In general, research on complementary health approaches for fibromyalgia must be regarded as preliminary. However, recent systematic reviews and randomized clinical trials provide encouraging evidence that practices such as tai chi, qi gong, yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, and balneotherapy may help relieve some fibromyalgia symptoms.
Small studies have examined various natural products—such as topical creams containing capsaicin or dietary supplements like S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) or soy—for fibromyalgia. A 2010 systematic review concluded that there is not enough evidence to determine whether these products, taken orally or applied topically, provide relief from fibromyalgia symptoms or related conditions. This issue of the digest provides a summary of the science of several complementary mind and body approaches often included in treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms.
Condition and Summary of Current Evidence
Findings from some randomized controlled trials suggest that meditative movement therapies such as tai chi, qi gong, and yoga may provide modest relief of some fibromyalgia symptoms.
Results of a recent systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that massage therapy with a duration of 5 weeks or longer had beneficial immediate effects on improving pain, anxiety, and depression.
Limited evidence suggests that when compared to a control, acupuncture may help improve symptoms of fibromyalgia such as pain and stiffness.
There is some qualitative evidence that suggests that balneotherapy (hydrotherapy) may provide small improvement in pain and health-related quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia syndrome.
Mindfulness mediation may provide short-term improvements in pain and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia; however, the evidence is limited by a small number of studies with low methodological quality.
There is some low-quality evidence that biofeedback, compared to usual care, has an effect on physical functioning, pain, and mood in patients with fibromyalgia; however, due to the lack of quality evidence, it is unknown if biofeedback has any therapeutic effect on these outcomes.
Studies on the effects of guided imagery for fibromyalgia symptoms have had inconsistent results. In some studies, participants had decreases in pain and fatigue, but in other studies, no therapeutic effects were seen.