Thanks to an overactive central nervous system, extra chemicals in your spinal fluid, or the theory of the day, sensitivity to medications and fibromyalgia seem to go hand-in-hand. As if that wasn’t enough, the medications often exacerbate the debilitating issues you’re trying to get rid of while alleviating only one or two of the others.
To Medicate or Not to Medicate
Sensitivity to medications usually means that one is in for a frustrating process of trial and error. So it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. If the pain, fatigue, and litany of symptoms are debilitating enough to bow down to the pharmaceutical overlords, then absolutely go for it and be prepared for a combination of medications to treat a variety of symptoms. Remember, doctors know that fibromyalgia patients are sensitive to medications so they generally start you out on a low dose and closely monitor you for worsening effects. Best case: the medications will work well for you and bring much needed relief so that you function more like you wish to. Worst case: the medications won’t work and may make you feel worse temporarily. But you won’t know till you try and the prospect of finding a reprieve may feel like enough of an incentive to give it a shot. So let’s take a look at some of the best medical treatments for fibromyalgia that Western medicine has to offer at this moment.
Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella! Oh My!
Known by their brand names, Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella are the most popular prescription medications used to treat fibromyalgia. The upside to these is that they have provided relief of symptoms for many people. The downside is that 1.) they don’t work for everyone, 2.) the side effects can worsen other symptoms like IBS, fatigue, and depression, and 3.) no one knows how they work.
Yeah, the last one is just down-right creepy. But take comfort in knowing that these and similar medications have been studied for decades in order to enhance and perfect them. Furthermore, we may not actually know exactly how photosynthesis works, but we eat leafy greens nonetheless.
“The last downside? What about the second one?!” you shout at me from your monitor. Yes, there’s that. These medications can indeed worsen certain symptoms that are already debilitating aspects of fibromyalgia. Lyrica, for example, can help with pain management. But its side effects include sleepiness and trouble concentrating, among other things. Cymbalta can be used to treat depression and peripheral neuropathy, but can also lead to nausea, sleepiness, constipation, and even increase depression. Savella, while it is actually the first drug used specifically for treating fibromyalgia, acts like an antidepressant which means side effects can include nausea, sleepiness, insomnia, constipation, and more.
So for fibromyalgia patients dealing with constant fatigue, IBS, depression, and concentration (to name a few symptoms), the prospect of trying medications that could possibly exacerbate them may seem like a waste of time or cause anxiety just at the thought of it. But don’t panic. Side effects of prescription medications are nothing new. Again, weigh the pros and cons and see what is best for you. Only you can make that determination. For some more information about these popular medications, visit the Food and Drug Administration website.
But You Said “New” Treatments in the Title
The National Fibromyalgia and Pain Association says to keep an eye out for a drug called Effirma which is already used to treat chronic pain in other countries, but is still in the trial phase in the United States. It is apparently between Phase II and Phase III of the process. The other drug they highlight is manufactured by the same company as Effirma, but works very differently and is currently known as TNX-102. An under-the-tongue tablet for rapid delivery, TNX-102 has been used as a muscle relaxant, but has also been effective in musculoskeletal pain, pain sensitivity, and fatigue. Learn more.
What If I’m Just Too Sensitive for Prescription Medications?
It seems like nearly every ailment on the planet can be mitigated by a little bit of exercise. “But I’m too tired to exercise,” you protest. “I couldn’t even get to the mailbox today.” That’s ok. Some days are better than others, so on those “better” days, the Mayo Clinic recommends moderate low-impact aerobic activity, such as walking, to allay pain and stiffness. This is not a recommendation to become an ultra-marathoner. But sustained walking, yoga, tai chi, and other low-impact physical activity can often do a much better job than prescription drugs in the long-term.
These are not blanket statements. Each body is a different body. Every person responds differently to different treatment, even identical twins. Try things. See what works for you and listen to others in your shoes in case they stumble across something you’ve never heard of. But just deal with things one moment at a time. The next moment will have its own issues.