One of the most important factors in improving the symptoms of FM is for the patient to recognize the need for lifestyle adaptation. Most people are resistant to change because it implies adjustment, discomfort and effort. However, in the case of FM, change can bring about recognizable improvement in function and quality of life. Becoming educated about FM gives the patient more potential for improvement.
An empathetic physician who is knowledgeable about the diagnosis and treatment of FM and who will listen to and work with the patient is an important component of treatment. It may be a family practitioner, an internist, or a specialist (rheumatologist or neurologist, for example). Conventional medical intervention may be only part of a potential treatment program. Alternative treatments, nutrition, relaxation techniques, and exercise play an important role in FM treatment as well. Each patient should, with the input of a healthcare practitioner, establish a multifaceted and individualized approach that works for them.
- Pain management
A number of pharmacological treatments for fibromyalgia are available for prescription. The first to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia was pregabalin (Lyrica®); the second was duloxetine (Cymbalta®); and the third was milnacipran (Savella®). Other FM medications are currently in development, and may soon receive FDA approval to treat fibromyalgia. Additionally, healthcare providers may treat patients' FM symptoms with non-narcotic pain relievers (e.g. tramadol) or low doses of antidepressants (e.g. tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or benzodiazepines. Patients must remember that antidepressants are "serotonin builders" and can be prescribed at low levels to help improve sleep and relieve pain. If the patient is experiencing depression, higher levels of these or other medications may need to be prescribed. Lidocaine injections into the patient's tender points also work well on localized areas of pain. An important aspect of pain management is a regular program of gentle exercise and stretching, which helps maintain muscle tone and reduces pain and stiffness.
- Sleep management
Improved sleep can be obtained by implementing a healthy sleep regimen. This includes going to bed and getting up at the same time every day; making sure that the sleeping environment is conducive to sleep (i.e. quiet, free from distractions, a comfortable room temperature, a supportive bed); avoiding caffeine, sugar, and alcohol before bed; doing some type of light exercise during the day; avoiding eating immediately before bedtime; and practicing relaxation exercises as you fall to sleep. When necessary, there are new sleep medications that can be prescribed, some of which can be especially helpful if the patient's sleep is disturbed by restless legs or periodic limb movement disorder.
- Psychological support
Learning to live with a chronic illness often challenges an individual emotionally. The FM patient needs to develop a program that provides emotional support and increases communication with family and friends. Many communities throughout the United States and abroad have organized fibromyalgia support groups. These groups often provide important information and have guest speakers who discuss subjects of particular interest to the FM patient. Counseling sessions with a trained professional may help improve communication and understanding about the illness and help to build healthier relationships within the patient's family.
- Other treatments
Complementary therapies can be very beneficial. These include: physical therapy, therapeutic massage, myofascial release therapy, water therapy, light aerobics, acupressure, application of heat or cold, acupuncture, yoga, relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, aromatherapy, cognitive therapy, biofeedback, herbs, nutritional supplements, and osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation.
What is the Prognosis? [ next page ]