Fibromyalgia is difficult to identify, diagnose, and treat. Its symptoms are strikingly similar to other diseases that cause excessive fatigue, stress, and depression. People without the disease normally do not understand it. However, awareness around the disease is slowly improving.
In the past, fibromyalgia was classified solely as a somatic disorder. In other words, researchers and physicians believed that this disease was purely psychological even when it caused physical symptoms. The only reason why they believed this was because there was no physical evidence to support the symptoms, like extreme exhaustion and consistent pain.
However, recent studies confirmed that these symptoms are caused by a chemical imbalance in the central nervous system, which is the main cause behind the symptoms of the disease, including allodynia and hyperalgesia.
Despite its so-called random symptoms, advances in medical technology have allowed fibromyalgia to be treated. The most common drugs used to treat fibromyalgia usually consist of anti-inflammatory medication and opioids to ease the pain. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe anti-seizure medication and antidepressants.
Most patients begin treatment with Cymbalta (duloxetine) once they receive their fibromyalgia diagnosis. Duloxetine is a drug used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety, but it can also relieve nerve pain caused by peripheral neuropathy, which is a common side effect of diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and other similar conditions. As an antidepressant, duloxetine can also help improve the patient’s mood, as well as increase their appetite, improve their sleep patterns, and giving them a boost of energy. Duloxetine assists with restoring the balance of certain substances in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine.
While duloxetine can definitely help the patient experience some relief, they have to use it continuously. If the patient skips a dose or forgets to take their medicine, the symptoms return. For this reason, most patients feel that they are highly dependent on this drug, for better or worse, because they need it to function properly.
Other alternative methods to treat fibromyalgia may include the use of muscle relaxers and pain medication, like Oxycodone. However, this approach might not be as effective.
The Problem with Pain Medications like Oxycodone
In the United States, there are only a few methods available to treat nerve pain, especially if it's caused by fibromyalgia. And, like every other method, these alternatives have serious side effects. One of the most crippling side effects is addiction.
When a patient is addicted to medications like Oxycodone, they might lack the incentive to research into better treatments. Physicians prescribe these drugs knowing full-well that they are addictive.
Oxycodone is an highly-addictive opioid that is highly-recommended (and prescribed) for the treatment of nerve pain. However, the drug is synthesized from thebaine, which is an opiate alkaloid similar to heroin that acts as a stimulant rather than a depressant. As both are opioids, the outcome is the same: the patient will develop an addiction to the medication at some point, especially when they're taking it for long periods of time.
The so-called Cymbalta cycle can be vicious. It will start with prescribing pain medication for the first signs of fibromyalgia or nerve pain until the patient develops a tolerance to the drug. As soon as the drug stops working on the patient, the doctor will increase the dosage until the same effect is achieved. The Cymbalta cycle never stops. However, for some patients, it is a much better alternative than being addicted to opioids.
Most medications prescribed for the treatment of fibromyalgia and other conditions that cause nerve pain have important long-term consequences that must be factored in when deciding how long to prescribe the treatment. For example, the most common prescriptions for fibromyalgia, Cymbalta and Lyrica, are known to cause damage in brain function, which, coupled with fibro brain-fog, can complicate their condition even further. Additionally, some antidepressants are known to cause suicidal thoughts after prolonged use.
For these reasons and more, better alternatives need to exist to treat lifelong conditions, such as fibromyalgia and peripheral neuropathy. The fact that the only alternatives for these conditions are laden with side-effects and risks in the long-term is simply unacceptable.
Alongside the medications that doctors prescribe, patients can also make changes to their lifestyle, like exercising more or eating a healthier diet. If a patient decides to exercise more, they must do gentle exercises, such as yoga and tai chi.