Natural remedies for 10 common fibromyalgia symptoms

BSc in Health Studies, Dip.Nut
Ask Earle

21 October 2015

The complex symptoms of fibromyalgia

Pain all over, exhaustion, bloating and constantly forgetting things are but a few of the many symptoms often associated with fibromyalgia. You may experience all of these symptoms, some of these symptoms or other symptoms. For some, the symptoms are present every day, for others, only on some days. This is not to mention the varying intensity of symptoms from day to day… confused yet? Now you know why it is so frustrating for you and your doctor when trying to diagnose this syndrome.

The effect of fibromyalgia on the system varies from person to person; however, there are some common symptoms which frequently occur together. Recognising these symptoms and understanding how to treat them naturally can help you to manage your fibromyalgia better.

Who does fibromyalgia affect?

Just like its many symptoms, the reason fibromyalgia affects certain people and not others is confusing and frustrating. The medical community is still a little baffled as to the cause of fibromyalgia. Some studies, however, suggest that high stress levels, poor eating habits and sleep problems can all contribute to its onset.

It’s possible that several trigger factors coming together will set up a fibromyalgia-like situation, and a final trigger factor will then tip the person into fibromyalgia. As tipping factors will be different for different people it is very tricky to pin down ‘causes’. Studies have, however, found that it appears to affect more woman than men.

How to diagnose fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose because there is no specific test (such as blood test, X-ray or scan) to determine if it is fibromyalgia. Furthermore, the symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions.

If your doctor thinks you may have fibromyalgia, any other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis, will have to be ruled out first. However, such ailments may also be present at the same time as your fibromyalgia.

Typically, you will have to answer a great many questions about your symptoms, including how long, how often and how widespread they are before a diagnosis is made, so understanding the common symptoms of this syndrome is very important.

#1 Widespread pain

One of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia, which most sufferers are likely to experience, is widespread pain. People can describe this as a deep throbbing ache, a stabbing pain or a burning sensation which can be felt throughout the body, but is often concentrated in certain areas, such as your neck or back. The pain can often affect a sufferer’s ability to carry on with day-to-day tasks.

When diagnosing fibromyalgia most doctors rely on locating pain trigger points on the body.

How you can help yourself:

  • Increase your magnesium intake – a lack of magnesium increases our pain perception and also makes it harder for muscles to relax, so try including magnesium rich foods in your diet, such as dark leafy greens, beans, grains and pulses
  • Reduce your caffeine intake – cut out or reduce the amount of tea and coffee you drink because caffeine increases nerve pain and lowers magnesium levels
  • Exercise more – gentle exercise, such as swimming, yoga and walking, has been found to have a number of important benefits for people with fibromyalgia, including helping to reduce pain. Stepping up exercise very gently and gradually is sensible – don’t overdo it.


A helpful remedy…
Due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and pain-killing properties, Devil’s claw has been traditionally used to relieve any additional inflammatory pain accompanying your fibromyalgia. The root of Devil’s claw is used in herbal remedies for the treatment of muscle and joint pain, backache and rheumatism.

Due to the number of potential causative factors entangled in fibromyalgia, inflammatory processes can be adding to the overall pain levels. Stress, for example, is an inflammatory factor present for many people with fibromyalgia. Working to reduce any inflammation present can help to reduce the overall symptom burden.

#2 Fatigue

People with fibromyalgia often find they feel tired easily or tired all the time, experiencing extreme physical and mental tiredness, known as fatigue.

How you can help yourself:

  • Keep stress to a minimum – being stressed can sap your energy, causing more fatigue
  • Exercise can help again – while this may be the last thing you feel like doing, lack of exercise has been found to be linked with constant feelings of tiredness. Gentle exercise can actually make you feel better, reduce stiffness and make you feel more energised, but take it slowly and don’t push yourself. Exercising outdoors, e.g. walking in the park, has been shown to increase the health benefits of exercise
  • Stay hydrateddehydration is another thing which can quickly sap your energy, so it’s important to drink plenty of water
  • Address sleep issues – obviously poor sleep quality can cause you to feel more tired so it’s important to get a good night’s sleep.


