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Fibromyalgia and Complementary & Alternative Medicine

People with chronic health conditions such as fibromyalgia often turn to some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)‚ which is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue. People with fibromyalgia have chronic widespread pain, as well as "tender points" on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs, which hurt when slight pressure (about 9 pounds) is applied. In addition, people with fibromyalgia may also suffer from symptoms such as: trouble sleeping, morning stiffness, headaches, problems with thinking and memory, and irritable bowel syndrome. Fibromyalgia may also be associated with depression and painful menstrual periods with women.

The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown, but problems with the nervous system could be involved. It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects as many as 1 in 50 Americans. Most people with fibromyalgia are women, and most are diagnosed during middle age. However, men and children also can have the disorder.

Conventional therapies for fibromyalgia are limited, and research shows that about 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia use some form of CAM. These include:
* Acupuncture
* Biofeedback
* Chiropractic care
* Hypnosis
* Magnesium supplements
* Magnet therapy
* Massage therapy
* SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)
* Tai chi

According to reviewers who have assessed the research on CAM and fibromyalgia, much of the research is still preliminary, and evidence of effectiveness for the various therapies used is limited.

Research on acupuncture for fibromyalgia has produced mixed results. One review article notes that three studies found some evidence to support the use of electroacupuncture (in which the needles are pulsed with electric current). However, the effects of electroacupuncture in these studies were mostly short lived, and two studies of traditional acupuncture had negative results.

Some researchers believe that low levels of magnesium may contribute to fibromyalgia. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that magnesium supplements relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. Two small studies had conflicting results.

A review of the research on massage therapy for fibromyalgia notes only modest, preliminary support. Two studies had some positive findings, but two others found either no benefits or only short-term improvements.

Supplements containing the amino acid derivative SAMe are used for a variety of conditions. Although several small studies of SAMe for fibromyalgia have had mixed results, there is some evidence of a benefit. Reviewers conclude that more research is needed.

Finally, according to reviewers, research evidence is insufficient to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of other CAM treatments, biofeedback, chiropractic care, hypnosis, and magnet therapy‚ used for fibromyalgia.

If you are considering CAM for Fibromyalgia talk to your health care providers. Tell them about the therapy you are considering and ask any questions you may have. They may know about the therapy and be able to advise you on its safety, use, and likely effectiveness in relieving your fibromyalgia symptoms.