Today The Times Health Guide takes a look at fibromyalgia, a mysterious ailment that afflicts both women and men with a range of symptoms that include pain, fatigue, poor sleep, tingling and memory problems. Diagnosis can take a long time (see Anne Underwood's story, "The Long Search for Fibromyalgia Support"), and there is no cure. Though about a third of patients respond to F.D.A.-approved drugs for the condition, many more seek relief through lifestyle changes and alternative and complementary therapies.
This week Dr. Brent Bauer, director of the complementary and integrative medicine program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., joins the Consults blogs to answer readers questions about fibromyalgia. Dr. Bauer writes:
Fibromyalgia is a vexing condition for both patients and doctors. It's vexing for patients because it can cause symptoms ranging from mild muscle aches to debilitating pain, yet it remains poorly understood and has no known cure. It's vexing for many physicians who are faced with suffering patients but have only a limited armamentarium of treatments to offer.
The good news is that research is growing – revealing many new strategies for dealing with fibromyalgia in a way that helps many patients live with the disease successfully.
One exciting area of research in the past decade has been in the realm of complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, treatments for fibromyalgia. These range from well recognized therapies like acupuncture and massage to more novel treatments like d-ribose and qi-gong.
As this research grows, it is increasingly possible to identify CAM therapies that have some evidence of efficacy and minimal risk that can be incorporated right along with the more conventional treatment recommendations. This blending of the best of evidence-based alternative medicine with the best of conventional medicine is typically referred to as "integrative medicine" – since it is an integration of both for the benefit of the individual patient.