A helpful remedy…
Siberian ginseng has traditionally been used for its positive effect on energy, giving your body a natural boost without resorting to stimulants, helping to lift fatigue.

#3 Sleep problems

Being in pain can make it difficult for you to switch off and sleep at night, therefore it is not uncommon for fibromyalgia suffers to experience sleep problems. While you are asleep, your body regenerates, relaxing and resting muscles and tissues; so not getting a good sleep means your muscles can’t restore properly. People who sleep badly have also been known to feel more pain.

How you can help yourself:

  • Make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible – as fibromyalgia sufferers often struggle to sleep due to pain, it’s important to ensure your sleep position, mattress and pillows are not contributing to this discomfort. Read my blog post on why sleeping can cause neck pain for more information
  • Improve your sleep environment – eliminate light, noise and distractions as much as possible and try to introduce good sleep habits
  • Try not to nap during the day – this will help your body to understand that night-time is for sleeping
  • Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, before bedtime – these put your nervous system on red alert, rather than in a relaxed state ready for sleep.


A helpful remedy…
A combination of Valerian and Hops, which are both soothing and naturally sedative herbs, taken just before bed can help you to achieve a more restful and deeper sleep, as well as promote a better sleep pattern. Valerian has also been used traditionally as a muscle relaxant.

#4 Fibro-fog

Those with fibromyalgia often find it difficult to concentrate and can have trouble remembering simple things or learning new things. This ‘fibro-fog’ can lead to frustration, increasing stress and anxiety levels, especially if it causes you to forget appointments, important dates and names or just feel constantly distracted.

How you can help yourself:

  • Get a good night’s sleep – ‘fibro-fog’ can worsen after a night of poor sleep, so it’s even more important to address any sleep issues
  • Make lists – to-do lists, shopping lists and diaries are good, practical ways to tackle this problem and help you to feel more in control
  • Have some game time – cognitive games, such as crosswords, brain teasers (like the ones below) and Sudoku, can provide daily brain training which can help to reduce episodes of fibro-fog; plus they are fun to do!

#5 Digestive problems

People suffering from fibromyalgia can experience a whole variety of digestive problems, including bloating, excess wind, stomach pain, diarrhoea and constipation. These symptoms can often be diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

How you can help yourself:

  • Check your medicine – digestive problems could be a side effect of a prescribed medication that you are taking for fibromyalgia or another condition
  • Avoid caffeine and refined sugar as much as possible – these are difficult for your digestive system to cope with and can result in digestive problems
  • Try to eat more slowlychewing your food more allows it to be digested and broken up more easily in the stomach, reducing risk of digestive problems, such as acid reflux, indigestion and bloating.


A helpful remedy…
Molkosan Fruit can be helpful because it contributes to the normal function of digestive enzymes. A delicious fermented whey drink, simply add it to water or even your favourite morning smoothie.

#6 Headaches

People with fibromyalgia tend to suffer from three different types of headache: muscle tension headaches, migraines and combination headaches. Headaches can make fibromyalgia even harder to deal with. Aside from being very painful, headaches can also cause even more problems with concentration (fibro-fog) and difficulty controlling emotions.

How you can help yourself:

  • Avoid becoming dehydratednot drinking enough water can easily result in a headache
  • Eat more foods rich in magnesium – just as with helping to ease pain throughout the body, magnesium can also help relieve headaches, so it’s important to eat more magnesium-rich food or take a magnesium supplement
  • Eat regularly – this will help to stabilise your blood sugar level. Dropping blood sugar levels can result in headaches, so rather than eating one or two big meals a day, try to eat smaller amounts more regularly.

#7 Sensory sensitivites

Symptoms of sensitivity to bright light, noise, tastes and smells are common among fibromyalgia sufferers. It is thought that the pain associated with fibromyalgia occurs because of over-activity in the sensory receptors, so it is likely that for this reason, other senses are also more alert and responsive.

In naturopathic terms, a disturbed liver can cause extra sensitivity to noise and light, as well as smells, and many people with fibromyalgia have other liver symptoms, such as trouble digesting fatty foods.

How you can help yourself:

  • Identify what’s causing your sensitivity and manage it – keeping a diary could help. Note down when you experience sensitivity and if possible what caused it. This can help you to find ways to handle your sensory overload, for example wearing sunglasses if you find lights too bright or avoiding strong smells from air fresheners and scented candles
  • Support your liverbitter herbs can help to stimulate, cleanse and protect your liver.


Fibromyalgia can make you feel stiff, often at its worst in the morning. It can be difficult to get going and ready for the day ahead as movement can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful when first getting out of bed.

How you can help yourself:

  • Have a warm bath or shower – warmth relaxes the muscles and encourages them to loosen up. The warm water can relieve the worst of morning stiffness and help you to get going
  • Stretch it out – perform gentle stretches at night before going to bed and in the morning when you get up, to ease stiffness
  • Devil’s Clawthis natural remedy not only helps to ease pain (as mentioned above), it is also useful in helping to ease muscle and joint stiffness.


A helpful remedy…
For faster relief of a painful episode, Arnica gel can be applied to painful muscles and help ease stiffness.

Stress & anxiety

As well as physical symptoms of fibromyalgia, there are a number of emotional symptoms, including stress and anxiety. There is a lot of worry related to fibromyalgia, especially as it is a relatively unexplained condition. This worry can lead to anxiety, which is often increased by stressful situations or the stress of dealing with troublesome symptoms.

These emotional responses have also been linked to increased nerve responses to stimuli, including touch. This makes those with fibromyalgia hypersensitive to physical sensations, particularly pain. Additionally, anxiety can cause muscle tension, resulting in tenderness and pain, while stress can cause poor sleep, all of which impacts many of the physical symptoms of fibromyalgia.

How you can help yourself:

  • Breathe slowly and fully for a count of ten – slow, deep breathing can relieve nervous tension, anxiety and reduce the stress response of the body
  • Take time to relax – read a good book, go for a walk or have a bath. Take time out and distract yourself from your worries
  • Laugh more – laughter produces the feel-good chemical, serotonin, reducing symptoms of anxiety and easing stressful situations. Perk yourself up by watching something funny, or talking to an amusing friend who can help you see the bright side of things
  • Seek further help – make time to see a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist to learn tools that help you manage stress, anxiety and pain.


A helpful remedy…
There are several calming herbs, such as the herbs Valerian and Avena sativa, which can help to calm the nerves, ease anxiety and help you to deal with stressful situations more effectively. These herbs have the ability to relax both the mind and the muscles.

#10 Mood swings

Feeling relaxed and cheerful one minute, then down, angry, frustrated or upset the next, is not uncommon for those with fibromyalgia. Mood swings are another emotional symptom which can be difficult for you and those around you to cope with. It is thought that the pain experienced and poor sleep can all contribute to mood swings.

How you can help yourself:

  • Watch your blood sugar – your diet has an important role to play in managing your mood. Eating refined sugar and drinking alcohol or caffeine-containing drinks may help to boost your mood initially, but the big crash, which comes soon after, can make your mood worse than before
  • More magnesium – ensuring that you are including enough magnesium in your diet, or taking a magnesium supplement, can also help to balance your mood, as well as improve many other symptoms of fibromyalgia.


A helpful remedy…
Hypericum is a lovely remedy to turn to for help if your mood is low. Known as the ‘sunshine herb’, it is used to support the nervous system whilst calming tension. The herb works by influencing the chemical balance in your brain, encouraging a happier or more positive mood.

Atrosan® – Devil’s Claw tablets for muscle and joint pains

30 tablets

£ 10.99

find your local stockist

Relieves muscle & joint pain, backache and lumbago. Also available in 60 tablet size.
More info

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