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I’m a married 31 year-old who has been diagnosed with fibromylagia for 12 years. I am on a quest to raise awareness and help others by sharing information and staying positive. Read more
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Felicia Fibro - Life with fibromyalgia, EMPOWERED!

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Treating Pain without Pills

In the November-December 2010 Arthritis Today magazine there was an article entitled Pain Relief, 15 ways to go beyond the bottle to conquer arthritis pain.. Dorothy Foltz-Gray’a article covered many options and I will be discussing 6 of the treatments I feel are more related to fibromyalgia.

Heat/Cold – I think these may be the most commonly overlooked easy treatments. You can apply heat with heating pads (love!), heat patches, warm baths, warm compresses or hot wax (love!). Cold is not as fun to apply, but it can really help! Try applying cold temperatures with cold packs, ice packs, or even frozen vegetable bags. Heat works because it increases blood flow to the area, which can ease muscle spasms and generally relax the muscles. Cold reduces swelling and inflammation (think injuries like sprains & pulled muscles) by constricting the blood vessels. “Cold sensations travel along large never fibers, superseding pain sensations that travel among smaller fibers.”

Exercise/Physical Therapy – The purpose of physical therapy is to “use exercises designed to improve posture, strength, function, range of motion and to reduce pain.” It can also elevate mood and energy. A therapist will create a program depending on your level of fitness, often seeing you two times a week for three months. Common exercises during therapy sessions are strengthening, stretching and aerobics. The therapists end goal is to get you to exercise 2-3 times a week for 30-40 minutes each time. Swimming, water aerobics and cycling are also good exercises to try.

Transcutaneous Electrial Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – A TENS machine is a small machine that sends electrical current to the areas that electrodes have been placed at, on the skin. Girish Padmanahan explains how it works, “Pain is carried on small fibers called C Fibers, but other sensations are carried by larger fibers. The sensation of the current is transmitted through the larger fibers, which supersedes the small fibers.” This process has an effect similar to shutting out the pain. Padmanahan continues, “The electrical current also stimulates the nervous system, possibly stimulating the brain to release endorphins and enkephalins, opiate like substances that relieve pain.”

Topical Medications – Substances applied to the skin in the forms of gels, patches, creams, drops and sprays can be either sodium channel blockers (like lidocaine or prilocaine) or prescription NSAID. “Sodium channel blockers work by numbing nerve endings close to the skin,” while topical NSAIDS work by decreasing inflammatory proteins in the fluid of the joint. Sodium blockers work best for neuropathic pain, NSAIDS work best for pain and inflammation.

Meditation – Meditation is defined in many ways, but most commonly understood as developing deep concentration, focus and relaxation. This can also include guided imagery and breathing exercises. When using meditation you are more relaxed and have less inflammation due to stress, thus less pain. Meditation can also relaxes muscles that tense up with pain. Studies have also shown that the brain’s response to pain is reduced with regular meditation!

Accupuncture – “An ancient Chinese therapy that involves placing tiny needles along meridians in the body to release trapped energy, or chi.” Placing the needles increases endorphin production and may increase blood flow to the area and reduce pain.

You can read more of Pain Relief Without Pills on the Arthritis Today website. What are your favorite non-pill pain treatments?


Arthritis Today magazine


Comment from Shannon – Fibromyalgia Warrior
Time November 29, 2010 at 8:19 am

Love these ideas! I use everything except TENS and acupuncture – although I’ll be checking into the latter very soon.

Have you used TENS? If so, what are your thoughts?


Felicia Fibro Reply:

I used TENS quite often during physical therapy sessions and it seemed to work well. I haven’t used it at home, but I am thinking about getting a home unit.


Comment from pam
Time November 29, 2010 at 11:53 am

Great list. I have used or am currently using all of them. What is so surprising to me is how one thing can work beautifully for me may do nothing for you.

I love how easily you describe everything. You are very good at that.



Felicia Fibro Reply:

I know, isn’t that amazing how differently treatments can work on others? I’m always looking forward to when they figure out the science behind that! Thanks for the compliment, I try my hardest!


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