Melatonin is mostly used as a sleeping pill, but several studies show that melatonin can help in preventing fibromyalgia pain. People with fibromyalgia can suffer from pain in various parts of the body. Common pain occurs in the shoulders, arms, neck, hips, back, and legs. Aside from pain and fatigue, other signs of fibromyalgia include tingling or numbness of hands or feet, morning stiffness, difficulty sleeping at night, painful menstrual periods, headaches, and difficulty thinking and remembering. A few people with the condition have also reported issues like pelvic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, restless leg syndrome, as well as depression. Some studies have suggested that people who are suffering from this condition have lesser night-time levels of melatonin, which possibly make it hard for them to fall asleep and leave them tired the next day. This presents a query if melatonin supplements are effective in treating the disorder. So, can melatonin help fibromyalgia patients?
How Does Melatonin Work?
First, let’s understand how melatonin works. Melatonin is a type of hormone produced by the pineal gland, and it regulates our sleep-wake cycle, stimulating a deep sleep. It prepares our body for sleep by lowering our body temperature which causes drowsiness. High levels of melatonin in the spinal cord and immune cells denote that melatonin has an immune-regulating and pain-reducing mechanisms. Melatonin seems to regulate the TLR4 inflammatory pathway that is linked to chronic inflammation. Melatonin usage is being studied in cancer, sleep disorders, and cardiovascular disorders.
Recent studies on melatonin suggest that it may be beneficial because of its multitasking properties. Melatonin is a highly preserved indoleamine (neurotransmitter) with vital chronobiological functions. Aside from having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions, more benefits of melatonin have been presented such as sedative, analgesic, and antidepressant functions. Melatonin has been proven safe, effective, and well tolerated over a diverse range of doses.
A healthy person’s natural melatonin levels increase as it gets dark outside. This makes the person feel tired. Our body makes use of serotonin in order to make melatonin. People who suffer from fibromyalgia are believed to have a dysfunctional serotonin metabolic process. Does this mean fibromyalgia is linked to melatonin problems?
Can Melatonin help fibromyalgia patients?
Let’s take a look at two studies conducted (studies on rats and women).
A Study on How Melatonin Works in Reserpine-Induced Rats
Based on a recent study from Brazil, posted in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, melatonin may have an effective function in the management of fibromyalgia-related impairment. Since melatonin is known as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant agent, researchers theorized that it could also deliver medical advantages in fibromyalgia. The study demonstrates how melatonin usage protects against fibromyalgia-related symptoms in reserpine-induced rats. They used 90 rats in the experiment. The rats received a drug called reserpine which promotes a fibromyalgia-related symptom. They were then treated with different amounts of melatonin. The rate at which the rats ran on their exercise wheel was then evaluated.
After melatonin treatments, the rats with fibromyalgia-related symptoms exhibited improvements in impulsive motor activity, as well as other physical changes related to the disorder. With an increased rate in the rats’ activity on their exercise wheel, the result signifies that pain induced by the movement was lowered. The examiners have also noticed that the protein levels called NLRP3 (Nod like receptor protein 3) were enhanced in reserpine treated rats. Therefore, NLRP3 is suggested to prop up cell death, inflammation, and oxidative stress. This is an element in the progression of fibromyalgia. On the other hand, NLRP3 levels in rats treated with melatonin were lower. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant therapy may be effective in the management and modulation of fibromyalgia.
A Study on How Melatonin Improves Fibromyalgia Pain in Females
On a research article by BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology, 63 women with fibromyalgia receive different doses of melatonin. They were divided into three groups. Some were treated with 25 mg of amitriptyline, and some were treated with 10 mg of melatonin. A few were also treated with both amitriptyline and melatonin. Their doses were taken at bedtime. The patients kept records from the start and through the six-week study. The details they recorded were the time and intensity of the pain they experienced in a 24-hour period. Pain intensity was noted using a Visual Analogue Scale, from zero to 100 (from no pain to worst possible pain). All the patients in all three groups experienced less pain after their six-week treatment. However, the patients who were treated with melatonin and melatonin plus amitriptyline had an extensively lower pain score as compared to the patients who were treated with amitriptyline alone.
The patients’ quality of life was also measured with an impact questionnaire. The questionnaire asked about their symptoms and their adeptness to function in different areas like the number of days they were not able to work. Although the quality of life in all three groups was improved, those taking melatonin and amitriptyline plus melatonin experienced the greatest improvement. Patients who received amitriptyline alone had the least improvement. The researchers also measured every patient’s PPT (Average Pain Pressure Threshold) at their starting point and after six weeks. To measure their PPT, increased pressure was given until the patients expressed that the pressure was beginning to hurt. Although PPT improved for all groups, then again, the improvement was superior for those who received melatonin treatment. Those who received both melatonin and amitriptyline also greatly improved. But amitriptyline treated patients experienced the least improvement.
Notably, in all three groups, their sleep quality improved in about the same degree, but they’ve concluded that the improvement in pain due to melatonin and melatonin plus amitriptyline was substantially greater than the obtained improvement with amitriptyline treatment alone. The study showed that the effects of melatonin as compared to amitriptyline are significantly better. Despite the fact that amitriptyline was thought to have a positive effect on decreasing fibromyalgia pain, melatonin seemed to break its record based on the study. Fibromyalgia specialists have considered amitriptyline as a useful medicine. However, the recent comparison has just tested this belief.
The study’s use of melatonin isn’t the same as how people have used melatonin to treat jet lag or sleep problems. Melatonin is typically taken for a few days only or intermittently. In contrast, the study used melatonin every evening for six weeks. More importantly, the dosage was quite high (10 mg). For jet lag, a dose of 0.5 mg is generally used. To induce sleep, 1 mg, 3 mg, or 5 mg doses are common. While melatonin at minor doses is always safe, there is no published experience with its long term use with high doses such as 10 mg.
Studies like these could help the medical community better understand how fibromyalgia responds to different treatments. In other words, studies could help discover an effective treatment for fibromyalgia. Currently, FDA approved drugs for Fibromyalgia patients are muscle relaxants, pain medicines, sleep medicines, and antidepressants. The first FDA-approved drug for specific treatment of Fibromyalgia is Lyrica (Pregabalin). Cymbalta (Duloxetine Hydrochloride) became the second, and Savella (Milnacipran HCI) became the third FDA-approved treatment for Fibromyalgia. Health care providers have already been advising people who have fibromyalgia to manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes. But can Melatonin help fibromyalgia patients? Based on the two studies we’ve discussed, it is only fair to consider it effective. Side effects from melatonin are also a rare issue that can be discussed with your doctor.