Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic, diffuse pain and tender points, often accompanied by extreme fatigue and other complaints. Beyond that, there’s a lot we don’t know about it. There are no definitive blood tests for diagnosing the condition and no consistently effective conventional treatments for fibromyalgia—symptoms rarely respond to the usual pain meds.
Some doctors don’t think fibromyalgia is a real disease, and others believe it’s merely a physical reaction to stress, depression or anxiety, which explains why antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs are often prescribed.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have no doubt that one reason we have good success at the Whitaker Wellness Institute treating fibromyalgia is because we don’t make patients feel like it’s “all in their heads.”
There are three primary components to my protocol in treating fibromyalgia: looking for other underlying conditions that may be causing symptoms, a comprehensive nutritional supplement program, and clinical therapies.
Natural Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Check for vitamin D deficiencies. People with diffuse pain often have low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies can cause a bone disorder called osteomalacia, which mimics fibromyalgia’s aches and pains. Low levels of this vitamin are also associated with depression and weight gain, other common coexisting conditions.
Test for heavy metals. Middle-aged women, the group most likely to suffer with fibromyalgia, may have a high body burden of lead or other toxins. In some cases, a course of chelation in treatment for fibromyalgia dramatically improves symptoms.
Measure hormone levels. Women of pre- and postmenopausal age are low not only in estrogen and progesterone but oftentimes in thyroid and adrenal hormones. Addressing hormonal deficiencies has profound effects on a wide range of symptoms.
Re-energize patients with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), L-carnitine, magnesium and ribose. People with fibromyalgia (and its common sidekick, chronic fatigue syndrome) often have below-normal levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy that fuels your cells. They also typically have a reduced ability to manufacture ATP in muscle cells.
To improve cellular energy, I prescribe 200 mg of coenzyme Q10, 500–1,000 mg of L-carnitine, 500–1,000 mg of magnesium, and 10–15 g of ribose, all of which should be taken daily in divided doses.
Though all of these nutrients are involved in cellular energy, ribose may be the most important. In one study, researchers gave 41 patients with fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome 5 grams of ribose three times a day. After four weeks, nearly 70 percent of the participants had significant improvements in symptoms and quality of life thanks to this treatment for fibromyalgia.
Recommend melatonin for addressing poor sleep and pain. Many patients with fibromyalgia have sleep issues, and for them I recommend 1–3 mg of supplemental melatonin at bedtime. Known as the “sleep hormone,” melatonin has also been shown to reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Prescribe a course of clinical therapies. Patients with fibromyalgia respond well to several alternative therapies, including neurofeedback and microcurrent therapy. K.S., a nurse whose longstanding fibromyalgia limited the number of hours she was able to work, tried virtually every therapy under the sun. She’d get relief for a while, but her pain and fatigue always returned—until she discovered microcurrent therapy.
Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) has also been demonstrated in clinical trials to be an effective treatment for fibromyalgia. The suggested dose of LDN (which has to be obtained through a compounding pharmacy) is 1.5–4.5 mg at bedtime.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for fibromyalgia, and I can’t say exactly what might work for you. I can promise, however, that all of the therapies discussed above are safe and will likely have a net positive benefit on your overall health.
Now it’s your turn: Have you tried any of these treatments for fibromyalgia before?
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