Fibromyalgia can be difficult to treat. Health care professionals who can treat fibromyalgia include:
- many family physicians
- general internists
- rheumatologists (doctors who specialize in arthritis and other rheumatic conditions)
Fibromyalgia treatment often requires a team approach, with your doctor, a physical therapist, possibly other health professionals, and most importantly, yourself, all playing an active role. It can be hard to assemble this team, and you may struggle to find the right professionals to treat you. When you do, however, the combined expertise of these various professionals can help you improve your quality of life.
You may find several members of the treatment team you need at a clinic. There are pain clinics that specialize in pain and rheumatology clinics that specialize in arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, including fibromyalgia.
Pregabalin (Lyrica) was the first medicine FDA-approved to treat fibromyalgia. More fibromyalgia drugs are in development. Doctors also treat fibromyalgia with a variety of medications developed and approved for other purposes.
What Else Can You Do?
Besides taking medicine prescribed by your doctor, there are many things you can do to minimize the impact of fibromyalgia on your life. People with fibromyalgia also may benefit from:
- a combination of physical therapy and occupational therapy
- learning pain management and coping techniques
- properly balancing rest and activity
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep and the right kind of sleep can help ease the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Even so, many people with fibromyalgia have problems that interfere with restful sleep such as:
Though pain and fatigue may make exercise and daily activities difficult, it's crucial to be as physically active as possible. Research has repeatedly shown that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia. People who have too much pain or fatigue to do vigorous exercise should begin with walking or other gentle exercise and build their endurance and intensity slowly. Although research has focused largely on the benefits of aerobic and flexibility exercises, a NIAMS-supported study is examining the effects of adding strength training to the traditionally prescribed aerobic and flexibility exercises.
Make Changes at Work
Most people with fibromyalgia continue to work, but they may have to make big changes to do so; for example, some people:
- cut down the number of hours they work
- switch to a less demanding job
- adapt a current job
If you face obstacles at work, such as an uncomfortable desk chair that leaves your back aching or difficulty lifting heavy boxes or files, your employer may make adaptations that will enable you to keep your job.
An occupational therapist can help you design a more comfortable workstation or find more efficient and less painful ways to lift.
Although some people with fibromyalgia report feeling better when they eat or avoid certain foods, no specific diet has been proven to influence fibromyalgia. Of course, it is important to have a healthy, balanced diet. Not only will proper nutrition give you more energy and make you generally feel better, it will also help you avoid other health problems.
Complementary / Natural Therapies
Many people with fibromyalgia also report varying degrees of success with complementary and natural therapies, including:
- massage therapy
- movement therapies (such as Pilates and the Feldenkrais method)
- chiropractic treatments
- various herbs and dietary supplements for different fibromyalgia symptoms
Though some of these supplements are being studied for fibromyalgia, there is little, if any, scientific proof yet that they help. The FDA does not regulate the sale of dietary supplements, so some information may not be well known including:
- potential side effects
- the proper dosage
- the amount of a preparation's active ingredient may not be well known
If you are using or would like to try a complementary or alternative therapy, you should first speak with your doctor, who may know more about the therapy's effectiveness, as well as whether it is safe to try in combination with your medications.