including changes in appetite, drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth and constipation/diarrhoea.

#4 Muscle relaxants
Muscle relaxants are sometimes prescribed by GPs as a means to ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia. This treatment targets the painful contraction of muscles often associated with the illness that can materialise as stiffness or spasms. Often these drugs can also have a sedative effect that may prove beneficial to broken sleeping patterns.

Potential Side effects: include dry mouth, urinary retention, drowsiness or dizziness and possible addiction.

#5 Anticonvulsants
Often used in the treatment of epilepsy, GPs may prescribe an anticonvulsant medicine in the treatment of pain for fibromyalgia symptoms.

Potential Side effects: include drowsiness, weight gain, fatigue, nausea, tremor and rash

Dr Rodger Murphee, known on his website as The Fibro Doctor, suggests that some conventional medical treatment for FMS and CFS just aren’t cutting the mustard when it comes to pain treatment:

“Many of the most commonly prescribed drugs for fibromyalgia have side effects that are similar or identical to the symptoms of FMS and CFS. These similarities can cause a lot of confusion when doctors are trying to determine the effectiveness of treatment.”

With this in mind, we now look at a few of the alternative medicines on offer when it comes to traditional healing and fibromyalgia.

Traditional Healing

#1 Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice, and is amongst one of the oldest forms of treatment for chronic pain symptoms. Many reports suggest that acupuncture can relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia, including anxiety and fatigue, although there is no firm evidence to prove this connection. You can read a fuller account of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia in our previous blog article here.

Potential Side effects: these may include a feeling of discomfort due to the insertion of the needle, dizziness, faintness, a temporary worsening of symptoms and bruising at the site of the needle

#2 Massage
In massage therapy, the soft tissue and muscles are manipulated by hand in techniques including stroking, kneading and palpating. Whilst a number of forms of massage exist, it is important that your practitioner is aware of your symptoms as he/she may adjust his/her technique accordingly. The benefits attributed to massage therapy range from relaxed muscles, improved sleep, tension-headache relief and improved joint motion. You can find out some further info on our previous blog post, here.

Potential Side effects: if undertaken by a trained by a trained professional, according to medicenenet.com, the risks and side effects of massage therapy are minimal. However, they may include, swelling, bruising sensitivity and temporary discomfort.

#3 Homeopathy
Homeopathy was founded on the principle of ‘like cures like’, in the belief that: a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people”. Homeopathic treatments are greatly diluted substances, ensuring zero-toxicity.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia can often relate to fatigue and pains in the muscles and tendons, as well as anxiety, sleep disorders and sometimes depression.  According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, further to a consultation, types of homeopathic remedy that may be prescribed for these symptoms include the following: arnica, bryonia, calcarea carbonica, rhus toxicodendron and ruta graveolens.

Potential Side effects: when it comes to homeopathic treatment, it is reported that you may feel an initial worsening of your symptoms before they improve; this is sometimes referred to as “homeopathic aggravation.”

A word of caution
Although some individuals swear by the benefits of alternative healing techniques, as few clinical studies exist on many of these treatments, in reality, it’s difficult to gage their actual effectiveness.

If you are interested in trying out an alternative remedy to treat your fibromyalgia symptoms, remember that it is imperative to first consult your GP and/or physiotherapist, and ensure that your alternative practitioner is from a recognized association such as the British Acupuncture Council.

Conclusion

In summary, whilst no permanent cure for fibromyalgia exists, traditional healing and modern medicine both provide a range of options that may have beneficial effects upon those that suffer from the condition. In many instances, the potential side effects may outweigh the positive benefits, meaning that your course of treatment may involve an element of trial and error before you see an improvement in symptoms.

Most importantly, as healthcarecentre.org reminds us, any treatment that you receive for your fibromyalgia symptoms (be they traditional healing techniques or modern medicine) should be part of: “a multi-disciplinary, cohesive treatment programme” under the full guidance of your GP.

Have you tried an alternative treatment for your fibromyalgia symptoms or have you found that modern medicine has provided you with more successful treatment results? We’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

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