How to Treat Fybromyalgia
Chronic pain places a hardship not only on the person having it but on all those close to that individual. Fybromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that affects one in 50 people. Although there is no known cure yet, there are several ways to treat the symptoms characterized by this debilitating disease. Many experts believe the best treatment is a multifaceted approach that combines medication with lifestyle changes and alternative treatments. You may need to coordinate treatments between your doctor, a physical therapist, and other medical care professionals. The first step is to get diagnosed.
Since fybromyalgia is a syndrome, it is a collection of symptoms rather than one specific disease. The most common ones are widespread pain, severe fatigue, tender points on the body, anxiety, and depression. Doctors diagnose this disease using criteria like how long you have had the pain and how widespread it is. They also rule out other conditions that can mimic symptoms of fibromyalgia. There is a blood test to help diagnose fibromyalgia. The test, called FM/a, identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia.
Learn About Fibromyalgia Medications
Once you have been diagnosed, your doctor will talk to you about options in treatment. There are several medications that doctors use to treat symptoms such as pain and fatigue. Three medications are FDA-approved to treat fibromyalgia.
- depression meds: This is a type of antidepressant called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Researchers aren’t sure how depression meds works in fibromyalgia, but they think that increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine help control and reduce feelings of pain.
- medications: medications is a nerve pain and epilepsy drug. In people with fibromyalgia, it may help calm down overly sensitive nerve cells that send pain signals throughout the body. It has been effective in treating fibro pain.
- Savella: Savella is also an SNRI. While researchers aren’t exactly sure how it works, studies have shown that it helps relieve pain and reduce fatigue in people with fibromyalgia.
There are several antidepressants that are used as well.
- Tricyclic antidepressants. By helping increase levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, these medications may help relax painful muscles and enhance the body’s natural painkillers.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Your doctor may prescribe one of these types of antidepressants by itself or in combination with a tricyclic antidepressant. SSRIs prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain. This may help ease pain and fatigue.
Other medications are also recommended to fybromyalgia patients.
- Local anesthetics injected into especially tender areas can provide some temporary relief, usually for no longer than three months.
- Anticonvulsants or seizure medications such as anticonvulsant medication are effective for reducing pain and anxiety.
- Muscle Relaxants are occasionally prescribed to help alleviate pain associated with muscle strain in those with fibromyalgia.
Treatment Plan: Stay Active
Exercise is probably one of the best ways to combat the pain of fibromyalgia. Not only is it a natural treatment with no side effects, but exercise will also help overall health and fitness. It has great benefits against pain, anxiety, and stress. The important thing to remember about exercise is to begin slowly and focus on three areas: range of motion, aerobic, and strength training. Begin with stretching and low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming or other water exercises, or bicycling. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates can also be helpful. If you want to increase the intensity of your exercise, do it slowly over time.
Treatment Plan: Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is great for fibromyalgia because it helps you focus on what you can do to improve your situation, rather than on your chronic symptoms. A good physical therapist will show you how to get temporary relief from fibromyalgia pain and stiffness, get stronger, and improve your range of motion. Little changes such as practicing good posture can help prevent painful flare-ups.
Treatment Plan: Alternative Treatments
There are several alternative treatment plans that patients can try to help with symptoms. Many of these are outside traditional medicine and not much research has been done to see whether these really benefit patients. However, there is anecdotal evidence that these do, in fact, work.
- Acupuncture aims to increase blood flow and production of natural painkillers with thin needles inserted into the skin at strategic points on the body. Some studies report that acupuncture may help ease pain, anxiety, and fatigue.
- Massage therapy may help reduce muscle tension, ease pain in both muscles and soft tissue, improve range of motion, and boost production of natural painkillers.
- Chiropractic treatment, based on spinal adjustments to reduce pain, may help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms.
- A number of dietary and other supplements are advertised as treatments aimed at relieving fibromyalgia symptoms. Some of the most popular for fibromyalgia include magnesium, melatonin, 5-HTP, and SAMe, which may affect serotonin levels. However, results of studies on these supplements are mixed. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements because some may have side effects and could cause reactions with medication you are taking.
- Herbs are another way but scientific evidence for the effectiveness of herbs is mixed. A few studies have shown that St. John’s wort can be as effective as certain prescription medication for treating mild depression.
Learning how to treat your particular case of fibromyalgia takes time and effort but the rewards pay off. Talk with your doctor about a multi-facetted plan that would include a variety of treatments. Discuss any medications with your doctor, especially side-effects. Try natural treatments like exercise and discuss alternative treatment options. Trying a variety of treatments will help you discover the ones that benefit your symptoms and improve your quality of life.