Comprehensive Fibromyalgia Medication List: Effective Treatments & Pain Management Options

Looking for effective medications to manage fibromyalgia?

In this article, we run through all the medications that can potentially be prescribed to treat fibromyalgia. We outline how they work and what the risks are all without overwhelming medical jargon. So you can be more educated about your options and discuss them with your doctor.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious and elusive foe that wages a silent battle within the body. It indiscriminately afflicts individuals across all ages, often triggered by events such as psychological stress, medical procedures, or physical trauma. This complex disorder is characterized by persistent pain that pervades various systems of the body and can manifest with a range of symptoms, including:

  • widespread musculoskeletal pain
  • profound fatigue
  • sleep disruption
  • cognitive difficulties.

The root cause of fibromyalgia is thought to be central sensitization, a condition where the body's pain regulation mechanisms and central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord – are turned up too high, leading to an amplified and painful response to external stimuli, even those that wouldn't normally be painful.

FDA-approved drugs for fibromyalgia relief

Three medications have received FDA approval to counteract the symptoms of fibromyalgia:

  • duloxetine, known commercially as Cymbalta
  • milnacipran, marketed as Savella
  • pregabalin, sold under the name Lyrica.

Each of these pharmaceuticals targets different aspects of the body's pain transmission pathways, offering a multifaceted approach to pain management in fibromyalgia patients.

Pregabalin (Lyrica)

Pregabalin, often known by its brand name Lyrica, functions by reducing the intensity of nerve signals. This action helps to soothe nerves that may be too sensitive, which can help alleviate your discomfort. Some patients experience a noticeable decrease in pain within the first week of treatment. Studies have shown that pregabalin can reduce pain related to fibromyalgia by up to 25%, and it can also help improve sleep quality, reduce fatigue, and increase energy levels1.

However, it's important to be aware of potential side effects, which may include:

  • a sense of unsteadiness
  • drowsiness
  • blurred vision
  • dry mouth
  • swelling in the arms or legs
  • weight gain

Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

Duloxetine, commonly known by its brand name Cymbalta, works by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin and norepinephrine, which helps stabilize these essential neurotransmitters. This results in not only the alleviation of physical pain associated with fibromyalgia but also a reduction in the emotional stress that often coexists with the disorder2.

The use of duloxetine may lead to several side effects, including:

  • feelings of drowsiness or lightheadedness
  • the onset of headaches
  • difficulties with sleeping
  • gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, dry mouth, constipation, or diarrhea.

Furthermore, when duloxetine is taken in combination with other medications that affect serotonin levels, there is an increased risk of serotonin syndrome. This serious condition is characterized by symptoms like excessive sweating, elevated body temperature, a rapid heart rate, and heightened reflexes.

Milnacipran (Savella)

Milnacipran, also sold as Savella, is adept at combating the physical manifestations of fibromyalgia by boosting the brain's levels of serotonin and norepinephrine3. This elevation in neurotransmitter levels can markedly diminish pain and improve other fibromyalgia-related symptoms, providing patients with much-desired alleviation.

Side effects can include experiences such as:

  • nausea
  • increased perspiration.

Off-label fibromyalgia medications

Medicines not initially approved for fibromyalgia but prescribed off-label can still provide relief from its debilitating symptoms. This assortment of drugs includes:

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs)
  • tricyclic compounds
  • various antidepressants
  • anticonvulsants.

These drugs are versatile, offering benefits that range from pain reduction and mood stabilization to mitigating nerve pain and discomfort.

Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants such as tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine have been shown to be beneficial4. They specifically target the muscle pain and stiffness that are common symptoms of this condition, offering considerable relief from these persistent and severe discomforts.

Cyclobenzaprine

Cyclobenzaprine, previously available as Flexeril, acts by enhancing the effect of norepinephrine in the central nervous system, which may lead to a reduction in the perception of pain related to fibromyalgia5.

Tizanidine

Tizanidine, or Zanaflex, functions by inhibiting substance P – a neurotransmitter associated with the transmission of pain – by binding to alpha-2 receptors in the brain6.

Tricyclic antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants have a twofold role in the treatment of fibromyalgia, providing symptomatic relief from both the chronic pain and the often-accompanying depressive states7. Commonly used tricyclics for fibromyalgia include:

  • amitriptyline hydrochloride
  • cyclobenzaprine.

However, these medications come with their own set of potential side effects such as fatigue, dryness of the mouth, bowel irregularity, and potential increases in body weight.

SSRIs

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly known as SSRIs, are a class of medications we often use in treating fibromyalgia. These drugs work by enhancing serotonin, a key chemical in your brain that helps regulate mood8. By increasing serotonin activity, SSRIs can help manage some of the emotional challenges that come with fibromyalgia, contributing to a more comprehensive treatment plan.

Side effects include nausea, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and sleep disturbances.

Anti-seizure medicines

Originally developed to address epilepsy, medications such as pregabalin and gabapentin have found a new role in treating fibromyalgia due to their effectiveness in managing neuropathic pain.

Gabapentin

Gabapentin, also known by its brand name Neurontin, works by changing how certain chemicals in your brain send signals. It's especially good at reducing the type of pain seen in fibromyalgia, which patients often say feels like a constant burning, tingling, or numbness9.

It's really important to talk with a doctor to learn about any possible side effects or how this drug might react with other medicines you might be taking. This way, you can use gabapentin safely and effectively.

Fibromyalgia pain relievers

Medications such as acetaminophen, NSAIDs, and opioids can be integral to the management of fibromyalgia pain. Although these drugs don’t target the underlying cause of fibromyalgia, they offer symptomatic relief that can improve the quality of life for individuals dealing with this disorder. However, opioids in particular are only useful for short term pain relief and can become extremely addictive so always have a thorough and honest conversation with your doctor.

NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are medicines that help reduce pain and swelling. They work by stopping certain enzymes in your body that cause inflammation10. Some well-known NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.

However, NSAIDs can upset your stomach, and raise the chance of bleeding, and if used for a long time, they might harm your kidneys or heart. It's really important to stick to the dose your doctor recommends and talk to them to make sure these drugs are safe for you to use.

Opioids

Opioids, like morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, work by targeting specific spots in your body to reduce pain and make you feel more comfortable. They're really good at controlling severe pain quickly, but using them for conditions like fibromyalgia is not usually recommended11. This is because there's a high chance of becoming addicted, needing more over time to get the same effect, and experiencing negative side effects.

The side effects of opioids can be very serious and include:

  • extreme sleepiness
  • trouble with bowel movements
  • nausea
  • a decrease in breathing rate.

Because of the risks of addiction and even overdose, doctors are very careful about prescribing opioids. They usually only consider them when other treatments haven't worked. It's important that a healthcare professional manages these medicines, especially for people who have had issues with substance use before.

Risks & side effects of fibromyalgia medications

As with any medication, there are possible side effects that may accompany it. Commonly reported side effects include:

  • dizziness
  • sleepiness
  • swelling due to fluid retention
  • increased sweating
  • nausea
  • flu-like symptoms
  • irritability.

Recognizing that these medications can interact with other substances, leading to increased side effects or other risks is crucial. For instance, combining these medications with alcohol can intensify these adverse effects and may even be severely harmful.

Discuss with your healthcare provider before starting any new medication. This way, you can carefully consider potential drug interactions and take the necessary steps to ensure your treatment is both safe and effective.

Knowledge is power

Receive free science-backed tips and advice to learn about your fibromyalgia and what can help.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

How to treat fibromyalgia without medication

When facing fibromyalgia, taking control of your own health is often the most effective strategy. This means adopting a series of lifestyle modifications and non-pharmacological approaches, which can significantly improve your quality of life. These may include:

  • regular, gentle exercise tailored to your capabilities
  • psychological support, such as cognitive behavioral therapy
  • personal care routines to reduce stress
  • workplace adaptations to reduce physical strain.

