Drugs for Fibro: How Good Are They?

by Dr. John Quintner from NationalPainReport.Com

john-quintner-300x300John Quintner, MD, is a rheumatologist and pain medicine specialist in Australia who recently retired from clinical practice.
He has published numerous articles on chronic pain in Pain Medicine, Clinical Journal of Pain, The Lancet and other medical journals.

Most fibromyalgia sufferers will at some stage be offered a prescription for one or more of the officially approved drugs – Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella.

Many will ask their doctors two important questions: How good are these drugs and what harm can they cause me?

Many would be surprised by the answers they get – if the doctor is willing and able to provide them.

bigstock-Out-of-focus-woman-extending--34477478The concepts of NNT/NNH

One way to assess the effectiveness of drugs for pain management is by looking at the Number Needed to Treat (NNT) value.

The NNT value for drugs used to treat specific painful conditions is derived from large clinical trials that record the number of patients who report 50% or more reduction in their pain, compared to results from a placebo. The lower the NNT, the better the drug.

For example, if 10 patients with a specific condition are prescribed a drug and only one of them reports relief of pain, the NNT value for that drug is 10. This means that the other 9 patients will find the drug to be ineffective.

Continuing on the same theme, the potential for drugs to cause harmful side effects is expressed by another value – the Number Needed to Harm (NNH).

The NNH values for the three fibromyalgia drugs gives us an indication of how many patients need to be treated before one of them will report a harmful side effect. The higher the NNH, the safer the drug is.

By the way, it is well known that people taking placebo drugs can report adverse events.

NNT for Fibromyalgia Drugs

For Fibromyalgia patients, the NNT for Lyrica is 10for Cymbalta it is 6; and for Savella it is around 8-10.

This means that only one out of 10 patients taking Lyrica (Preglabin) will have pain relief of 50% or more. Only one out of 6 taking Cymbalta (Duloxetine) will have relief of pain and only about one out of 8 taking Savella (Milnacipran).

NNH for Fibromyalgia Drugs

The overall values for side effects of each drug, when compared to placebo, and expressed as NNH are as follows: between 6 -18 for Cymbalta; between 7-14 for Savella 7-14; and around 6 for Lyrica.

This means for every 6 patients with fibromyalgia treated with Lyrica, one of them will report a harmful side effect. There is a wide range of NNH’s for both Cymbalta and Savella.

Some adverse effects are relatively minor and will not deter a person from taking an effective drug. Other adverse effects are more serious and can be a reason for discontinuing the drug.

In the case of Lyrica, randomized controlled trials have shown that doses of 600 mg daily produce drowsiness in 15-20% and dizziness in 27% to 46%.

Other side effects include dry mouth, weight gain, peripheral oedema (swelling). In another important review, it was found that treatment was discontinued due to adverse events in one out of 4 patients.

In summary, a minority of patients will report substantial benefit with Lyrica, and more will have moderate benefit. Many will have no or trivial benefit, or will discontinue the drug because of adverse events.

Is this the sort of information that patients would like to have given to them?

In my experience, the answer is a resounding YES. But as each person is a unique individual, it is impossible to accurately predict who will and who will not like a particular drug.

Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing.”

These oft-quoted words by the French philosopher Voltaire [1694-1778] still have a ring of truth about them. We now know much more about the drugs we prescribe, and about the various diseases we have uncovered and classified. But we still have much to learn about the responses of individual human beings.

Those who have been awarded a diagnosis of fibromyalgia find themselves in a “double bind.”

On the one hand, the very diagnosis can arouse disbelief at all levels of society and, on the other hand, the available drugs afford most of them little, if any, relief of pain.

Got Fibro? Now What?

Ok, you have a diagnosis…now what’s going to happen?

ae78c7c2bc0e5642e361bf001c101af9Most likely, your doctor is going to give you medication. There are many different medications used to manage FM, including pain medicines, sleeping pills, and antidepressants.  Some help ease pain. Others boost mood and improve sleep. Working with your doctor will help you find the right medication to add to your multi-faceted comprehensive treatment regimen. That way, you can begin to manage your symptoms effectively…

The first medication doctors will often try is an anti-depressant (this does NOT mean you are necessarily suffering from depression!), which helps relieve pain, fatigue, and sleep problems. Nonetheless, depression is commonly seen in people with FM.

Older anti-depressants, called tricyclics (including Elavil (amitriptyline) and Pamelor (nortriptyline)), have been used for many years to treat FM. They work by raising the levels of chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain.

