Fibromyalgia Treatments

Written by Amber Erickson Gabbey | Published on October 30, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on October 30, 2014

Fibromyalgia Treatments

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. Treatments are prescribed  to decrease pain, improve muscle and joint function, and help avoid triggers that can worsen the symptoms. While drugs are often the first line of treatment, there are other approaches that people find to be equally effective, or at least helpful. These non-medical treatments focus on preventing flare-ups.

Most people with fibromyalgia use a combination of treatment methods.

Fibromyalgia Drugs

A wide variety of drugs are used to treat fibromyalgia. Some reduce pain, some relax tense muscles, some help with sleep, and some seek to correct neurochemical imbalances. Many people take several drugs to relieve symptoms. It can take some time and trial and error to find the right set of medications for an individual patient.

Analgesics

The most commonly used pain-relieving drugs are analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Most of these are found in both over-the-counter and prescription strengths. They include common drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Another drug used to relieve fibromyalgia pain is tramadol. This is a stronger painkiller available only by prescription.

Opioids

In rare cases, a doctor may prescribe opioid painkillers for severe pain. These drugs carry a high risk of addiction if used for a long period. Examples of prescription opioid drugs include:

  • codeine
  • hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Vicodin)
  • oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet)

Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsants are drugs used to prevent seizures. They calm overactive nerves and affect the pain transmission pathway, both of which can help decrease symptoms. Types of anticonvulsants include:

  • carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • divalproex (Depakote)
  • gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)

Side effects of anticonvulsants vary but can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • liver damage

Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants reduce pain and muscle soreness. They can also help to relax the body and improve sleep. Prescription muscle relaxers include:

  • carisoprodol (Soma)
  • cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
  • orphenadrine (Norflex)
  • metaxalone (Skelaxin)
  • methocarbamol (Robaxin)

Side effects of muscle relaxants include blurred vision, dizziness, and drowsiness.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines relieve anxiety, relax muscles, and improve sleep. They are usually taken at bedtime because they cause drowsiness. Side effects include drowsiness, confusion, impaired coordination, and depression. It’s important to limit the use of these drugs because they can be addictive. They include:

  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • temazepam  (Restoril)
  • alprazolam (Xanax)

Sleep Aids

If you have fibromyalgia, your sleep is likely affected. Your doctor may prescribe a sleep aid. Sleep aids not only help you fall asleep, they can also help you stay asleep for longer periods and can also promote deep sleep. Popular sleep aids include Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien.

Sleep aids can be habit forming. If you take them for a long period and then stop abruptly, you may have anxiety and trouble sleeping. Other side effects include:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • drowsiness
  • sleepwalking

Trigger Point Injections

To relieve severe pain, a doctor may inject a local anesthetic such as lidocaine directly into a painful trigger point. This effectively relieves pain, but only works for three to four weeks at most.

Antidepressants

Like fibromyalgia, depression is associated with imbalances in brain chemicals. Many drugs that affect these chemicals are used for both depression and fibromyalgia. There are a number of antidepressant groups that can help fibromyalgia symptoms.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

These drugs keep levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine elevated. They include Elavil and Sinequan, to name a few. Side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase serotonin levels and also keep it circulating in the brain for longer periods. Popular SSRIs include Celexa, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. Side effects of these drugs include:

  • nausea
  • headache
  • diarrhea
  • restlessness
  •  sexual dysfunction

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) work in a similar manner to SSRIs but affect both serotonin and norepinephrine. They include Effexor and Cymbalta. Side effects include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • insomnia

Lifestyle Changes

Making changes to your daily routines can help reduce stress and improve sleep, both of which may reduce symptoms. In people with minor cases of fibromyalgia, lifestyle changes can sometimes relieve symptoms all by themselves. In other cases they changes can  complement drug therapy.

Stress Reduction

Learn to recognize and avoid stressful situations as much as possible. Relieve daily stress with regular habits. Schedule time each day to relax via deep breathing, meditation, or other methods.

Exercise

Gentle exercise such as walking or swimming is known to reduce stress. It can also help relieve pain by stretching and strengthening muscles. Be careful to keep exercise at moderate levels. Overexertion can make fibromyalgia symptoms worse.

Healthy Diet

A well-balanced diet and reduction or elimination of caffeine can improve sleep and reduce fibromyalgia pain. Many people find that certain foods aggravate their symptoms. They can reduce flare-ups by getting rid of these foods.

Regular Sleep Pattern

Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Improve your sleep environment by regulating temperature, removing distractions, buying blackout shades, or getting a better mattress. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugar before bed.

Psychological Counseling

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common form of counseling used in fibromyalgia. It teaches people to better recognize and deal with stressful situations. There are many support groups for patients with fibromyalgia that allow them to share their experiences and learn coping techniques.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Physical therapy reduces muscle pain through stretching and other training methods to strengthen muscles and improve movement. Occupational therapy seeks to teach people new ways to perform everyday tasks that avoid painful movements.

Massage

Massage can soothe sore muscles, reduce pain, and improve sleep. Massage for fibromyalgia also often uses light stretching and other physical therapy techniques.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.


Show Sources

Recommended for You

Best Fibromyalgia Apps of 2014
Best Fibromyalgia Apps of 2014
Explaining fibroymalgia and managing its symptoms can be difficult. Consider these fibromyalgia apps to help you track your symptoms, manage pain, and more.
The Best Fibromyalgia Blogs of the Year
The Best Fibromyalgia Blogs of the Year
These fibro blogs take some of the pain out of life with a chronic illness. Check out these fabulous hotspots for relief from your aches and pains.
Doing Away with Pain: 8 Fibromyalgia Treatments
Doing Away with Pain: 8 Fibromyalgia Treatments
Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain and fatigue. Fortunately, there are many options for easing pain, including medication, lifestyle changes, and more.
7 Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia
7 Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia
Standard fibromyalgia treatments don't always provide the perfect solution. Certain complementary, natural therapies may help. Learn about the possibilities.
Medications for Fibromyalgia Pain Relief
Medications for Fibromyalgia Pain Relief
Relieving fibromyalgia pain can be a challenge. You may need both medication and other therapies to feel better. Learn which medications can help.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement