By Donna Gregory Burch
Chronic illness can be a huge financial drain. As someone who is living with fibromyalgia and chronic Lyme, most of the money I make from working part time is spent on my treatment. I hand over hundreds of dollars every month for the cleanest, healthiest food I can find. I spend way too much money on supplements just so I can function.
And then, there are the doctor’s appointments (which cost hundreds of dollars out of pocket because most Lyme specialists don’t accept insurance), the prescription medication co-pays, the over-the-counter creams and lotions, and the list goes on and on and on.
Like most of you, chronic illness has cost me thousands of dollars over the past few years. There’s no end in sight to the money suck, but I continue to invest in my (lack of) health in order to improve my quality of life and maybe one day recover. Because of that, I end up writing about a lot of products and services on my blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com, and here at NationalPainReport.com. Invariably, I get comments from readers who say, “I can’t afford that…”
I understand their frustration. I really do! As someone who once received food stamps and fuel assistance from the government, I know what it’s like to have to make tough financial decisions. So, I wanted to create a list of low-cost treatments for fibromyalgia and Lyme for those who are struggling financially and looking for the most bang for their buck. Everything on this list is under $20 and has either been personally used by myself or other fibromyalgia/Lyme warriors who found it helpful for relieving symptoms.
In the comments section, please feel free to add your own low-cost treatments so we can all learn from one another.
Disclosures: This post contains affiliate links. All products were under $20 at the time of publication, but please be aware that prices do change. This article is for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to research and speak with their doctors before trying any new treatments.
1. Multivitamin – Because of changing agricultural practices, it’s hard to get all of our nutrients from food. The foundation of my supplement protocol is a good quality multivitamin. Because I have one of the MTHFR genetic defects, I try to take a multivitamin like this one with methylated forms of B vitamins and folate to ensure better absorption.
2. Magnesium – Without a doubt, magnesium malate has been the best all-around supplement that I’ve used since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and Lyme. It helps to reduce my pain levels, soothes my restless legs, improves my sleep and keeps me regular (sorry, if that’s TMI). I use the Source Naturals brand, and a bottle lasts for months. (Some in the Lyme community believe magnesium feeds the Lyme spirochetes. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I continue to take magnesium because I find it helpful for the reasons cited above.)
3. Digestive enzymes – Most people with fibromyalgia and/or Lyme also deal with gut problems. Taking digestive enzymes with meals and at bedtime has been a game-changer for my digestive health. I was diagnosed with GERD in 2015 and would get nasty reflux, especially while sleeping. Within two weeks of adding digestive enzymes to my supplement routine, I was able to stop taking a prescription-strength proton-pump inhibitor. These things are awesome!
4. Nux Vomica 30C – I’m currently taking long-term antibiotics to treat chronic Lyme, and I deal with nausea pretty much every day. Nux Vomica 30C, an over-the-counter homeopathic remedy, has been a lifesaver for me in relieving nausea. I daresay it works just as well as the prescription drug that my doctor gave me for the same purpose. And better still, it is super cheap! (Ginger tea is another good natural remedy for nausea.)
5. Vitamin D – Multiple research studies have shown vitamin D deficiency may contribute to chronic pain. I remember reading an article years ago that said anyone who lives north of Florida is probably vitamin D deficient because of the positioning of the sun; a simple blood test from your doctor can confirm your vitamin D level. Fortunately, vitamin D deficiency is easy to rectify with an inexpensive over-the-counter vitamin D3 supplement. I’ve read that it’s best to take vitamin D with vitamin K for better absorption.
7. D-ribose – One of the first supplements that really helped my fibromyalgia symptoms was d-ribose. Two studies by Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum found d-ribose was effective at reducing the fatigue of fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. (You can read about my own experience with d-ribose here.)
8. Kratom – In recent years, this Asian tree has gained popularity as a pain reliever and to help with opioid withdrawal. There’s a lot of debate over whether kratom is addictive, and it’s illegal in some states, but a growing number of my fellow fibro/Lyme warriors are successfully using it for pain. As with any treatment, I would encourage my readers to do their research so they can make an educated decision.
9. 5-HTP – My last fibromyalgia doctor was a big fan of 5-HTP (100-300 mg) to help with sleep and mood, but it isn’t recommended for those already taking prescription antidepressants.
10. GABA/glycine – Using GABA and glycine has improved my sleep so much! Together, these supplements cost over $20, but the bottles last for several months, making it a cheap sleep remedy. Like 5-HTP, they shouldn’t be used by people on prescription antidepressants. (You can read about my experience with GABA/glycine here.)
11. Serrapeptase – Part of what makes Lyme so difficult to treat is that it hides in biofilm, a sticky substance that prevents the immune system and antibiotics/herbs from being able to reach and kill the bacteria. Serrapeptase is one of the most popular biofilm busters, and fortunately, it is relatively inexpensive as supplements go. Serrapeptase may also be helpful for fibromyalgia.
12. Electrolyte Stamina Power Pak – Fatigue is a primary symptom for both fibromyalgia and Lyme. Some days I feel like there’s a giant vacuum cleaner sucking out all of my life force. When that feeling strikes, I reach for a packet of Electrolyte Stamina Power Pak. It’s similar to Emergen-C but the ingredients are a tad bit cleaner. I usually feel more energized within a few minutes of drinking it. (You can view my full review here.)
