Types of Fibromyalgia Treatments

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Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes extensive muscle pain and fatigue. If you have fibromyalgia, you know all too well how debilitating it can be. The pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia can make it hard to get out of bed each day. You are not alone in your pain—fibromyalgia affects 2% to 4% of the U.S. population, primarily women (Source: ACR). Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, many treatments are available to ease fibromyalgia pain and improve your overall quality of life.

How Is Fibromyalgia Treated?

Fibromyalgia treatments focus on controlling your symptoms and improving sleep. Fibromyalgia treatments include:

  • Medications

  • Complementary therapies

  • Self-care measures

Medications Used to Treat Fibromyalgia

Researchers have studied a number of drugs to treat fibromyalgia. Three medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically to treat fibromyalgia. These include:

  • Milnacipran (Savella), which works by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain and decreasing pain signals

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta), which works similarly to milnacipran

  • Pregabalin (Lyrica), which is a type of anticonvulsant that decreases pain

Other types of medications used to treat fibromyalgia include:

  • Antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), venlafaxine (Effexor), doxepin (Adapin, Sinequan), and nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor)

  • Antiseizure medicines, such as pregabalin and gabapentin (Neurontin)

  • Anti-anxiety medicines, such as clonazepam (Klonipin) and diazepam (Valium)

  • Muscle relaxants, such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naproxen)

  • Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and prescription tramadol (Ultram)

If you have been taking any of these medications and they don’t seem to be working for you, don’t lose hope. Not everyone responds to treatment the same way. What works for one person may not work for you. You may have to try a number of medications before finding the right one.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Complementary treatments may help ease fibromyalgia pain and discomfort. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Complementary treatments are not meant to substitute for full medical care.

Approximately 90% of people with fibromyalgia use some form of complementary treatment (Source: NCCAM). Complementary treatments used to treat fibromyalgia include:

  • Acupuncture and acupressure

  • Biofeedback

  • Chiropractic care 

  • Hypnosis

  • Magnet therapy

  • Massage therapy and myofascial release

  • Nutritional supplements, such as magnesium and SAMe

  • Physical therapy

  • Yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and the Feldenkrais method

Self-Care Measures

With or without medication and other treatments, it is very important to take care of yourself. Stress, lack of sleep, and overdoing it can aggravate your symptoms. Try your best to:

  • Take time to relax. Make sure you carve time out of your day for yourself—even if it is just 10 minutes. Go for a walk, read a book, meditate, sit and breathe deeply, or take a bath.

  • Practice healthy sleep habits. Fibromyalgia can make getting a good night's sleep difficult. Establish a regular sleep routine by going to bed and getting up at the same or similar time each day—even on weekends. Try to avoid naps, and limit caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants. (Nicotine is also a stimulant.) Many medications used to treat fibromyalgia may also improve your sleep.

  • Exercise regularly. Research shows that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia. Before starting a regular exercise routine, talk to your doctor. Start out slow and find out what motivates you to move. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther from the store, or plant flowers. As you build up your endurance, add in walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, and stretching.

  • Educate yourself. Knowledge is power. Educate yourself on your condition, ask questions, and stay on top of the latest research.

  • Ask for help. If you are having trouble coping with fibromyalgia, talk to a therapist—preferably one who is familiar with fibromyalgia. Counseling can teach you new ways to view your condition and provide coping skills.

Fibromyalgia treatment involves a combined approach, including medication and lifestyle measures. It may take time to find the best treatment plan for you. But don't give up! Fibromyalgia pain and discomfort can be controlled so that you can live a happy, productive life.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Feb 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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  2. Questions and Answers About Fibromyalgia. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Fibromyalgia/default.asp

  3. Fibromyalgia: In Depth. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/fibromyalgia.htm

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  6. Milnacipran. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a609016.html

  7. Duloxetine. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a604030.html