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Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that, most prominently, causes generalized pain all over the body. Along with the pain, people also experience fatigue, sleep issues, cognitive dysfunction, and many mental health problems. Experts still do not know what causes fibromyalgia and there is no cure.

However, the condition can be manageable, though the methods vary widely from person to person. Often, the treatments are specific to each individual’s pain level, symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle choices.

Pain Relievers

Many types of medications can help with fibromyalgia. Because the main symptom of the condition is pain, most people with fibromyalgia take some form of pain reliever. These can range from mild over-the-counter painkillers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to more powerful prescription medications.

By fighting inflammation and managing pain symptoms, these drugs help people function more effectively.

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Antidepressants

People with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia often experience some form of mental health issue, such as depression. In the specific case of fibromyalgia, antidepressants pull double duty. They help manage depression symptoms and provide a certain level of pain relief and easing of fatigue.

A small percentage of people may experience side effects like nausea and drowsiness, so it is important to work with a medical professional to find an option that is both effective and safe.

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Anticonvulsants

Widely known as anti-seizure medications, anticonvulsants are another type of drug that may help those with fibromyalgia. By blocking the rapid firing of neurons, anticonvulsants can limit seizures. This has the bonus of limiting neuropathic pain and providing an effect similar to mood stabilizers. These qualities make it an effective option for some people experiencing fibromyalgia symptoms.

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Physical Therapy and Exercise

Though fibromyalgia symptoms might frequently prevent a person from exercising, a large body of evidence supports exercise as an effective option for managing the condition. Having a trained physical therapist guide the exercises can dramatically improve effectiveness while limiting negative side effects.

Aerobic exercises, resistance exercises to strengthen muscles, and stretching can all help decrease pain, reduce stiffness, limit fatigue, and improve quality of life.

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Aquatic Therapy

If exercising on land is too difficult, aquatic therapy is another great option. In aquatic therapies, a trainer guides their patient through a range of exercises, focusing on muscle strengthening and stretching. The buoyancy, viscosity, and density of water make the exercises low-impact but extremely effective in reaching these goals.

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Emotional and Psychological Therapies

While fibromyalgia is not a psychological condition, it can have notable psychological effects that, in turn, worsen the condition’s symptoms. The uncertainty surrounding the condition, as well as the ongoing pain and loss of function, often lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. This encourages catastrophizing of pain and feelings of distress.

Emotional and psychological therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy, can help individuals learn to manage their thoughts and any secondary conditions. In many cases, this also improves feelings of pain and quality of life.

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Temperature Treatments

Because so much remains unknown about fibromyalgia, researchers are studying a range of potential treatments. Temperate therapies, though still lacking in evidence, are showing signs of being beneficial for many subjects. One of the most common methods is soaking in warm water to promote circulation, reduce stiffness, and fight inflammation.

Less commonly, some researchers are also testing cold therapies involving cold baths and ice packs to constrict the blood vessels and reduce swelling.

Woman having bath in thermal pool with view of the snowy mountains and frozen lake in Iceland Anastasiia Shavshyna / Getty Images

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Massage

Professionals find relaxation is the key to short and medium-term relief for people with fibromyalgia. While there is a small amount of evidence that alternative therapies like acupuncture and aromatherapy produce a beneficial effect, the strongest body of evidence supports massage therapy as the best relaxation method.

A 2021 meta-analysis found massage therapies can significantly lower pain levels in the medium-term, beating exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, and many medications.

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Stress Management

Another key way to increase muscle relaxation is stress management and reduction. When people feel higher levels of stress, the muscles tense up, and pain symptoms worsen. Additionally, some evidence points to stress being a major risk factor for developing fibromyalgia in the first place.

Meditation and mindfulness are some of the most common ways to reduce stress. Some people prefer to use exercise as a form of meditation, including yoga, pilates, and hiking. Finding time for hobbies and social gatherings are also great ways to reduce stress.

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Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep troubles are some of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia. Typically, these troubles include difficulty falling asleep, frequent nighttime disruptions, and feeling tired even after sleeping. A lack of sleep then causes fibromyalgia symptoms to worsen, forming a cycle of pain and sleeplessness.

On the other hand, studies show improving sleep can minimize pain. Some people achieve this with the help of sleeping medications, while others find ways to improve sleep naturally. Limiting caffeine intake and device screen time before bed may produce more immediate effects. Long-term, following a nightly routine, ensuring the room is clean and comfortable, and eating a healthy diet can all lead to better sleep.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.