There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but medication aims to ease your symptoms as much as possible and to improve your quality of life.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia tend to vary widely from person to person, so you may be treated for your condition by several different healthcare professionals. For example, you may be treated by your doctor, a rheumatologist (a specialist in conditions that affect the muscles and joints), or a neurologist (a specialist in conditions of the central nervous system).
Fibromyalgia can be treated in several different ways, and it is likely that you will need more than one kind of medication to ease your condition. However, all types of medication may not be effective for everyone with fibromylagia.
Typically the approach by doctors is to try and address a paticular symptom of fibromyalgia as there as yet no magic tablet that can deal with all the symptoms.
So you may be given one OR a combination of:
Painkillers to help with pain
Anti depressants to help with depression and sleep
Muscle relaxants and sleep medicines to help you sleep
Novel medications to help with pain and sleep (developed as anti-epileptics)
Simple analgesics such as paracetamol and other weak opioids can also be considered in the treatment of fibromyalgia. (Corticosteroids and strong opioids are not recommended.)
These drugs are designed to take the edge off less severe pain or to combat flare ups.
If paracetamol is not effective in easing your pain, your GP, or healthcare professional, may prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine. You may also be prescribed a painkiller called tramadol, or one called nefopam. Both of these painkillers have been found to be effective in treating pain that is caused by fibromyalgia and act like synthetic codeine.
In some cases, in addition to your main painkiller, you may also be prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen. However, you should avoid taking NSAIDs if you have asthma, high blood pressure, or kidney, or heart, problems. They are also unsuitable for you if you have, or have had, a stomach problem, such as a peptic ulcer.
As well as easing pain, NSAIDs help to reduce inflammation. However, as fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation, they are not effective in treating the condition when taken on their own.
These drugs were originally developed as treatments for Parkinsons disease and Restless leg syndrome but can also be helpful for patients with fibromyalgia.
Dr Andrew Holman (Pacific Rheumatology Associates, Renton WA) said in 2004 that this is "the most promising treatment option I've seen in 12 years for fibromyalgia."
"The rationale behind using a dopamine agonist in fibromyalgia is not well worked out, but the leading theory—at least in my mind—is that these drugs act to decrease the autonomic arousal that fragments deep sleep," Holman explains. Dopamine in the brain affects a variety of functions, including pain, and the D3 dopamine receptors are found in the mesolimbic area, which is the part of the brain that inhibits arousal coming from the brain stem. The theory is that the D3 agonist at higher doses increases postsynaptic neurotransmission, possibly in the hippocampus, and this increases inhibition of the arousal, but he points out that the theory is still controversial - "it's highly speculative but intriguing."
5 - HT3 Receptor Agonists
Tropisetron is a serotonin 5-HT3 receptor antagonist used in the USA mainly as an antiemetic to treat nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy, although it has been used experimentally as an analgesic in cases of fibromyalgia.
Antidepressant medicines for fibromyalgia are not prescribed specifically to treat depression. These medications which treat centally mediated pain have become popular in recent years to treat FM as more research points to the brain and central nervous system, and not the periphery of the body, as the source of dysfunction in FM.They are commonly prescibed in lower dosages for fibromyalgia than for depression.
They are used to boost the levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine), and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages to and from the brain
It is thought that low levels of these neurotransmitters may be a factor in causing fibromyalgia, and that raising their levels may help to treat the condition and ease the pain of your symptoms. If you have fibromyalgia, there are many different types of antidepressant medicines that you may be prescribed. The choice of medicine will depend on the type of fibromyalgia that you have, and the severity of your symptoms, plus any side effects that the medicines may cause.
Antidepressants used to treat fibromyalgia include:
The tolerability of tricyclic antidepressants can be improved by beginning with a low dose (e.g. 5–10 mg), giving the dose a few hours before bedtime, and slowly escalating the dose.
There has been a wealth of research on the use of anti-depressants as part of FM treatment, and the SNRIs seem especially helpful. It is thought that they influence central pain processing, thus decreasing pain and fatigue. They are not addictive, but common side effects include nausea, tiredness, headaches and rashes. The SSRIs fluoxetine, citalopram and paroxetine have each been evaluated in randomized, placebo-controlled trials in fibromyalgia (3) (4) (5) (6). In general, the results for SSRIs in fibromyalgia have been similar to the results for other pain conditions. The newer, more potent SSRIs (e.g. citalopram) seem to be less efficacious than the older SSRIs, perhaps because the latter have noradrenergic activity at higher doses.
Muscle relaxants and sleep medicines
If you have stiffness, or spasms, in your muscles as a result of fibromyalgia, your GP, or health professional, may prescribe a muscle relaxant to help ease your symptoms and are commonly taken at bedtime.
Muscle relaxants that are often used for fibromyalgia include medicines called tizanidine (Zanaflex) and methocarbamol (Robaxin). Tricyclic antidepressants (see above) can also help to relax your muscles.
Muscle stiffness and spasms can also affect your ability to sleep, but even if you sleep all night, you may find that you still wake up feeling tired. This is because fibromyalgia can prevent you from sleeping deeply enough to fully refresh you.
If this is the case, your GP, or health professional, may recommend, or prescribe, an over-the-counter sleep medicine, or herbal supplement, in order to help you sleep more deeply. If these medicines do not help, using one of the muscle relaxant medicines mentioned above may help you to sleep more deeply at night because they have a sedative (sleep-inducing) effect.
