Evidence-Based Non-Pharmacological Therapies for Fibromyalgia

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2018 Apr 4;22(5):33. doi: 10.1007/s11916-018-0688-2.


Purpose of review: Fibromyalgia (FM) is the second most common rheumatologic pain disorder after osteoarthritis with a multisystem presentation. While the treatment of FM in a clinical setting incorporates both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic modalities, the present investigation reviews evolving literature on cognitive behavioral and complementary medical therapies. The recent medical literature on FM was reviewed between 2012 and 2017 via MEDLINE and the Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials, with an emphasis on randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and evidence-based treatment guidelines.

Recent findings: Cognitive behavioral therapy continues to play a significant role in the non-medical therapy of FM. It is especially helpful in high catastrophizing patients as evidenced by recent studies that note changes in the brain on functional magnetic resonance imaging. Mindfulness meditation can be helpful in improving pain symptoms and pain perception. No particular diet is found to have a meaningful impact in FM; however, various diets including low fermentable oligo- di -monosaccharides and polyols diet, gluten free, and hypocaloric may be helpful in ameliorating gastrointestinal distress in select patient populations. Current literature does not support the routine use of acupuncture for improving pain or quality of life in FM; however, given its benign side effect profile, it should not be discouraged. Goals for symptom management and pain control should be set early, and patient engagement remains critical in the management of this complex pain presentation. While low quality evidence exists for most non-pharmacologic treatment modalities for FM, CBT and mindfulness meditation show promise for future investigation.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Chronic pain; Cognitive therapy; Diet; Fatigue; Fibromyalgia; Meditation; Tender point; Widespread pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods