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Cymbalta for Fibromyalgia Treatment

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Fibromyalgia is a perplexing and often disabling disorder that affects millions of Americans. However, new treatments are offering hope to those living with the pain of fibromyalgia. Cymbalta is a medication approved to manage the unique symptoms of fibromyalgia. Is this medicine right for you? Here is what you need to know, from the pros and cons to who should -- and should not -- take this drug.

What Is Cymbalta?

Cymbalta (duloxetine) is an antidepressant used for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread muscle pain and tenderness, trouble sleeping, and overwhelming tiredness.

Cymbalta belongs to a class of medications called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). The FDA previously approved Cymbalta for the treatment of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain. The agency approved Cymbalta for the management of fibromyalgia in adults in June 2008.

A similar medication, called Savella (milnacipran), gained FDA approval in early 2009.

How Does Cymbalta Work?

Scientists are not exactly certain how Cymbalta helps makes patients with fibromyalgia feel better; fibromyalgia itself is poorly understood. Many believe the pain is due to changes in the nervous system which cause nerve cells to fire off too many signals. This makes a person overly sensitive to things that would normally not be painful.  

Researchers think that Cymbalta helps calm down these pain signals by increasing the level of two naturally occurring substances called serotonin and norepinephrine. These substances, which are found in the brain and other parts of the nervous system, can affect mood and are believed to help control and suppress feelings of pain. Cymbalta and other SNRIs block serotonin and norepinephrine from re-entering cells, and therefore increase the levels of the substances in the rest of the body. This process is thought to improve mood and relieve pain in patients with fibromyalgia.

How Do You Take Cymbalta?

Cymbalta is a capsule that you take by mouth once a day. The recommended dose is 60 milligrams a day. However, your doctor will likely tell you to take 30 milligrams a day for the first week, before increasing you to the full dose. It is important to keep in mind that there is no evidence to suggest that taking more than 60 milligrams a day will further reduce your pain. In fact, doing so increases your chances of side effects.

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