Effective Natural Pain Relief for Fibromyalgia

Effective Natural Pain Relief for Fibromyalgia

By Ginevra Liptan, MD.

Many of the 10 million Americans suffering from widespread muscle pain due to fibromyalgia look for non-prescriptions options for pain relief. As a physician with fibromyalgia myself, I want to share with you the most effective natural options that I include in my own pain relief “toolbox,” which includes anti-inflammatory herbs, topical creams, and a unique form of massage that breaks up painful muscle knots.

Spicy yellow goodness

Ginevra Liptan, MD

Turmeric roots are dried and ground into a spicy orange powder that has been used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for hundreds of years in India. More recently researchers have called curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, the “herbal ibuprofen.” [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/7390600/] One study found that curcumin was actually more effective at reducing pain and swelling in arthritic joints than anti-inflammatory medications. [http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.4639/abstract;jsessionid=A768F9AF39A7EE0BC525EC80EC1A6861.f04t04]
While adding turmeric as a spice to foods tastes good, it has to be eaten in pretty large quantities to get a medicinal effect as our gut does not absorb it well. The maximum pain relief effects are usually found with supplements that contain curcumin optimized for absorption (such as curcumin phosphatidylcholine complex). Although curcumin is much safer than anti-inflammatory medications, it does have some mild blood-thinning effects, so make sure to ask your health care provider before starting supplementation.

Rub this where it hurts
Creams derived from natural products can also provide local relief for painful muscles in fibromyalgia. The best part is that topical treatments tend to be very well tolerated with few side effects. Arnica is an herb used since the 1500s to treat bruises, muscle pain, and inflammation. It is still used today as a natural treatment for muscle pain in many different topical remedies. [http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/arnica] One herbal homeopathic cream that I have found helpful is MyPainAway Fibro cream. It includes arnica to reduce muscle pain, echinacea to reduce inflammation, along with other herbs targeted to reduce nerve pain by improving microcirculation around pain-sensing nerves.
Capsaicin creams are another topical option for pain relief. These contain the active component in chili peppers that cause a burning sensation. I know its sounds like this would cause more pain, but in fact the low levels of capsaicin in these creams block pain by temporarily depleting the nerves of certain chemicals that transmit pain impulses. Application of this cream three times daily was shown to significantly improve pain scores for fibromyalgia in one study done in Spain. [http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00296-012-2490-5]

Break up those muscle knots
Almost every person with fibromyalgia describes that their muscles as tight and full of painful muscle knots called trigger points. After I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia during medical school, I tried many different styles of massage, but got no benefit until I found a specialized technique called myofascial release. This form of massage therapy involves using very slow but sustained gentle pressure to separate tiny adhesions in the muscle tissue and fascia, and this lessens muscle tension and breaks up knots in the muscle. Two European studies found that myofascial release therapy was effective for reducing fibromyalgia pain, and that it gave long-lasting pain relief even at one month and six months after the last session. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018656/ ] [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21673013] To find a therapist trained in this technique go to [www.mfrtherapists.com].
The good news is that myofascial release is also something we can do for ourselves! A recent study showed that a regular program of self-myofascial release lowered pain intensity and lessened stiffness. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28139112] To start, you can simply lie on the floor and place a small, soft ball (around the size and density of a large orange) under any tight and painful muscle areas. Then allow your body to sink onto and around the ball for a few minutes to provide the right amount of sustained pressure to allow the fascia to release. Certain types of yoga can also gently stretch the fascia. Yin Yoga involves variations of seated and supine poses—often supported by props—and typically held for 3–5 minutes. This form of yoga is another great way to give yourself some myofascial release, loosen painful muscles and break up tissue knots.
The best part about these natural options is that we can do them for ourselves and take symptom control back into our own hands!

Author bio:
Ginevra Liptan, MD is a graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine, board-certified in internal medicine who developed fibromyalgia during medical school. She is now the medical director of The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia [www.fridacenter.com] and the author of The FibroManual: A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor [www.fibromanual.com].

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Authored by: Ginevra Liptan, MD

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. John at 9:05 am

    It’s good to know that there are natural pain relief treatments available for those who suffer from fibromyalgia. I thought it was especially interesting how the article mentions that studies have shown that using a capsaicin cream has been proven to improve pain in fibromyalgia sufferers. My mother-in-law was recently diagnosed, and I know she would appreciate a natural approach to managing her pain versus using medication.

  2. Pingback: Effective Natural Pain Relief for Fibromyalgia | Speak Truth to Pain
  3. Maureen at 7:51 pm

    Thank you Dr.Lipton, great post! I have CP, CF, FM, IBS etc. for many years and have tried most everything.
    Tumeric/curcumin caused my throat to burn. But, Myofascia release is awesome and I went back to a therapist in Feb after last having it several years ago.
    I have been seeing her weekly ever since. My therapist is fantastic and extremely knowledgeable and has taught me so much about the brain and body. And she uses Arnica and tiger balm depending on the issue at hand. I use tiger balm at home but am going to buy Arnica also.
    As of late though…I found the treatment hurting me/causing more pain and I correlated it with the ‘negative’ Florida summer weather effects on my body so I just cut back to 2x/mth and with a gentler approach to see if that makes a difference for me.
    I will check out the cream you mentioned.
    I believe that all the trial and error we go through with treatments is very individual and its key to get to know our bodies and responses very well.
    God Bless you for all that you do to help us. I wish you a ‘feel good day’! Maureen

  4. Faith H at 1:51 pm

    Have you ever tried Bromaine? It is derived from the stem of a pineapple. I have tried many Rx meds prescribed by my doctor(s). They either haven’t worked or caused bad side effects. I decided to look at the natural meds I came across Somnapure PM. It was between pain meds and sleeping meds. It has Bromaine, Melatonin, and a few other natural meds in it. It can be looked up online for them. I know what works for one, may not for another. But it helps me …without bad side effects. It says to take 2 a while before bedtime. There are times I only take 1. Just wanted to share this in hopes it helps someone else.

  5. Mark Knudson at 4:29 pm

    Thank you Dr. Liptan for these helpful suggestions and for all you do in the FM world.

  6. Debra Gordon at 2:59 pm

    Dear Dr Lipton this is a great article! Thankyou sooo much. I take many supplements that do help & do easy excercise & very easy treadmill. I have some Tumeric supplements that I haven’t taken because I’m hesitant of any side effects etc. I have read many benefits & not quite sure why I’m hesitant😊. I have no blood problems, I do have Fibro, CFS, IBS etc. Could you possibly let me/us know more about it. I’ve read many articles on it, but being as you have Fibro & you’re a Doctor, it would help greatly! Thankyou again for this article! Deb

  7. Ken at 10:55 am

    Looks interesting. With my limited knowledge of the severity that fibro can affect an individual, I can only rely on how i can observe….a patient. My wife, previous to diagnosis, was an energetic, responsible, “working” Mother and good wife. We HAVE used other available organic compounds since late November of 2016. None with the desired results. The aches and pains of everyday life Never slowed her pace but, the fibromyalgia have caused both physiological as well as psychological negative effects in her life.In a world where men are women and men can announce they are women, these “rights” have been embraced. The chronic pain patient is being forced to spend countless dollars, life savings, if any, on a way to ease pain to a level that ……life can go on. Thank you for the information. I am glad that this method of fibromyalgia pain control works well for you. Maybe it will help for others.

  8. Denise Bault at 7:04 am

    Please speak with your pharmacist and doctor before taking tumeric as it can interfere with certain drugs!

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