Fibromyalgia Pain Relief
For people with fibromyalgia, pain relief is generally a top priority. Our pain limits what we can do, lowers our quality of life, and can make us desperate for effective treatments.
Because fibromyalgia varies greatly from one person to another, so far there’s no single treatment that works well for everyone. Studies show that we get the best results when we combine multiple kinds of treatments.
That can include a wide range of options.
The FDA has approved three drugs for fibromyalgia, all of which are believed to alter neurotransmitter function. They are:
- Lyrica (pregabalin), an anti-seizure drug also approved for diabetic neuropathy
- Cymbalta (duloxetine), a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI)
- Savella (milnacipran) an SNRI that increases norepinephrine more than serotonin
Doctors also prescribe many drugs off-label for this condition. This includes other anti-seizure drugs, other types of antidepressants, sleep aids, and opioid painkillers. Get the full range of them in Fibromyalgia Drugs.
Opioids, such as Vicodin (hydrocodone acetaminophen) and OxyContin (oxycodone), generally aren’t considered effective against the unique pain types of fibromyalgia. However, some patients say they do get relief from them.
No single drug is effective for 100-percent of people with fibromyalgia.
Also, you have to be on the lookout for side effects.
Complementary & Alternative Treatments
Several complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments have been studied at least some for fibromyalgia, while other CAM treatments have yet to garner attention from researchers.
Some of the best-researched CAM treatments include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you cope with chronic illness and make beneficial lifestyle changes
- Acupuncture, which involves placing slender needles into specific points in your body
- Massage, especially myofascial release, which can help with connective tissue pain and dysfunction
- Exercise therapy, which should be gentle, start slowly, and increase gradually
Other somewhat popular CAM methods include:
- Physical therapy
- Mental-health counseling (for overlapping conditions and/or dealing with the emotional impact of chronic illness)
- Music therapy
We have limited scientific evidence showing supplements to be effective against fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms. Still, many people report significant success with them.
Common supplements include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Fish oil
Many others are used as well. Match your symptoms to the supplements believed to target them in Fibromyalgia Supplements by Symptom.
Regulating Brain Chemistry
A lot of fibromyalgia treatments are aimed at correcting abnormal brain chemistry, which is also called neurotransmitter dysregulation. Knowing the symptoms linked to different neurotransmitters can help you identify which treatments may be right for you.
- Serotonin, which helps regulate pain signals and the sleep cycle
- Norepinephrine, which helps with alertness and feelings of accomplishment
- Dopamine, which deals with feelings of reward as well as learning
- GABA & Glutamate, which work together to stimulate the brain when necessary and calm it down later
Many people are able to ease their fibromyalgia symptoms through changes to their diet. That can include identifying food sensitivities, which are common in people with fibromyalgia.
There’s not an official “fibromyalgia diet,” but some food are believed to be more likely than others to aggravate our symptoms.
- High-calorie foods
- Fried foods
- Refined sugar
As with medications, what foods bother you is an individual thing. Don’t expect to get the same results as someone else.
Sleep disorders are extremely common in fibromyalgia. Meanwhile, we know that improving sleep quality can lead to less pain.
Common sleep disorders include:
- Insomnia, which can be difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Sleep apnea, in which you periodically stop breathing during sleep
- Restless legs syndrome, which makes your legs feel tingly, crawly, or otherwise unpleasant until you move them
Also, a common symptom is unrefreshing sleep, which is not categorized as a sleep disorder but can have a major impact on how you feel and function.
Sleep problems can be difficult to correct, especially on your own. If you don’t sleep well, talk to your doctor. Based on symptoms, he/she may recommend a sleep studyto help with diagnosis. Also, multiple prescription sleep aids are available.
The Treatment Pipeline
Numerous fibromyalgia treatments are in the experimental stages as of mid-2016.
Drugs that are being researched for fibromyalgia include:
- Sodium oxybate
A CAM treatment that’s under investigation is non-invasive brain stimulation. Two forms of it—repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation–have shown some promise in clinical trials.
Also, yoga, Tai Chi, and mindfulness have all seen positive research in recent years.
While researching fibromyalgia online, you’ll likely come across several experimental protocols, which are treatment protocols that are not scientifically proven. Some are developed by doctors or researchers, while others were designed by people with no medical training whatsoever.
It pays to thoroughly research these protocols before you try them. Be sure to talk to your doctor, as he/she may be able to spot potentially dangerous aspects.
It Takes Time!
Expect to spend a considerable amount of time experimenting with different treatments before you find a regimen that works for you.
While the trial-and-error process can be difficult, time consuming, and expensive, it’s generally necessary for finding what’s effective.
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Mendonca ME, et al. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 2016 Mar 10;10:68. Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Combined with Aerobic Exercise to Optimize Analgesic Responses in Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.
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