13. Topical magnesium – In addition to supplementing with magnesium, I also use topical magnesium lotion, which is great for relieving muscle aches, calming restless legs and reducing the burning in my feet from neuropathy. Over the last few months, I’ve fallen in love with Elepure Magnesium Lotion. Ancient Minerals is another brand frequently recommended in the fibromyalgia community, but it costs more than $20. I also just recently had a reader recommend ProCure Epsom Salt Rub, which is sold at Walmart near the Epsom salt.
14. Two Old Goats Foot Balm – Neuropathy (i.e. burning, numbness, etc., especially in the extremities) is an extremely common symptom of fibromyalgia and tick-borne infections. Sometimes, my feet feel like they are on fire! When that happens, I reach for my container of Two Old Goats Foot Balm, which contains peppermint and other essential oils to cool the burning. Two Old Goats also makes a lotion that’s a favorite among some in the fibro community. It’s similar in formulation to the foot balm, but has a more liquid texture.
15. Peppermint essential oil – Another good nausea buster is peppermint essential oil. I add a couple of drops to my palm, rub my hands together and then bring my hands up to my nose and inhale. It definitely helps!
16. Biofreeze – I was introduced to Biofreeze years ago by my then massage therapist who would use it on my back. Since then, it’s been my go-to product for localized pain. (Always wash your hands after using it because this stuff is potent, and you don’t want it to come into contact with any of your orifices!)
18. Epsom salt baths – I prefer showers myself, but there are hordes of people with fibromyalgia and/or Lyme who swear by Epsom salt baths. Epsom salts are great at relieving pain and relaxing tensed muscles, and also help with detox. The Dr. Teals brand is really popular and available at Walmart. If you hate baths like I do, you can also get some benefit by soaking your feet in Epsom salts.
19. DMSO – I’ve only begun to research DMSO but it seems to be an underground favorite for pain relief. I would caution anyone, however, to research DMSO thoroughly before starting use. From what I’ve read, users have to be extremely careful about how it’s applied, and it needs to be diluted with some sort of carrier, like aloe vera gel or almond oil, in order to avoid skin irritation. I’ve also read that it causes users to smell like garlic.
21. Heating pad – Many fibromyalgia and Lyme sufferers – myself included – find heat therapy to be very soothing. Using a heating pad is an inexpensive way to relieve localized pain. There are also microwaveable versions.
22. TENS unit – Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) involves the use of electric current produced by a device to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes. TENS units can provide pain relief from fibromyalgia, arthritis, tendonitis, headaches, migraines, nerve disorders, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, golf elbow, post-labor pain, neuropathy, carpal tunnel, calf injury, back and neck pain, and sciatica, among others. Personally, I haven’t had good results using a TENS unit, but I know many in the fibromyalgia community who swear by them. Most TENS units are well over $20, but I did find this mini unit for less.
23. The FibroManual – Anyone who’s read my work for a while knows I’m a huge fan of Dr. Ginevra Liptan and her latest book, “The FibroManual.” If you’re ready to take an active role in your health, the 4 R’s of fibromyalgia treatment outlined in her book are a good place to start.
24. The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution – The first fibromyalgia-related book that I read after my diagnosis was “The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution” by Jacob Teitelbaum. Like Dr. Liptan, he takes a more integrative approach to fibromyalgia treatment. It’s worth the read!
25. Healing Lyme – While I don’t suggest anyone try to treat themselves for chronic Lyme, the reality is many Lyme warriors don’t have the financial means to pay for a specialist. For those people, herbalist Stephen Buhner is a savior. His book, “Healing Lyme,” outlines the herbs he’s used to successfully treat thousands of chronic Lyme patients.
26. Unlocking Lyme – I’m just a few chapters into reading Dr. Bill Rawls’ latest book, “Unlocking Lyme,” but so far it seems like it’s going to give me a good, well-rounded overview of chronic Lyme, its challenges and treatments. Rawls was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and Lyme, and has used mostly an herbal approach for treatment, so his books are a good fit for those who gravitate toward a more natural approach.
27. Compression clothing – One of my most troublesome symptoms is nasty, bone-deep shin pain caused by bartonella, a common insect-borne infection. One of the only things that seems to help are these compression sleeves. They have been worth every dollar!
28. Tennis balls – Tennis balls work great for those tight, painful areas around the body. For ideas on how to use them, check out Prevention.com’s “10 pain-fighting moves you can do with a tennis ball.”
29. Introductory Fibromyalgia Course – CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help offers a $20 Introductory Course for managing fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I took this course a few months after my diagnosis and found it really helpful. The organization also offers a free version. (You can read my full post about CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help’s courses here.)
30. Planet Fitness membership – We’ve all been told exercise is important for managing fibromyalgia and Lyme, but gym memberships are super expensive. According to one of my readers, Planet Fitness offers memberships starting at just $10 a month. She also said their massage chairs are fantastic!
Now, it’s your turn: What are your favorite low-cost (under $20) treatments for fibromyalgia or Lyme?
Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.