thanks to June Reidlinger ND-
The good news for fibromyalgia patients who receive homeopathic medicines is that these remedies are not known to cause direct drug interactions with any conventional drugs the patient may be taking. The pharmaceutical lobby decries homeopathy for its lack of effect: the problem for them is that if one unfathomable homeopathic treatment works, their argument is in tatters. Patients are also spared some of the conventional drug artillery used to limit symptoms. Further, because people with fibromyalgia tend to have distinct and unusual symptoms, this situation actually makes it easier for homeopaths to treat them successfully.
Other advantages homeopathy has over conventional drug therapies are lower cost and the avoidance of the usual GI, headache and CNS side effects as well as reactions that can be life threatening.
However, newspapers, magazines and even books on fibromyalgia, typically ignore studies showing the efficacy of a homeopathic medicine in its treatment. This omission occurs despite evidence of its significant efficacy as verified in several studies published in major medical journals. In addition to the scientific evidence for homeopathic treatment, surveys of people with fibromyalgia tend to show that homeopathic medicines is one of the more popular alternative treatments used by people suffering from this ailment. For instance, Dietlind et al (2005) found that 10 percent of patients answering a survey on their use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for fibromyalgia symptoms reported using homeopathy.
Scientific Evidence for Homeopathy
The first controlled trial testing the homeopathic treatment of patients with fibromyalgia was an impressive and sophisticated double-blind “crossover” trial that was published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (Fisher et al, 1989). A crossover trial is a sophisticated method to test the efficacy of a treatment because each patient’s results with the “real treatment” are compared with that same patient’s results with a placebo. While most double-blind studies compare one group of people who receive the “real treatment” with another (hopefully similar) group of people who receive a placebo, crossover trials compare the results of each person and his/her response to real treatment with his/her response to placebo.
Because of the nature of a crossover trial, the researchers chose to accept into this study only patients that fitted the symptom-syndrome for needing just one homeopathic medicine that tends to be one of the most commonly indicated remedies for fibromyalgia patients. The researchers found a surprisingly high percentage of patients (42 percent) whose symptoms indicated a need for this medicine, Rhus toxicodendron (Rhus tox).
After the researchers found 30 patients who seemed to fit the symptoms of Rhus tox, half of the subjects were given a placebo during the first half of the experiment, while the other half were given the homeopathic medicine. Then, halfway through the experiment, each subject’s treatment was switched.
The homeopathic dose of the medicine used was 6C. The researchers specifically chose to use a low potency dose of this medicine for this trial because these less potent doses provide short-term results. Over 200 years of homeopathic practice have found that homeopathic medicines that are of a higher potency — that is, those that have undergone a greater number of dilutions, with vigorous shaking of the solution in between dilutions — have a longer term effect . Because halfway through this study each subject was given either a placebo or a homeopathic medicine, the researchers only wanted to use a medicine that provided a short-term result and this is precisely what their results confirmed.
The researchers found that there was a substantially significant degree of improvement in the reduction of tender points and improved pain and sleep when the subjects were taking the homeopathic medicine, as compared to when these same subjects were taking a placebo. In other words, twice as many people experienced significantly less pain or significantly improved sleep when they were taking the homeopathic medicine as compared to when they were taking the placebo.
Iris Bell, M.D., Ph.D. and her colleagues at the University of Arizona School of Medicine conducted a study funded by National Institutes of Health which resulted in four articles published in peer-review medical journals (Bell et al, 2004a; Bell et al, 2004b; Bell et al, 2004c; Bell et al, 2004d). The primary clinical results from this study were published in the highly respected journal, Rheumatology (published by the British Society for Rheumatology), and it found statistically significant results from homeopathic treatment. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 62 fibromyalgia patients received an oral daily dose of an individually chosen homeopathic medicine (or a placebo) and were evaluated at baseline, two months and four months (Bell, et al, 2004a).