There are also stronger medicines, such as zopiclone and zolpidem, which can help you sleep. However, you may only be able to use one of these medicines for a short period of time because long-term use can end up disrupting your sleeping patterns even further.
Anti seizure medications
These are a new development in the treatment of fibromyalgia and in the case of Pregablin (trade name Lyrica) have been officially licensed for use in the UK for FM treatment.Pregabalin is an anti-seizure medicine that has been found to be effective in treating several fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain and sleep problems. However, pregabalin can cause a number of side effects, such as dizziness, blurred vision, and weight gain, so it may not be suitable for everyone.
The other anti seizure medication being trialed for FM is Gabapentin (trade name Neurontin) though this also can have negative side effects especially in those with IBS or crohn's disease.
FM licenced medications
In America three medications have been licensed for the treatment of fibromyalgia, Cymbalta, Savella (milnacipran) and Lyrica all received licenses for fibromyalgia but they have not been granted the same status in the UK.
Cymbalta and Lyrica in the UK have licenses for neuropathic pain (and Cymbalta for depression). Savella is not licensed in the UK. Not receiving a UK a license for these drugs does not mean that a British GP is unable to prescribe them, but it is "off-license" so if anything serious was to go wrong in terms of drug reactions etc. the GP would have to carefully justify his/her actions. In Scotland SIGN (which is their version of NICE) seem to have a bit more clout and have recommended that neither be prescribed. There is nothing stopping you lobbying your GP to ask if he or she will prescribe you Cymbalta and Lyrica to see if it can help your symptoms.
Cymbalta (trade name Duloxetine) is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor manufactured and marketed by Eli Lilly. On October 19, 2006, Eli Lilly issued a press release saying they had done trials which found that Cymbalta, at 60 mg once or twice daily, significantly reduced pain in more than half of women treated for fibromyalgia (FM), with and without major depression, according to 12-week data presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.
Duloxetine is superior to many other medications for the treatment of fibromyalgia due to its freedom from muscarinic, histaminergic and adrenergic adverse reactions. Its effectiveness in pain relief is believed to be due to its modulation of the nociception system. A meta-analysis of clinical trials has confirmed its pain relief, fatigue reducing properties as well as its effectiveness in improving physical and mental performance.
In the study testing the efficacy of Cymbalta for FM, participants completed several questionnaires to measure the amount of pain and discomfort the disease caused them at the beginning of the study, and then at the end of each of the first two weeks and every second week for the remaining 12 weeks of the study. Researchers also tested the participants for depression.
Women who took Cymbalta had significantly less pain and discomfort than those who took the placebo. For men, who made up only 11% of the study, there was no effect from taking the medication compared with a placebo. Reportedly, depression played no part in whether or not the drug worked to control pain. The change in the level of women's pain was particularly pronounced after a month of taking the drug, then leveled off a bit before dropping again near the end of the study.
However, in one of the primary measures of pain there was no significant difference between the two groups at the end of the 12-week trial. Also, because the trial lasted only 12 weeks, it is impossible to tell how well the drug would control treatment for a longer period of time.
The Food and Drug Administration regulators approved the drug for the treatment of fibromyalgia in June 2008 for Americans.
In 2009 Milnacipran (trade name Savella) a new SNRI (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor). produced by Cypress Bioscience became the third medication to be approved by the US in as many years.
It is similar to duloxetine (Cymbalta), in that both drugs increase the supply of serotonin and norepinephrine (chemical messengers, also known as neurotransmitters) available to your brain. The difference is that milnacipran gives your brain a larger boost in norepinephrine. Neuroscientists refer to this property of milnacipran as "norepinephrine selectivity."
Many studies have demonstrated that pain receptors tend to be hypersensitive in people with fibromyalgia. By exerting a stronger effect on norepinephrine than on serotonin, milnacipran may scale back the brain's exaggerated reaction to neurochemicals associated with painful sensations.
If your doctor prescribes milnacipran for your fibromyalgia symptoms, you'll typically start with a low dose. Then, under your doctor's guidance, you can gradually work up to 100 milligrams (mg) a day, usually in two separate 50 mg doses. The dose can go up to 200 mg a day if your symptoms don't improve.
What to do next
Your doctor is there to help you to look at the medications you are currently being prescribed for your fibromyalgia. (Remember that your medication might be listed under its generic name or a brand name.) For example if you the feel that pain issue is being addressed you could chat to your doctor about prescribing another medication to help with your sleep symptoms. If you are lucky enough to have a progressive doctor then you could ask about their advice regarding the newer medications like Lyrica and Cymbalta.
Understand there is no magical pill that will get rid of all fibromyalgia symptoms.
Experiment with your doctor to determine which medicines can help “control” your symptoms.
Responsibly use analgesics and narcotics to take the edge off the pain. These medications will not relieve all your pain but may improve symptoms and comfort.
Educate yourself about expectations of medication.
Use the lowest effective dose of medicine; wean off whenever possible (and discontinue any medication that is not working).
Be flexible with medications. Keep it simple.
Treatments For Fibromyalgia
The aim of this site is to raise awareness of Fibromyalgia and associated conditions in men. It is specifically aimed at, but not exclusive to, male sufferers, their carers and families affected by the syndrome.
Help fund this site
Help us raise awareness of Fibromyalgia in men. Your support is greatly appreciated.