Fibromyalgia is a medical condition characterized by intense chronic musculoskeletal pain. It also causes fatigue, headache, mood problems and sleeping difficulties. Although the exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unclear, health experts speculate that abnormal activity in the areas of the brain that control pain triggers this health disorder.
Fibromyalgia cannot be cured. Controlling the symptoms is the main goal of fibromyalgia treatment. Along with physical therapy, fitness workouts and behavioral therapy, medications are recommended to reduce pain, improve sleep and treat depression and anxiety.
Medications To Treat Fibromyalgia
While conventional treatment of fibromyalgia focuses on alleviating the symptoms of the health disorder, pregabalin is the first medication specifically recommended for treating fibromyalgia. Pregabalin is classified as an anticonvulsant drug. By affecting the activities of the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), pregabalin reduces the number of pain signals transmitted by the damaged nerve cells.
It is taken orally, usually two to three times a day or as directed by the physician. At the initial stage of the treatment, your physician may prescribe low dosage of the drug. The dosage is gradually increased during the course of the treatment. It may take several weeks to notice the benefits of the treatment. Possible side effects of pregabalin include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, gas, constipation, speech difficulties, mood changes, confusion, lack of coordination and increased appetite.
Gabapentin is another anticonvulsant drug recommended for fibromyalgia patients. By modifying the pain transmission pathway, it reduces the body’s sensation to pain.
Gabapentin is taken orally, usually once to thrice a day. It improves sleep and reduces fatigue. Drowsiness, headache, dizziness, memory problems, anxiety, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, dry mouth and increased appetite are possible side effects of gabapentin.
Low doses of antidepressant drugs are recommended for reducing pain and improving sleep in non-depressed fibromyalgia sufferers. If fibromyalgia is accompanied by depression, higher doses of antidepressants are prescribed to treat the condition.
Tricyclic antidepressants, including amitriptyline, doxepin, desipramine, amoxapine, imipramine and nortriptyline, are widely recommended for reducing pain and improving sleep.
However, the effectiveness of the drugs may wane over time. Common side effects of these drugs include weight gain, dizziness, drowsiness, blurred vision, dry mouth, and poor sex drive.
Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Among the various antidepressants, SNRIs are found to be most effective in reducing pain. SNRIs commonly used for treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia include duloxetine, milnacipran and venlafaxine. Dizziness, nausea, sexual dysfunction, fatigue and constipation are possible side effects of these drugs.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline and fluvoxamine are recommended for treating fatigue and improving sleep. The effect of these drugs on fibromyalgia pain varies. Nausea, sexual dysfunction and agitation are possible side effects of SSRIs.
By reducing muscle spasms, cyclobenzaprine reduces musculoskeletal pain in fibromyalgia patients. Depending upon the severity of the pain and the dosage of the drug, your physician may ask you to take the muscle relaxant drug one to four times a day. Dizziness, drowsiness, stomach upset and dry mouth are possible side effects of the drug.
Pain Relief Drugs
Different types of pain relief drugs are used for reducing fibromyalgia pain. Acetaminophen (paracetamol) may be used for treating mild pain. It rarely causes any adverse side effect when used appropriately.Moderate to severe pain may be treated with tramadol. Tramadol is sometimes combined with acetaminophen. However, fibromyalgia patients on tricyclic antidepressants should avoid this drug.
Nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and constipation are common side effects of this drug.Topical application of capsaicin ointments may help to numb the sensation of pain. Severe pain is occasionally treated with opioids. Given the risk of addiction, the psychological profile of fibromyalgia patients on these pain relief drugs should be monitored periodically.