Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that causes pain all over the body. This is accompanied by fatigue and sleep, memory and mood problems. Despite the fact that the fibromyalgia diagnosis has been accepted in conventional medicine for two decades, there is little agreement about what it is or what causes it. There is no reliable diagnostic test. Conventional treatment focuses on managing the symptoms with pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceuticals prescribed for pain, which include gabapentin, pregabalin (Lyrica). milnacipran (Savella), duloxetine (Cymbalta) and opioids, are not very effective and have many negative side effects. As a result, many fibromyalgia patients are searching for a natural treatment for fibromyalgia pain.

Fortunately, there are many natural treatments for fibromyalgia pain that alleviate symptoms without causing significant side effects. Here are the top five:

Cannabis (Marijuana and CBD)

Many experts now believe that fibromyalgia is a result of an endocannabinoid deficiency. Endocannabinoids are substances produced by the body that help the body return to homeostasis (balance) after injury or stress. They reduce pain and inflammation and promote relaxation and sleep. Marijuana and hemp, both plants in the cannabis family, contain similar substances known as cannabinoids that bind to the same receptors on the cells as the endocannabinoids and have the same effects. Many consider cannabis to be the best natural treatment for fibromyalgia pain.

There has been limited human research on the efficacy of marijuana and hemp-derived CBD on fibromyalgia but what research exists supports the use of cannabis in alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia and the often-associated conditions of IBS, migraines, sleep and mood disorders.

Anecdotal evidence by fibromyalgia sufferers who’ve turned to marijuana for relief supports its effectiveness. An online survey in 2014 of over 1300 fibromyalgia patients asked about effectiveness of FDA-approved drugs and marijuana. 62% of medical marijuana users rated it as very effective, with another 33% reporting it helps a little (95% total improved). This compares very favorably with 10% of Lyrica users rating it as very effective and 29% reporting it helps a little (39% improved), Savella (10% very effective and 22% helped a little, total of 32% improved) and Cymbalta (8% very effective and 32% helped a little, total of 40% improved).

Medical marijuana is legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia, with more states considering legalization. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to make it legal at the federal level. Hemp-derived CBD is legal everywhere. The main difference is that hemp does not contain THC, the component in marijuana that makes people high. There is some evidence that all the compounds in marijuana work together to produce the optimum effects. THC is also the component implicated in the few side effects found in using cannabis products, including anxiety, lightheadedness, dizziness and drowsiness. Much depends on the strain of marijuana and its THC/CBD ratio. CBD has many of the beneficial effects of cannabis for pain reduction and relaxation without side effects.

Cannabis does not have to be smoked to achieve the benefits. It’s available in many forms including oils and edibles, as well as ointments and creams for topical use.

Exercise as a natural treatment for fibromyalgia

According to fibromyalgia researcher Dr. Winfried Hauser, "Aerobic exercise is the most effective weapon we have” for treating fibromyalgia. A 2017 review of the evidence for the effectiveness of aerobic exercise for fibromyalgia found that it improved health-related quality of life and physical function and decreased pain, fatigue and stiffness. Long term improvements were noted for pain reduction and improved physical function even years after the studies ended. Improvements were relatively modest indicating that exercise is best as part of a multi-faceted strategy to manage fibromyalgia.

The European League Against Rheumatism reviewed the evidence in 2017 and found strong evidence for the effectiveness of exercise in fibromyalgia. They found that aerobic exercise and strengthening exercises were both effective and that land and aquatic exercise appeared to be equally effective. They recommend physical therapy with graded physical exercise.

It’s important, if you’ve been sedentary for a long time, to start slow, with a few minutes of walking or pool exercise or weights starting as low as one to three pounds. Build up gradually to a regular habit of exercising at least several times a week.

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine, according to the Institute of Functional Medicine, is “a systems biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. Each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness.” One condition, such as fibromyalgia, may have many causes. One cause, such as inflammation, may result in multiple disorders. The patient’s genes, environment and lifestyle will affect the manifestation of symptoms. Treatments that address the right cause will have lasting benefits.

Functional medicine, because of its multi-faceted approach, is a great natural treatment for fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms.

Functional medicine MD Amy Myers has identified the following common root causes of fibromyalgia:
• Gluten intolerance
• Candida (yeast) overgrowth
• Hypothyroid
• Vitamin deficiencies, including magnesium, vitamin D and B12 deficiencies
• Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut
• Arenal fatigue (the result of chronic stress)
• Mycotoxins (toxic molds)
• Mercury toxicity
• MTHFR Mutations (a genetic mutation that reduces ability to detoxify)
• Glutathione deficiency (Glutathione is needed for detoxification)

Functional medicine offers treatments for all of these root causes and can greatly improve the lives of fibromyalgia patients.

To explore these options, consult with a healthcare practitioner who practices functional medicine.

Energy Psychology

There is substantial evidence that early life adversity affects long term stress levels and pain processing and often contributes to the development of fibromyalgia. This includes early life exposure to pain, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, maternal deprivation and poor quality of maternal attachment.

The effects of these traumatic experiences live in the mind and body and contribute to chronic illness until they are effectively processed and resolved. While many forms of psychotherapy can be somewhat helpful, talk therapy does not get to the part of the brain that stores these adverse experiences.

One very effective way of resolving trauma is energy psychology. Energy psychology techniques combine focused awareness on traumatic memories or physical or emotional distress with stimulation of the human energy field. The most well-known energy psychology technique, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), uses tapping on acupuncture median points. Amazingly rapid healing of physical and emotional distress is often possible with EFT and other energy psychology techniques.

A free how-to guide to EFT is available at More specific information on healing pain with EFT can be found in the book, The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief. If your situation is complicated, you might want to find a practitioner who provides energy psychology therapy to get the best results.


Fibrommyalgia is now widely considered to be neurological
disorder. The condition is believed to be associated with abnormalities in how the brain processes pain and other sensory information. The brain is over-sensitized to pain signals coming from the body, also known as central sensitization.

A study of fibromyalgia patients was done using a type of brain assessment called a Quantitative EEG (QEEG). The QEEG compares the patient’s electrical activity at 19 sites on the brain to a database of people the same age who don’t have any symptoms and identifies the areas of the brain that differ significantly from normal. The study found that fibromyalgia patients had very abnormal brain activity, though the QEEG patterns differed depending on the severity of the psychological distress experienced by the patient.

These abnormal patterns can be treated with neurofeedback, a type of biofeedback that measures brain waves to produce a signal that can be used as feedback to teach self-regulation of brain function. Neurofeedback uses audio and visual displays, with positive feedback for desired brain activity and negative feedback for brain activity that is undesirable. Using neurofeedback, brain abnormalities can be corrected and functioning improved.

Though neurofeedback seems very promising for treatment of fibromyalgia, there have not been a lot of research studies. In one study, 20 sessions of neurofeedback over a four-week period were compared to 10 mg of escitalopram (Lexapro) over an eight-week period. The neurofeedback group had greater improvements in pain, fatigue, physical, social and emotional functioning than the escitalopram group at the end of treatment and at all follow-up periods including 24-week follow-up.

Many neurofeedback providers are reporting success in treating fibromyalgia. In my own neurofeedback practice, I have seen significant reductions in all fibromyalgia symptoms. The magnitude of the change increases with more neurofeedback sessions.

These are just five of many alternative therapies that can make a big difference in the lives of people with fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia, don't give up hope!

Author's Bio: 

Cindy Perlin is a licensed clinical social, certified biofeedback practitioner and chronic pain survivor. She is the creator of the Alternative Pain Treatment Directory at and the author of The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments: The Best and Worst Strategies for Becoming Pain Free. She has been in private practice in the Albany, NY area for over 25 years.