Fibromyalgia is a complicated condition. It has no specific causes and no known cure so far. Yet for those who have it, as many as one in 50 Americans, the chronic pain, fatigue, and psychological problems are all too clear. On the other hand, fibromyalgia symptoms are treatable. Many experts believe the best treatment is a multifaceted approach that combines medication with lifestyle changes and alternative treatments. You may need to work with your doctor, a physical therapist, and possibly others to make a treatment plan to your needs. Here’s how to get started.
Ways to treat fibromyalgia pain
FM pain can be minor or serious enough to interfere with daily activities. Thankfully, treatment can help manage pain.
1. Pain relievers
Medication is an option to reduce FM pain. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium. These medications can help:
minimize muscular aches
improve sleep quality
These can help ease pain and fatigue in general. It’s important to discuss the possible side effects of using antidepressants for FM with your doctor. For some people, antidepressants can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects such as nausea, weight gain, and loss of sexual desire.
These seizure medications may also help reduce pain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved pregabalin (Lyrica), the first anti-seizure drug for FM treatment. Gabapentin, which reduces nerve pain, may be suggested as well. But these medications come with possible side effects including:
- weight gain
- dry mouth
People with fibromyalgia are typically treated with pain medicines, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and sleep medicines. In June 2007, Lyrica (pregabalin) became the first FDA-approved drug for specifically treating fibromyalgia; a year later, in June 2008, Cymbalta (duloxetine hydrochloride) became the second; and in January 2009, Savella (milnacipran HCI) became the third.
Lyrica, Cymbalta and Savella reduce pain and improve function in some people with fibromyalgia. While those with fibromyalgia have been shown to experience pain differently from other people, the mechanism by which these drugs produce their effects is still unknown. There is data suggesting that these drugs affect the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals from one neuron to another. Treatment with Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella may reduce the level of pain experienced by some people with fibromyalgia.
Lyrica was previously approved to treat seizures, as well as pain from damaged nerves that can happen in people with diabetes and in those who develop pain following the rash of shingles. Side effects of Lyrica including sleepiness, dizziness, blurry vision, weight gain, swelling of the hands and feet, and dry mouth.
Cymbalta was previously approved to treat depression, anxiety, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Cymbalta's side effects include nausea, dry mouth, sleepiness, decreased appetite, and increased sweating. Like some other antidepressants, Cymbalta may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in people who take the drug for depression. Some people with fibromyalgia also experience depression.
Savella is the first drug introduced primarily for treating fibromyalgia. Savella is not used to treat depression in the United States, but acts like medicines that are used to treat depression and other mental disorders. Antidepressants may increase suicidal thoughts or actions in some people. Side effects include nausea, constipation, dizziness, excessive sweating, vomiting, increased heart rate, dry mouth and high blood pressure.
Studies showed that a substantial number of people with fibromyalgia received good pain relief, but there were others who didn't benefit. You may find it helpful to research fibromyalgia to improve your understanding of the condition. Many people also find support groups helpful. Just talking to someone who knows what you're going though can make you feel better.