Tricyclic anti-depressants increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. People with chronic pain often have decreased levels of these calming neurotransmitters. Tricyclics can relax painful muscles and heighten the effects of endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers. While these medications are often very effective, the side effects can sometimes make them difficult to take as they may cause drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, dry eyes, and constipation.

There are numerous types of anti-depressants and several of them have been shown to help relieve the pain, fatigue, and sleep problems in people with FM.

pillsThe most well-studied anti-depressants for FM include Cymbalta (duloxetine), Savella (milnacipran), and Effexor (venlafaxine). Cymbalta and Savella are specifically FDA-approved to treat FM. There is less medical research to show that Effexor helps FM. Other anti-depressants that have also been studied for FM and may help include Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Celexa (citalopram).

That’s a lot of different choices to work through and yes, it’s all trial and error to see what works for you. What works for one person with FM may not work for someone else. Different anti-depressants work differently in the body. That’s why you may have to try more than one anti-depressant to find the one that best relieves the pain, fatigue, and sleep difficulties. Your doctor may even want you to try a combination of more than one anti-depressant at a time.

Then, there are different types of pain relievers, sometimes recommended to ease the deep muscle pain and trigger-point pain that comes with FM. The problem is these pain relievers don’t work the same for everyone, either.

article-new_ehow_images_a05_sc_bu_can-nexium_-800x800Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), when taken alone, don’t typically work that well for FM. However, when combined with other medications, NSAIDs often do help. NSAIDs are available over the counter and include drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Further, the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen elevates the pain threshold so you perceive less pain. Acetaminophen is relatively free of side effects. But avoid this medication if you have liver disease.

You also need to be careful taking aspirin or other NSAIDs if you have stomach problems. These medications can lead to heartburn, nausea or vomiting, stomach ulcers, and stomach bleeding. Don’t ever take over-the-counter NSAIDs for more than 10 days without checking with your doctor. Taking them for a prolonged period increases the chance of serious side effects.

Sometimes, your doctor will prescribe the muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine. has proved useful for the treatment of FM. It has proved to be helpful with easing muscle tension and improving sleep. Muscle relaxants work in the brain to relax muscles; but you may experience dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness, blurred vision, clumsiness, unsteadiness, and change in the colour of your urine. These medications may increase the likelihood of seizures, confusion and hallucinations.

Most recently, Lyrica, originally used to treat seizures, is being used to treat FM. Lyrica affects chemicals in the brain that send pain signals across the nervous system. So it reduces pain and fatigue and improves sleep.

Neurontin (gabapentin) is another anti-seizure medication that has also been shown to improve FM symptoms.

SMFM-278Other medications include pain relievers such as Ultram (tramadol) which is a narcotic-like medication that acts in the brain to affect the sensation of pain. However, it is not as addictive as narcotics.

In addition, doctors may prescribe benzodiazepines such as Ativan (lorazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam) to help relax painful muscles, improve sleep, and relieve symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Benzodiazepines are addictive and must be used with caution on a short-term basis. Taking more than recommended increases the risk of serious side effects, including death.

Powerful narcotic medications, such as Percocet and OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin and Lortab (hydrocodone), should only be considered if all other drugs and alternative therapies have been exhausted and there is no relief.

All of this seems quite daunting which is why you need to surround yourself with a team you trust, which may include doctors, friends and/or family. The most consistent treatment advice that all the experts in FM try to promote is a multi-faceted approach. So, as well as all these medications, you will need to explore a whole range of complementary treatments.

FCKI don’t mean to scare you; in fact, I am trying to help by blogging about research and my experiences with different activities (please explore the site). There is also a directory of other FM bloggers that allows you to find people who are going through the same stuff as you.

There Ain’t No Magic Pill

“There’s no magic pill…to fix their fibromyalgia,” says Mark J. Pellegrino, MD, of Ohio Pain and Rehabilitation Specialists and author of 13 books on fibromyalgia. “A balanced approach is important.”

And many experts agree the best treatment for fibromyalgia is a multifaceted approach that combines medication with lifestyle changes and alternative treatments.

But what about if you’re new to all of this? Where do you even start?

A treatment plan gives structure to getting from here to there. Be realistic and (yes, you’re already probably sick of hearing this already) small steps! A treatment plan is different from devising goals because of its flexibility and internal exploration. In most clinical settings, a treatment plan review is done quarterly or even monthly. After each review, the plan is rewritten to meet current needs.

