by Kali Schweitzer, PharmD candidate 2018
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy
Dull, aching pain throughout your entire body. Trouble sleeping. Irritable mood. What could possibly be going on? Is it just in your head? Does anyone else feel like this? Well, if you experience some of these symptoms, one potential cause could be fibromyalgia, which affects the lives of almost 4 million Americans.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that, while common, is not entirely understood or easy to manage. Because the exact cause of this condition is not known, effective treatments are difficult to come across, and it’s common for patients to find themselves spending a lot of money trying to find a cure. Often times the suggested treatment is a combination of both lifestyle changes and medications. Ideally, by following the recommendations of your health care team and putting effort into your treatment plan, you will be in a good position to prevent your fibromyalgia from controlling your life and emptying your wallet.
Lifestyle Changes Can Help Fibromyalgia Symptoms
First and foremost, physical therapy as well as certain daily exercises may be the key to keeping your symptoms at bay. Suggested exercises include yoga, tai chi, walking, swimming, biking, and other low impact activities. Exercise has the potential to increase quality of life and reduce severity of pain over time.
Another way to improve your symptoms is sleep hygiene, which involves evaluating and making changes to some of your day time habits that may keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Some things to try include avoiding caffeine too late in the day and removing screens (phones, computers, televisions) from the bedroom. By getting more quality sleep at night, you have the potential to majorly improve your symptoms.
In addition to exercising and changing your sleep habits, certain types of therapy may also be beneficial for some patients. This could include both group sessions and one-on-one sessions to address any potential underlying problems that may be making your symptoms worse.
Medications for Fibromyalgia
When it comes to medications, there are multiple options available, and occasionally, combinations may be necessary. Many of the medications used for fibromyalgia can also be used to treat other things, such as depression, seizures, muscle spasms, and more. Your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following medications to help control your symptoms:
- duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- milnacipran (Savella)
- pregabalin (Lyrica)
- amitriptyline (Elavil)
- cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- tramadol (Ultram)
It is important to keep in mind that with fibromyalgia, there is no miracle cure. Some people may wonder whether or not opiates or narcotics (such as oxycodone, morphine, etc,) can be used to help with their pain, but these do not have proven benefit with fibromyalgia and are generally not recommended. Trying medication after medication can become costly, especially if you need to start taking multiple medications. By working on lifestyle changes and giving the medications a chance to work, you will be on the right track to saving money and energy as well as getting back to a normal life.
- Goldenberg DL. Initial treatment of fibromyalgia in adults. In: UpToDate, Schur PH (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA