First, there is no cure for fibromyalgia. Treatments exist, but every body is different, which means what works for me may not work for you. Here are some options:
Complementary and alternative medicine may help. In its fibromyalgia fact sheet, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health reports that approximately 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia use some form of CAM, including acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic care, massage therapy, tai chi and yoga.
NCCAM funds research to test the effectiveness of alternative treatments for fibromyalgia. Most of its research is in early stages and, so far, results have been mixed. Discuss CAM options with your doctor. From personal experience, I can say I've managed my symptoms with yoga and massage therapy. If you explore these options, inform your teacher and massage therapist that you have fibromyalgia. A good yoga teacher will want to know of any health conditions so that he or she can suggest posture modifications, and a massage therapist will want to tailor your therapy to your health issues. Inform your CAM providers if you take medications as well. They honor confidentiality and truly want to provide you with a regimen that works for you.
Lifestyle changes don't hurt. The American College of Rheumatology recommends the following:
• Regular exercise will help combat joint stiffness. Do what you like and stick with it. The couch is your enemy.
• Try to establish a regular sleep-wake pattern. Sleep helps the body repair itself. Help it help you. Step away from the coffee pot before bedtime. Try to wake at the same time every day, too.
• Eat right. I stay away from processed foods and fast foods, and eat organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
• Stress may trigger fibromyalgia flare-ups, so manage it. Set limits with others and yourself. Keep your expectations realistic.
Drug Treatments: The Food and Drug Administration has approved some drugs for treating fibromyalgia pain, reports the American College of Rheumatology. These include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella). Both these medications are selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI's). In plain language, these drugs may control pain by regulating the activity of these two chemicals in the brain and spinal cord. Pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin) are also approved to treat fibromyalgia and work by regulating the activity of nerve cells involved in pain transmission. Doctors may also prescribe certain older drugs that act on chemicals in the brain, including amitryptiline (Elavil), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) and venlaxafine (Effexor).
Regardless of what your doctor prescribes, all these medications have side effects—some of them serious—and can interact badly with other medications. People with certain other health problems may not be able to take some of these drugs. It's important to discuss these medications with your physician, and make sure your doctor knows what other medications, supplements and herbal supplements you take. Fully disclose your past and present medical history to your physician. This isn't optional.
Casey Purvis is a Fondrenite who works as a nurse in one of the local hospitals in her spare time. Please consult a doctor for diagnosis and further information.