Start With a Diagnosis

There are no lab tests for fibromyalgia. Doctors diagnose it by considering criteria such as how long you’ve had pain and how widespread it is, and by ruling out other causes. This can be a long and complicated process because the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia can be caused by other conditions. So it’s best to see a doctor who is familiar with fibromyalgia – which can be easier said than done, sometimes!

Learn About Fibromyalgia Medications – You are YOUR Best Advocate!

Once you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your doctor will talk to you about treatment options. Several types of medicines are used to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain and fatigue.

Three medications are FDA-approved to treat fibromyalgia:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine): a type of antidepressant called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Researchers aren’t sure how Cymbalta works in fibromyalgia, but they think that increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine help control and reduce feelings of pain.
  • Lyrica (pregabalin): Lyrica is a nerve pain and epilepsy drug. In people with fibromyalgia, it may help calm down overly sensitive nerve cells that send pain signals throughout the body. It has been effective in treating fibro pain.
  • Savella (milnacipran): Savella is also an SNRI. While researchers aren’t exactly sure how it works, studies have shown that it helps relieve pain and reduce fatigue in people with fibromyalgia.

Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed to help people manage fibromyalgia symptoms:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants. By helping increase levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, these medications may help relax painful muscles and enhance the body’s natural painkillers.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Your doctor may prescribe one of these types of antidepressants by itself or in combination with a tricyclic antidepressant. SSRIs prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain. This may help ease pain and fatigue.

These medications are also sometimes prescribed for fibromyalgia:

  • Local anesthetics. Injected into especially tender areas, anesthetics can provide some temporary relief, usually for no longer than three months.
  • Anticonvulsants or seizure medications such as Neurontin are effective for reducing pain and anxiety. It is unclear how these medications work to relieve the symptoms in fibromyalgia.
  • Muscle Relaxants are occasionally prescribed to help alleviate pain associate with muscle strain in those with fibromyalgia.

Stay Active

Exercise is an important part of managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Staying physically active can relieve pain, stress, and anxiety.

The key is to start slowly. Begin with stretching and low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming or other water exercises, or bicycling. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates can also be helpful. Prior to starting any exercise routine, or if you want to increase the intensity of your exercise, talk with your doctor.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help you get control of your illness by focusing on what you can do to improve your situation, rather than on your chronic symptoms.

A physical therapist can show you how to get temporary relief from fibromyalgia pain and stiffness, get stronger, and improve your range of motion. And she can help you make little changes, such as practicing good posture, that help prevent painful flare-ups.

Alternative Therapies

A number of popular fibromyalgia treatments fall outside the realm of mainstream medicine. In general, there hasn’t been extensive research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but anecdotal evidence suggests that some may work. Always talk with your doctor before starting any alternative treatment.

Popular alternative treatments include:

  • Acupuncture. This ancient healing practice aims to increase blood flow and production of natural painkillers with thin needles inserted into the skin at strategic points on the body. Some studies report that acupuncture may help ease pain, anxiety, and fatigue.
  • Massage therapy. This may help reduce muscle tension, ease pain in both muscles and soft tissue,improve range of motion, and boost production of natural painkillers.
  • Chiropractic treatment. Based on spinal adjustments to reduce pain, this popular therapy may help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Supplements. A number of dietary and other supplements are touted as treatments aimed at relieving fibromyalgia symptoms. Some of the most popular for fibromyalgia include magnesium, melatonin, 5-HTP, and SAMe, which may affect serotonin levels. However, results of studies on these supplements are mixed. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements. Some may have side effects and could react badly with medication you are taking.
  • Herbs. As with supplements, scientific evidence for the effectiveness of herbs is mixed. A few studies have shown that St. John’s wort can be as effective as certain prescription medication for treating mild depression.

This is just a start – and you will probably need to tweak your plan as you go along, throwing out activities and treatments that don’t work for you, while grasping the positives with both hands. Remember, it may take a while to get where you want to be – it is all about experimentation (and just because something works for me does not mean it will work for you).

If you’d like to see iHerb’s selection of supplements, click here. Use Coupon Code LHJ194 to get $10 off any first time order over $40 or $5 off any first time order under $40.

Do No Harm

pain-pills-690x388Some people swear by Cymbalta…while others swear at it!  I’m a fan of Lyrica. If you’re lucky, you have something that is working (at least, partially) for you.

A new review in The Cochrane Library looked at Cymbalta and Savella. Among FM patients taking either of the two drugs to reduce pain, 22 per cent report substantial improvement while 21 per cent had to quit the regimen due to unpleasant side effects!

