Fibromyalgia: Treatment Options
Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects tendons, muscles an ligaments. It is currently not understood very well in terms of what exactly causes it. Historically it was believed to be associated with the nervous system, but recent research indicates that there is no damage to nerves in areas where patients may be feeling pain.
However, there is no doubt that as a condition fibromyalgia is very painful. Patients often feel pain in their elbows and knees or their shoulders, or even all three.
Patients also feel as if their muscles are simply exhausted, leading to day to day living becoming difficult.
Depression or anxiety is often a side effect as the patient experiences poor sleeping habits, sometimes loss of appetite and the inability to eat well because they lose their appetite.
Because fibromyalgia is quite debilitating before treatment options are discussed a thorough investigation needs to be undertaken to ensure that the condition is indeed fibromyalgia and not any other condition. However, once an expert diagnosis has been made, treatment options can begin.
The most pressing issue to be addressed is obviously ensuring that proper pain management techniques are employed to assist the patient. Initially, analgesic medication may be prescribed, but patients often report that these become less effective as their condition progresses, so analgesic medication will be prescribed in relatively low doses at least initially.
Antidepressants may also be prescribed if the patient would be thought to benefit from them and muscle relaxants have also been shown to help in some cases.
If there is chronic or consistent pain in the shoulders or even in the elbows then steroids may be used or a local anaesthetic administered to the site of the pain. Steroids and local anaesthetic obviously have to be administered by a healthcare professional, who will work with a patient to ensure that pain levels are managed effectively.
Physiotherapy may be prescribed, to enable the patient to keep limbs mobile and encourage them to take exercise. Although the patient may feel exhausted and as a result lethargic, there is growing evidence that gentle exercise will help the patient cope with the condition.
The exercise may also help patients feel more able to deal with day to day life and it can have therapeutic benefits in terms of helping to alleviate any symptoms such as depression and or anxiety.
A pain consultant may also wish to try complementary therapies such as acupuncture, to alleviate the condition, which is successful for some patients, but it is not a complete panacea.
Although there is a widespread range of treatment options available for patients with fibromyalgia, it is important to stress that these help the patient live with their condition, none of the treatment options listed above will simply ‘cure’ it, but they can make it easier to live with.
Research is currently being undertaken into this condition and new medications are also being researched in the hope that there may be a specific cure sometime in the future, but this is by no means guaranteed.