Treatment Options for Fibromyalgia

By  , Expert Content
Jun 29, 2012

Fibromyalgia cannot be cured. Treatment for fibromyalgia aims to minimise the symptoms as much as possible and improve general health and quality of life. Current treatment for fibromyalgia includes both medication and self-care.


Several different types of medicines may be prescribed if you have fibromyalgia including painkillers and antidepressants. The medications are given to reduce the pain caused due to fibromyalgia and improve sleep.

Painkillers: Most people with fibromyalgia are initially prescribed simple painkillers, such as paracetamol. If it is not effective in reducing pain and stiffness, you may be prescribed a stronger painkiller, such as codeine or tramadol. According to studies, tramadol is effective in easing pain and may also help you function better in your daily activities. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium are another group of medications that may be given alone or in conjunction with other medications for pain and stiffness.

Antidepressants: These medications are basically used to treat depression, but in fibromyalgia, they are not prescribed specifically to treat depression. They are known to increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers of the brain) such as serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. These chemicals carry messages to and from the brain. Many experts believe that a low level of neurotransmitters is probably a factor in causing fibromyalgia. Therefore, increasing the levels of neurotransmitters with medications may help to treat the condition and ease the pain and other symptoms.

Several different types of antidepressants are available in the market. Your doctor will choose the right medicine based on many factors including your symptoms, severity of your symptoms, overall health and any side-effects that the medicine may cause.

Some antidepressants prescribed in fibromyalgia include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants (such as amitriptyline): these cause increase in levels of serotonin and noradrenaline,
  • Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (such as duloxetine): these increase levels of serotonin and noradrenaline
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (such as fluoxetine and paroxetine): these increase the levels of serotonin.

Two other medicines that have been shown to affect the levels of neurotransmitters and are sometimes used to treat fibromyalgia include pramipexole and tropisetron.

Anti-seizure drugs: These are medicines used for the treatment of epilepsy, but are often useful in reducing certain types of pain. Gabapentin and pregabalin are prescribed often to ease fibromyalgia related symptoms and pain.

Muscle relaxants: People with muscle stiffness or spasms (when the muscles contract painfully) may be prescribed a muscle relaxant to ease the symptoms. The medicines may also improve the quality of sleep as they induce a sedative (sleep-inducing) effect.

Therapy: The therapist may help you to focus and believe in your abilities and teach you strategies to deal with stressful situations.

Other treatment used to manage pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • swimming, sitting or exercising in a heated pool or warm water
  • individualised exercise programme
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - a talking therapy to help you recognise the cause of the problems and focus on thinking positively
  • psychotherapy - a talking therapy that aims to help you understand and deal with your thoughts and feelings
  • relaxation techniques
  • physiotherapy (such as massage and exercises): these aim to improve any physical problem, such as muscle stiffness or weakness

As in fibromyalgia, the symptoms and their severity may vary. No single treatment works for everyone. Hence, it is likely that your doctor will try a variety of treatments to find a combination that works well for you.



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