The authors reviewed 10 high-quality studies comprising more than 6,000 adults who received either Cymbalta, Savella, or a placebo for up to six months.

“This is a very important study,” says Fred Wolfe, M.D. of the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases. “There’s an enormous amount of advertising suggesting that these drugs really help, whereas the research data show that the improvement is really minimal.” Treatment with drugs alone “should be discouraged,” the reviewers added. Instead, the review authors recommend a multi-faceted treatment approach including medications for those who find them helpful, exercises to improve mobility and psychological counseling to improve coping skills.

“The medical field does poorly with the treatment of fibromyalgia in general,” says Brian Walitt, M.D., M.P.H., a co-author of the review and an expert in pain syndromes at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “Chasing [a cure] with medicine doesn’t seem to work. The people who seem to me to do best sort of figure it out on their own by thinking about things, getting to know themselves, and making changes in their lives to accommodate who they’ve become,” concludes Walitt.

I’m looking forward to the review of Lyrica, planned by the Cochrane Library for later this year.

Related Articles

Lab Rats Wanted

Are you willing to put your body on the line? Or might you be at the end of your tether and willing to try anything?

As it is beyond me to list EVERY research study on FM, here are all the studies that are currently recruiting in the top 6 countries where my blog is being read:

*** If you live in another country, visit ClinicalTrials.gov, then enter your country and ‘fibromyalgia’ in the search box…you never know what you might find ***

Australia

NIL

Canada

A Phase 3b Multicenter Study of Pregabalin in Fibromyalgia Subjects Who Have Comorbid Depression

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Pregabalin; Drug: placebo

The Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements on Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Dietary Supplement: Omega-3 (oil); Dietary Supplement: Fatty Acids (placebo)

Online Acceptance-based Behavioural Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Behavioural: Acceptance-based behavioural therapy;   Other: Will vary per participant

India

Adolescent Fibromyalgia Study

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: placebo; Drug: pregabalin (Lyrica)

A Study of Duloxetine in Adolescents With Juvenile Primary Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Duloxetine; Drug: Placebo

Pregabalin In Adolescent Patients With Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: pregabalin

Israel

Prevalence of Fibromyalgia in Israel

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions:

Effect of Milnacipran in Patients With Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Minalcipran; Drug: Placebo

Peripheral Arterial Tonometry (PAT) Evaluation of Sleep in Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions:

Study Assessing the Efficacy of Etoricoxib in Female Patients With Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: etoricoxib

Cognitive Dysfunction in Fibromyalgia Patients

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions:

United Kingdom

NIL

United States of America

Observational Study of Control Participants for the MAPP Research Network

Conditions: Fibromyalgia; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,

Interventions:

Pain and Stress Management for Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Behavioural: Stress and Emotions; Behavioural: Thoughts and Behaviours; Behavioural: Brain and Body

Adolescent Fibromyalgia Study

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: placebo; Drug: pregabalin (Lyrica)

A Phase 3b Multicenter Study of Pregabalin in Fibromyalgia Subjects Who Have Comorbid Depression

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Pregabalin; Drug: placebo

A Study of Duloxetine in Adolescents With Juvenile Primary Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Duloxetine; Drug: Placebo

Pregabalin In Adolescent Patients With Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Pregabalin

Combined Behavioural and Analgesic Trial for Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Tramadol; Drug: Placebo; Behavioural: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for FM; Behavioural: Health Education

Quetiapine Compared With Placebo in the Management of Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: quetiapine; Drug: Placebo

Cyclobenzaprine Extended Release (ER) for Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia; Pain; Sleep; Fatigue

Interventions: Drug: cyclobenzaprine ER (AMRIX); Drug: placebo

Tai Chi and Aerobic Exercise for Fibromyalgia (FMEx)

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Behavioural: Lower frequency, shorter period of Tai Chi; Behavioural: Higher frequency, shorter period of Tai Chi; Behavioural: Shorter frequency, longer period of Tai Chi; Behavioural: Higher frequency, longer period of Tai Chi; Behavioural: Aerobic Exercise Training

Effects of Direct Transcranial Current Stimulation on Central Neural Pain Processing in Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Procedure: Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)

Lifestyle Physical Activity to Reduce Pain and Fatigue in Adults With Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Behavioural: Lifestyle physical activity (LPA); Behavioural: Fibromyalgia education

Neurotropin to Treat Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Neurotropin

Effect of Milnacipran on Pain in Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Neurotropin

Investigation of Avacen Thermal Exchange System for Fibromyalgia Pain

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Device: AVACEN Thermal Exchange System

