What treatment(s) for fibromyalgia?
You should know that there is currently no specific drug treatment for fibromyalgia . The only "treatment" aims to relieve some of the symptoms and improve the quality of life of patients. The patient's general practitioner plays an important role in guiding him in the choice of treatment(s) and care. He will help him decide what is best for him, based on available treatments and his preferences.
In some cases, several different healthcare professionals may be involved in the care of the patient, such as:
- rheumatologist - specialist in muscle and joint disorders,
- neurologist - specialist in diseases of the central nervous system,
- psychologist - specialist in mental health and psychological treatment.
Fibromyalgia has many symptoms, which means that there is no single effective treatment for all symptoms . Treatments that work for some people will not necessarily work for others. The patient will probably have to try several treatments to find the combination that suits him. This will normally be a combination of medication and lifestyle changes .
The patient with fibromyalgia will probably be required to take several types of medication, such as:
Simple over-the-counter pain relievers, such as paracetamol , can sometimes help relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia. Be careful, they are not suitable for everyone, so the patient must be sure to seek advice from his doctor and read the instructions before use. If over-the-counter painkillers are not effective, the attending physician (general practitioner or specialist) may prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine or tramadol. Beware, these painkillers can be addictive and their effect tends to weaken over time. This means that the dose may need to be increased gradually and the patient may experience withdrawal symptoms when the last ones are stopped. Other side effects, such as diarrhea and extreme fatigue, may also be experienced.
AntidepressantsAntidepressants can also help relieve pain in some people. There are different types of antidepressants. The choice of medication will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the side effects the medication may cause. Antidepressants can cause a number of side effects , such as:
- a feeling of discomfort,
- a dry mouth,
- the sleepiness,
- restlessness, tremors or anxiety,
- weight gain,
For information about the side effects of the medicine, be sure to read the leaflet that comes with it.
Medicines to help sleep
As fibromyalgia can affect sleep patterns, the patient may seek medication to help them sleep. The GP is the best person to judge the need for, and taking of, this kind of medicine . He may recommend a treatment available over the counter, or prescribe a listed drug. 'Natural' sleep aid techniques exist. Why not try them .
Patients with fibromyalgia may also experience stiffness, or muscle spasms (painful contraction of muscles). The GP may prescribe short-term treatment with a muscle relaxant, such as diazepam. These drugs can also help you sleep better, due to their sedative (sleep-inducing) effect .
AnticonvulsantsThe doctor may prescribe an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure). The most commonly used anticonvulsant for fibromyalgia is pregabalin. These treatments are normally used to treat epilepsy , but research has shown that they may improve pain associated with fibromyalgia in some patients. Common side effects of pregabalin include:
- weight gain...
'Natural' treatmentsBesides medication, there are other treatment options that may be helpful in helping relieve the pain experienced in fibromyalgia, for example:
- swim, sit or exercise in a heated swimming pool or in hot water (hydrotherapy or balneotherapy),
- a personalized exercise program,
- cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) - a talking therapy that aims to change the way of seeing things, in order to approach problems in a more positive way,
- psychotherapy - talk therapy that helps to understand and manage thoughts and feelings,
- relaxation techniques,
- psychological support - any type of counseling or support group that helps the patient cope with the problems caused by fibromyalgia.
Alternative therapiesSome people with fibromyalgia try complementary or alternative treatments, such as:
There is little scientific evidence for the long-term effectiveness of these treatments, but some people find that certain treatments help them relax and feel less stressed, which helps them cope better with their illness. Before using any complementary or herbal treatments, consult a physician first. Some treatments can cause a reaction with other medicines or make them less effective.