Diet & nutrition

A balanced diet is essential in lessening the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Recommended dietary adjustments include:

  • Focus on plant-based options: Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Embrace healthy fats: Include olive oil in your meals for its potential benefits.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: A balanced calorie intake (not too high and not too low) can contribute to overall wellbeing.
  • Consider gluten sensitivity: If you suspect gluten sensitivity alongside fibromyalgia, eliminating gluten may be helpful.

Consult your doctor before making significant dietary changes. Furthermore, certain supplements, such as vitamin D, magnesium, iron, and probiotics, have been observed in clinical trials to potentially ease fibromyalgia symptoms as well12.

Physical therapy & exercise

Integrating consistent exercise and guided physical therapy into your regimen for managing fibromyalgia can be highly beneficial. Engaging in low-impact aerobic activities and strength training exercises can help diminish pain and enhance your emotional wellbeing. Regular physical activity can boost your stamina and mitigate some of the persistent pain associated with fibromyalgia.

Starting with gentle exercises that you enjoy and progressively intensifying your workouts is the best approach. Consulting with a physical therapist can prove invaluable; they can tailor a safe and effective exercise plan for you, provide education on fibromyalgia, show you beneficial techniques, and suggest exercises such as swimming or restorative yoga.

Retraining your pain

Understanding and altering the brain's perception of pain is a sophisticated and vital process. It requires identifying the root causes of discomfort, which often include stress and persistent negative thought patterns. Recognizing these aspects allows for the implementation of neuroplasticity techniques aimed at altering the brain's reception and processing of pain signals.

Consistently practicing these techniques is essential for retraining the neural pathways responsible for pain perception.

Managing stress

Managing stress effectively is imperative, as it can significantly amplify your perception of pain.

A variety of efficacious stress-reduction techniques are at your disposal. Participating in cognitive behavioral therapy, referred to as CBT, can be a powerful tool for developing healthier thought processes.

Mindfulness exercises, which focus your awareness on the present moment, can cultivate a tranquil state of mind. Additionally, finding support through conversations with friends, therapists, or support groups can provide emotional solace and a sense of community.

Sleep quality

Ensuring restorative sleep is a critical element in managing fibromyalgia. Sleep disruption is a prevalent issue for individuals with this condition, influencing overall wellbeing and daily activities. To improve sleep quality, consider adopting the following practices:

  • Prioritize sleep: Establish a consistent sleep routine aiming for eight hours each night.
  • Limit naps: Short naps can refresh you, but avoid lengthy ones that might affect your nighttime sleep.
  • Engage in regular physical activity: Exercise can promote fatigue in a healthy way, preparing your body for sleep.
  • Wind down before bed: Establish a pre-sleep ritual away from electronic devices to help calm your mind.
  • Optimize your sleep environment: Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep, keeping it dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Moderate caffeine intake: Avoid caffeine later in the day to prevent sleep disturbances.
  • Be mindful of your diet: Refrain from large meals and alcohol close to bedtime, as they can interrupt your sleep.
  • Use relaxation techniques: Engage in calming activities such as meditation or reading before bed to foster restful sleep and manage fibromyalgia symptoms more effectively.

More information

At MoreGoodDays®, our commitment is to guide you with clarity through the complexities of fibromyalgia. We understand the significant effects this condition can have on your daily life, and we strive to provide resources that are both accessible and practical. Our content is meticulously crafted to offer you clear insights into the nature of fibromyalgia and equip you with strategies to manage pain and reduce fatigue.

Our dedication is to support your journey toward wellness and quality of life, despite the challenges of fibromyalgia.

Gain immediate access to select features and discover various support options by downloading our mobile app at no cost from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.