Phase 2 Study of TD-9855 to Treat Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: TD-9855 Group 1; Drug: TD-9855 Group 2; Drug: Placebo

Cymbalta for Fibromyalgia Pain

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Duloxetine

Effects of Milnacipran on Widespread Mechanical and Thermal Hyperalgesia of Fibromyalgia Patients

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Milnacipran

Qigong Exercise May Benefit Patients With Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Behavioural: Intervention Group; Behavioural: Placebo Comparator: Control Group

Effect of Temperature on Pain and Brown Adipose Activity in Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia, Pain

Interventions:

Effect of Milnacipran in Patients With Fibromyalgia

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Drug: Minalcipran; Drug: Placebo

The Pathogenesis of Idiopathic Dry Eyes

Conditions: Dry Eye, Fibromyalgia

Interventions:

Evaluation and Diagnosis of People With Pain and Fatigue Syndromes

Conditions: Fatigue; Fibromyalgia; Pain; Complex Regional Pain Syndrome; Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Interventions:

The Functional Neuroanatomy of Catastrophizing: an fMRI Study

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Interventions: Behavioural: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; Behavioural: Education

A Placebo-Controlled Trial of Pregabalin (Lyrica) for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Conditions: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Interventions: Drug: Pregabalin (Lyrica); Drug: Placebo

 

 

Got Morning Stiffness?

When asked, most of us would say that the most debilitating symptoms of FM are pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. For me, the next one is stiffness – and who wouldn’t complain about waking up each morning to a body that feels like the final stages of rigor mortis?

But most doctors generally regard it as a minor symptom or a sign of inflammation unrelated to the fibromyalgia.

121. rise and shineWhen doctors think of stiffness, they conjure up rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammation-related joint diseases that make it harder for these patients to get going in the morning. Yet studies in FM patients also show stiffness is usually worse in the morning and “morning stiffness has been rated as more severe in fibromyalgia than rheumatoid arthritis,” says Robert Bennett, M.D. of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. He says people with both conditions have worse stiffness than those with FM alone. But why would FM patients be troubled by stiffness?

As people age, they get arthritis, become less active, and expect a little morning stiffness. However, this does not explain why a 25 or 45-year-old FM sufferer would show signs of joint stiffness on a test involving the ankle. Needless to say, FM patients showed twice as much stiffness as age-matched healthy controls.

Stiffness sometimes correlates with pain, which means that the drugs used to treat our pain should help with the stiffness – but, in a study supported by Eli Lilly, the use of Cymbalta only improved the symptom by a tiny 10%. This compares closely to the 13% benefit found in the trials of Lyrica.

If the pain of FM was solely related to the stiffness, the drugs should be able to produce significant improvement in this symptom. Yet they don’t.

Fibromyalgia is a messy multi-system condition. There is the central nervous system component involved in processing pain, an area all the drugs are supposed to work on (Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella). There are trigger points and tender points, which cause serious pain and restrictive movement. In addition, you have to remember the circulatory system, and FM patients have increased arterial stiffness (but that’s a whole other post).

Your arteries should be flexible, but studies show a reduction of the elastic-like qualities in us compared to age-matched controls. An overly active sympathetic nervous system is thought to be partly to blame.

Therapies to relax your sympathetic nerves, such as a hot shower and many other approaches, often ease morning stiffness. One of the three FDA-approved drugs may even help, but just don’t expect too much from them.

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Walk and/or Talk

While three non-opioid drugs – Cymbalta, Lyrica, and Savella – have been approved by the FDA to treat FM pain; as we know, none adequately controls the multiple symptoms; but exercise and/or talking with a therapist on the phone once a week may significantly reduce chronic pain,  the authors of a new study write.

Nonetheless, up to 20% of visits to a primary health care provider generate a prescription for a narcotic painkiller, or opioid, say Seth Berkowitz, MD, and Mitchell Katz, MD, of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services write..

The scientists assigned almost 450 patients with chronic widespread pain, some of whom had FM, to get either “talk therapy” by phone, exercise, both talk therapy and exercise, or their usual treatment.

Talk Therapy

Four therapists underwent three days of training to learn how to provide psychological help to study participants receiving talk therapy. Patients chose goals, such as identifying and evaluating unhelpful thinking styles or making lifestyle changes.

After an initial assessment that lasted an hour, those participants receiving talk therapy spoke on the phone with a therapist for 30 to 45 minutes once a week for seven weeks. That was followed by a phone session three months and six months after the study began.