The study found that 50 percent of patients given a homeopathic medicine experienced a 25 percent or greater improvement in tender point pain on examination, whereas only 15 percent of those who were given a placebo experienced a similar degree of improvement. After four months, the homeopathic patients also rated the “helpfulness of the treatment” significantly greater than did those who were given a placebo. It is therefore not surprising that the study also showed that the average number of remedies recommended by the homeopaths was substantially higher to those in the placebo group as compared with the real treatment group.
One special additional feature of this trial was that the first dose of medicine was given by smell and that both groups were monitored with EEG. The researchers found that there was a significant and identifiable difference in the EEG readings in patients who were given the real homeopathic medicine as compared to those given the placebo (Bell et al, 2004b; Bell et al, 2004c). Each patient had three laboratory sessions, including at baseline, at three months and at six months after initial treatment. The researchers found that the active treatment group experienced significant increases in the EEG relative alpha magnitude, while patients given a placebo experienced a decrease in this measurement.
Another unique feature of this study was that it included an optional crossover design, allowing patients who had initially been prescribed one treatment (placebo or medication) to switch to the “other” treatment (Bell et al, 2004d). The researchers found that 31 percent of those patients who had been prescribed the real medication chose to switch, while 41 percent of those patients who had been prescribed the placebo chose to switch.
The combined evidence of clinical improvement along with physiological response to the homeopathic medicine gives these results additional significance.
The newest randomized controlled trial was conducted comparing “usual medical care” compared with usual medical care plus adjunctive care by a homeopath for patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS)(Relton et al., 2009). Adjunctive care consisted of five in depth interviews and individualized homeopathic medicines. The primary outcome measure was the difference in Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire total score at 22 weeks. (“Usual care” refers to one or more of the following: physiotherapy, aerobic exercise, analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants.)
A total of 47 patients were recruited. Drop out rate in the usual care group was higher than the homeopath care group (8/24 vs 3/23). Adjusted for baseline, there was a significantly greater mean reduction in the FIQ total score (function) in the homeopathic care group than the usual care group (-7.62 vs 3.63). There were significantly greater reductions in the homeopath care group in the McGill pain score, FIQ fatigue, and ‘tiredness upon waking’ scores. The study also found a small effect on pain score (0.21, 95 percent CI -1.42 to 1.84) (despite what may be considered a relatively small effect on pain, this degree of benefit resembles the small to modest effect from conventional medications described above); but this trial found a surprisingly large effect on function (0.81, 95 percent CI -8.17 to 9.79). Of additional importance, there were no reported adverse events from homeopathic medicines.
Ultimately, the homeopathic treatment of patients with fibromyalgia requires individualized care by clinicians who are adequately trained in homeopathy. This condition is too complex for ‘self-care treatment’ or for treatment by clinicians who have not received professional training.
The body of scientific evidence showing efficacy of individualized homeopathic treatment in the care of patients with fibromyalgia suggests significant benefits. If you or someone near and dear to you has fibromyalgia, consider getting professional homeopathic care for both safe and effective treatment. Further, although fibromyalgia is not officially considered a type of arthritis, a review of homeopathic research found patients with this more common ailment also benefit from homeopathic treatment (Jonas, et al, 2000).
A Note to and about Skeptics of Homeopathy:
Skepticism of homeopathy, like skepticism of any subject, can be healthy, except when this skepticism is based on ignorance of the subject and except when one maintains a closed mind or denies good scientific evidence. Sadly, the vast majority of people who express skepticism about homeopathy do not maintain a “healthy skepticism” but tend to be uninformed, misinformed, and simply in denial about homeopathy and the body of evidence that confirms its benefits.
It is more than a tad ironic that those people who hold themselves out as “defenders of medical science” tend to have such an unscientific attitude towards homeopathy. These people tend to show evidence of both ignorance about homeopathy and (worse) arrogance about their viewpoints. These people who are “medical fundamentalists” love to attack homeopathy saying that “there is no evidence that homeopathy works.” In fact, they make this assertion so often that they have gotten some people to actually believe them. Needless to say, anyone who says that there is no scientific evidence that homeopathic medicines work is simply proving their ignorance of the subject (as this article on fibromyalgia validates) or verifying their propensity for misinformation.