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Treating Fibromyalgia Pain: Medication Options

5 types of medications help ease fibromyalgia symptoms.
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WebMD Feature

If you have fibromyalgia pain, hang in there -- pain relief is possible.

Today doctors have better insight into fibromyalgia, and are using many types of medications to treat its symptoms. Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, narcolepsy drugs, pain relievers, sleep aids -- when used to treat fibromyalgia symptoms, these medications alter brain chemistry to help reduce pain, improve sleep, and ease anxiety or depression.

Helping patients with fibromyalgia to function better is the top goal for treatment, says Kim Jones, PhD, president of the Fibromyalgia Information Foundation and associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing and Medicine in Portland.

"That's the key with fibromyalgia," she tells WebMD, "doing what we can to decrease the symptoms so patients can maintain employment, so they can be involved with family and community."

Treatment usually includes medication and aerobic exercise -- swimming or walking -- which research shows is important in controlling fibromyalgia pain, says Doris Cope, MD, director of Pain Management at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"Everyone wants a magic pill,” Cope tells WebMD, “but a pill can't do everything."

The Symptom-by-Symptom Approach to Treating Fibromyalgia

In working with a patient, Jones targets the person’s top two or three worst fibromyalgia symptoms. Common fibromyalgia symptoms include deep muscle pain, fatigue, morning stiffness, headaches, sleep problems, constipation or diarrhea, memory problems, and anxiety or depression. But not all people with fibromyalgia suffer the same symptoms.

She looks at which symptoms are taking the biggest toll on the person’s life. Then she and the patient try various medications until they find the one -- or a combination -- that works.

"There's a bit of trial and error while you're trying to land on a good treatment," Jones says. Not every patient will respond well to a particular medication. It’s difficult to know which medication to try first. But working as a team during this trial and error phase is often an effective strategy.

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