Fibromyalgia is a complicated condition. It has no specific causes and no known cure. Yet for those who have it -- as many as one in 50 Americans -- the chronic pain, fatigue, and psychological strain of fibromyalgia are all too clear.
Fibromyalgia symptoms are treatable, however. 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 tailor a treatment plan to your needs. Here’s how to get started.
Fibromyalgia Treatment: Start With a Diagnosis
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome-- a collection of symptoms, rather than a specific disease. Some of the most recognizable fibromyalgia symptoms are:
- Widespread pain
- Severe fatigue
- Tender points on the body
- Anxiety or depression
Doctors often diagnose fibromyalgia by considering criteria such as how long you’ve had pain and how widespread it is, and by ruling out other causes. This can be tricky, however, because symptoms associated with fibromyalgia can be caused by other conditions. So it’s best to see a doctor who is familiar with fibromyalgia.
There is a blood test that is purported to be highly accurate in diagnosing fibromyalgia. The test -- called FM/a -- identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. Ask your doctor about the test, which costs roughly $750.
Learn About Fibromyalgia Medications
Once you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your doctor will talk to you about treatment options. Several types of medicines are used to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain and fatigue.
Three medications are FDA-approved to treat fibromyalgia:
- Cymbalta (duloxetine): A type of antidepressant called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Researchers aren't sure how Cymbalta works in fibromyalgia, but they think that increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine help control and reduce feelings of pain.
- Lyrica (pregabalin): Lyrica is a nerve pain and epilepsy drug. In people with fibromyalgia, it may help calm down overly sensitive nerve cells that send pain signals throughout the body. It has been effective in treating fibro pain.
- Savella (milnacipran): Savella is also an SNRI. While researchers aren't exactly sure how it works, studies have shown that it helps relieve pain and reduce fatigue in people with fibromyalgia.