Importantly, evidence suggests that this talk therapy delivered by phone is as effective as face-to-face therapy, researcher John McBeth, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Manchester.

Exercise

Those in the exercise group were invited to meet with a fitness instructor once a month for six months. The goal was to improve their fitness by exercising 20 minutes to an hour at least twice a week.

Long-Lasting Benefit

Three months after the study ended, the phone therapy and/or exercise patients showed more improvement than those who’d stayed with their usual care.

The people who engaged in both talk therapy and exercise did only slightly better than those who received one or the other.

The new study is the latest addition to an “extensive” body of clinical trials demonstrating talk therapy’s effectiveness in treating chronic pain and headache, says Russell Portenoy, MD, chair of the department of pain medicine and palliative care at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center.

Cognitive behavioral therapy [talk therapy] should be offered to a far larger proportion of patients with chronic pain than currently is done,” Portenoy, who was not involved in the study. He cited several obstacles: Too few therapists trained to provide it, inadequate insurance coverage, a tendency among doctors to focus on medical strategies due to a lack of knowledge about talk therapy, and a lack of reimbursement incentives to offer other treatments.

In Australia, you can establish a GP Management Plan with your GP that, if eligible, will allow you a Medicare rebate for a maximum of 5 visits each calendar year (nowhere near enough but a start in the right direction). This could be any of the following (not a full list):

  • Chiropractor
  • Dietitian
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Mental Health Worker
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Osteopath
  • Physiotherapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Psychologist

To all: make sure to take advantage of each and every (if there are any) benefit available to you.

 

Day 4 without Cymbalta (and no other anti-depressant)!

Most of Day 4 was spent getting over my late-night visit to the Emergency Room for abdominal pain (not related to Cymbalta – before everyone starts their Cymbalta tirades (I think we get the idea now!)) and sleeping.

But, still too tired to think about a real post – although two good things came out of it:

  1. In comparison to the way I felt last night, Day 4 was actually quite a wonderful day – in comparison, I didn’t feel nearly as awful as I had felt crouched fetal style on a gurney, while the man next to me snored louder than my Mommy ever did (before her CPAP machine!)
  2. After leaving the hospital, I slept until family dinner-time. So day 4 really wasn’t so bad!

I’m really not a Disney character kind of person!

AND that means that there is only one more day until I can start my new/old anti-depressants.

Day 2 without Cymbalta (and no other anti-depressant)!

Walking up the street; pause to catch my breath but feels like my body is still moving!

18 degrees celsius and I’m sweating profusely (this had better stop before Bali or I’m in big trouble!)

Get back home & sit down – heart pounding throughout my whole body! What is that?

Absolutely boiling to death.  Leave door open to allow cool breeze to come in.

Now freezing. Close door and turn up heating.

Call Mommy to give her my reflexology session as there is no way I can drive that far.

Can I make it to Zack’s (restaurant) for dinner? asks Mommy. It’s only a 3 minute drive – Sure, I think.

Drive to Zack’s. Make myself carsick – can you do that if you’re the one driving?

Boiling again. Wait outside restaurant, in cool breeze, ‘til Mommy gets there.

Starving! Haven’t eaten all day, due to nausea.

Breathed in a Coke. Felt much better – supposedly, sugar (and chocolate) makes depression slightly better!

Ate dinner – boiling again! And nauseous…thanks for dinner but I have to leave NOW!!!

Drive home. Leave door open to allow cool breeze to come in.

Now freezing. Close door and turn up heating.

Want to pull off my face, to get to the pain underneath.

You know how you can put your thumb in that hole-type spot at the bottom of your skull, to relieve the pain emanating from there? Where is that spot under your cheekbones? I NEED that spot.

Swallow a handful of panadeine forte with some water. Rip bra off. Pain patch on my spot between my neck and my shoulder (have no idea what it’s called!)

Feels like my arm is going to tear off – from my clavicle down. Can’t even feel the pain patch.

Pain under my ribcage, like my body has been squished between the thumb and forefinger of a giant.

Pounding heartbeat again. I think I’m dying.

Need to lean back between lines of this post as leaning forward is making me nauseous…

Enough now – please go away.

You get the idea.

LOST

 

Day 4 – Lost another 30mg of Cymbalta today. Lost my rehab session to my dodgy tummy. Lost 3 hours to an afternoon nap. Lost the rest of the day…not sure where that went.

NOTE: To all those sending me such lovely wishes (especially in the last couple of days), I have been reading them and I thank you all; I am just not able to even think about replying to you in my current state.