Living With Fibromyalgia: Treatment Options (Part 1)
February 20, 2013

Living With Fibromyalgia: Treatment Options (Part 1)

There are as many types of treatments for fibromyalgia as there are types of patients who live with this disease. These treatments include the more traditional route of prescription medications and those that are more along the self-help line. In this article, we’re going to explore a few options in each of these catagories.

The Mayo Clinic lists some of the most commonly used medications as:

  • Analgesics. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may ease the pain and stiffness caused by fibromyalgia. However, its effectiveness varies. Tramadol (Ultram) is a prescription pain reliever that may be taken with or without acetaminophen. Your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) — in conjunction with other medications.
  • Antidepressants. Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) may help ease the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. Your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline or fluoxetine (Prozac) to help promote sleep.
  • Anti-seizure drugs. Medications designed to treat epilepsy are often useful in reducing certain types of pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin) is sometimes helpful in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms, while pregabalin (Lyrica) was the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia.

All of these medications treat different aspects of fibromyalgia. Some are used to treat the muscle pain, others help you sleep, still others may deal with the depression or anxiety that is often associated with fibromyalgia. You may need one, two, or even more of these medications. Only you and your doctor can decide what will work best for you after discussing your symptoms.

In addition to prescription medications, there are many other treatments available that you can do yourself. Some of the most commonly mentioned self-treatments for those who have fibromyalgia are behavior modification, acupuncture, biofeedback, massage, diet and exercise.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is basically changing the way you live your life. In fact, The NY Times just published an article about just this very thing.

In this article, they say “The primary goals of CBT are to change any unclear or mistaken ideas and self-defeating behaviors. Using specific tasks and self-observation, patients learn to think of pain as something other than a negative factor that controls their life. Over time, the idea that they are helpless goes away and they learn that they can manage the pain.” What this means is learning new ways to deal with the pain; be it yoga, meditation, or whatever. It has to do with realizing that fibromyalgia doesn’t have to take over your life. It teaches you ways to deal with the changes that come with living with this disease. Although it can be helpful, not all insurance companies are willing to pay for a therapy that is not only “experimental” in many views, but can also be very expensive.

There have also been studies that show that the above therapy paired with exercise is actually very effective. This particular study tells us that several treatments used in conjunction with each other have been shown to significantly help. A study done in the Netherlands says that “The syndrome is particularly frustrating because current treatments are not always effective and many are aimed at managing symptoms rather than treating the cause of the condition itself (this is partially because the root cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown).” The fact that the cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown means that treating it can be hit or miss. Without knowing the cause, all doctors (and you) can really do is treat the symptoms.

Massage therapy is another way that many cope with the pain of fibromyalgia. According to, “Massage therapy can really reduce the pain, stiffness, and tender points caused by fibromyalgia syndrome. But how does it manage to do this? Well, no one is 100% sure on how massage actually reduces pain, but it may have something to do with the central nervous system. It is theorized that massage therapy actually enhances the production of certain pain blockers, including endorphins, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These hormones work to counteract pain signals conducted by the brain, and this would explain why massage offers such dramatic pain relief.”

Not only may your health care provider recommend this for pain relief, but massage is also known for relieving stress which is a known trigger for fibromyalgia. So by getting a massage, you may actually be preventing pain. And anything that prevents pain is a good thing! Another plus is that many insurance companies will may for massage therapy for fibromyalgia, particularly since it has been used so successfully to treat pain associated with other medical conditions. In fact, anyone who has experienced severe back pain is more than likely familiar with massage or physical therapy. Massage has a history that goes back thousands of years. Most people know the connection between traditional Chinese medicine and massage. In fact, massage and acupuncture have been used to treat, not just pain, but a host of other ailments as well.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) states “There are four common typical TCM patterns for fibromyalgia. However, one person may exhibit more than one pattern.”

Check the above link to read about these patterns. However, they do state that the patient needs to get regular treatments in order to get the relief they are looking for. I don’t know much about acupuncture, and I’m really not fond of needles, but there must be something to it since it has been around so long. Having never used this particular treatment, I have no idea what the cost would be. I do know that my insurance does not cover it. Check with your provider to see if this is an option for you.

In the second part of this series, we’ll talk more about acupuncture and a more controversial treatment: biofeedback. Not every treatment will work for every sufferer of fibromyalgia, but knowing all of the options for treatment is the first step in helping yourself.

Image Credit: Melodia plus photos / Shutterstock

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