Which Drugs Treat Fibromyalgia Symptoms? continued...
The FDA has also approved milnacipran (Savella) for treating fibromyalgia. Savella -- like Cymbalta -- is in the class of drugs known as SNRIs. But while it acts in the body the same way certain antidepressants do, Savella is not used to treat depression. When used to treat fibromyalgia, Savella has been shown to reduce pain, improve physical function, and bring about overall fibromyalgia improvement for some people. The most common side effect of Savella is nausea. Other side effects include headache, constipation, dizziness, and insomnia.
Medications that increase restful sleep may help treat fibromyalgia symptoms. These drugs include low doses of antidepressant medication such as amitriptyline taken before bedtime. Other kinds of sleeping pills are often not very helpful for people who have fibromyalgia.
Anti-inflammatory drugs -- including ibuprofen and naproxen -- are not particularly helpful since there is little to no inflammation with fibromyalgia. However, they may help boost pain relief from other fibromyalgia medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs have many side effects, such as stomach upset and bleeding and may increase blood pressure.
The pain reliever acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) may be helpful, and it is easier on the stomach and less likely to cause drug interactions than anti-inflammatory drugs. However, acetaminophen should only be taken as recommended. Too much acetaminophen can lead to liver problems.
Muscle relaxants, such as cyclobenzaprineFlexeril, may provide some relief of muscle pain, especially when taken at bedtime.
Steroids (such as prednisone) used to treat inflammation associated with other rheumatic conditions have been tested in people with fibromyalgia and did not appear to improve symptoms. However, a steroid injection directly into a muscle spasm (trigger point) may sometimes be used when other treatments have failed.
In addition to medication, other treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help develop a sense of self-control and provide education about your condition. With talk therapy, you can learn new self-management strategies that can boost coping skills, particularly in managing symptoms.
For in depth information, see WebMD’s Fibromyalgia Medications.
Can Alternative Treatments Help Fibromyalgia?
With fibromyalgia pain being so debilitating, you may wonder about the effectiveness of alternative treatments to ease your discomfort. Some people with the chronic pain of fibromyalgia do find good relief with alternative treatments, including the following:
- Acupuncture. Some findings show that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry and help increase pain tolerance.
- Chiropractic. Chiropractic may improve pain levels, ease low back pain, and increase cervical and lumbar ranges of motion.
- Deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage may stimulate circulation and release chronic patterns of muscular tension.
- Neuromuscular massage. Neuromuscular massage combines the basic principles of ancient Oriental therapies, such as acupressure and shiatsu, with specific hands-on deep tissue therapy to help reduce chronic muscle or myofascial (soft-tissue) pain.
- Biofeedback. Using electronics to measure stress-related responses in the body, biofeedback helps some people control the stress response and relieves chronic pain, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Meditation. Studies show that meditation produces brain waves consistent with serenity and happiness, which help to relieve anxiety.
- Tai Chi and qi gong. These are two Chinese practices that have been found to be helpful with some fibromyalgia symptoms including pain, sleep troubles, and depression.
- Herbal remedies. Although there are few studies on herbal remedies and fibromyalgia, some patients report improved sleep or more energy with herbal supplements such as echinacea, black cohosh, lavender, milk thistle, and B vitamins.
- Natural dietary supplements. While the studies are limited on natural dietary supplements and fibromyalgia, some patients have found relief with over-the-counter natural dietary supplements such as 5-HTP, melatonin, St. John’s wort, L-carnitine, SAM-e, and probiotics. Many of these, including St John’s wort, have drug interactions, so avoid these if you are on any prescription medications or on several supplements. Some may not be safe for you if you have other medical problems.