Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fibromyalgia Forum : Ways to treat it....

Fibromyalgia Forum : Ways to treat it....: "How is it treated?

1) Medication to improve deep sleep.

2) Regular sleep hours and an adequate amount of sleep.

3) Daily gentle aerobic exercise and stretching.

4) Avoidance of over exertion and stress.

5) Treatment of any coexisting sleep disorders.

6) Patient education.

Medication by itself is of little value in treating fibromyalgia. Successful treatment demands the patient's active involvement in treatment as well as lifestyle changes. Each of the six parts of treatment above is important. If any one is omitted, the chance of significant improvement is considerably reduced.


A number of medications have been used to improve sleep in fibromyalgia. The oldest of these is amitriptyline (Elavil), a medication first used to treat depression. Amitriptyline and related medications probably work by improving the quality and depth of deep sleep rather than by any effect on mood. Although it probably works as well as any of the other medications, amitriptyline causes frequent bothersome side effects such as weight gain, dry mouth, daytime tiredness, and trouble concentrating more often than other medications with durations of action more appropriate for sleep so I usually try these other medications first. They include trazodone (Desyrel), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), alprazolam (Xanax), and carisoprodol (Soma).

Medication is started at a low dose and gradually increased until you sleep well at night and feel good during the day, encounter unacceptable side effects, or reach the prescribed maximum dose. Starting low and slow helps minimize initial side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and morning grogginess. By two to four weeks, most patients find that the side effects are settling down and the fibromyalgia symptoms are starting to improve.

It often takes a lot of fiddling with the dose to get it exactly right. It may be necessary to try several medications in succession or sometimes in combination. Some patients find that certain of these medications cause stimulation rather than sedation, as if one has had too many cups of coffee. When this "paradoxical effect" occurs it will be necessary to switch to another medication. Some medications may become less effective over time and the dose may then need to be increased slightly. Most patients will need to continue medication indefinitely, although sometimes the dose can be reduced once a good response to treatment has been achieved.

Some patients report that they find various herbal and other "alternative" remedies helpful. While I can't recommend such treatments because they haven't been adequately studied for efficacy or long term harm, I don't discourage patients from using them if they find them helpful. I would encourage you to try treatments for which there is scientific proof of efficacy first, though. The large majority of alternative treatments appear to be of no use or have no more than a placebo effect and are simply a waste of money."

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