Fibromyalgia is a disease that is mysterious by nature and causes unexplained aches and pains throughout the body. The disease fibromyalgia affects 12 million Americans.
The symptoms that the disease causes in those people who suffer from its effects include anxiety, depression, fatigue, muscle aches, and sleep disorders.
The most common occurrence of the disease is among women (affecting 5 percent of that population, while men who suffer from fibromyalgia are 1.6 percent of the male population) between 35 and 55.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs for the treatment of fibromyalgia: Savella, an antidepressant, Cymbalta (an antidepressant and painkiller), and Lyrica, anti-seizure medication and painkiller. Unfortunately, many sufferers of the disease do not respond to these approved medications.
There are some experimental medications that may prove to be effective in more individuals who suffer from fibromyalgia.
Of those, here are three that appear to be the most promising and producing good results with patients.
These experimental treatments include Naltrexone (in low doses); Guaifenesin; and, Peripheral Nerve Stimulation.
Low Dosages of Naltrexone
The drug Naltrexone is a commonly used drug in the treatment of individuals who are addicted to opioid drugs such as heroin.
The drug acts as a receptor blocker in the brain, spinal cord, and digestive tract in the body, closing off those sensory ends that would be activated by heroin.
The effect of this is to reduce, eliminate the effects of an opioid in the body, especially if taken in dosages that are between 50 milligrams and 100 milligrams daily.
Individuals who have suffered from multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD, have been prescribed Naltrexone on an experimental basis at 5 milligrams a daily dose. So too have patients suffering from fibromyalgia.
Although researchers do not fully understand how the drug Naltrexone works to block pain (although many suspects that it acts as a receptor blocker on those nerves in the brain in much the same way that it blocks opioid receptors) but a study with a sample of ten women found that a prescribed course of 4-1/2 milligrams of the drug reduced pain sensitivity and chronic fatigue associated with fibromyalgia, as well as increased sensitivity to heat and cold as well as pressure.
Because the drug Naltrexone is not addictive or a controlled substance like the opioids that are used to treat it is thought to be safe when administered in low dosages.
The drug when administered however should not be used in combination with opiate pain medications (like codeine found in cough syrup or morphine) because it may produce the same withdrawal symptoms that the heroin-addicted patients experience.
Guaifenesin Prescribed on an Experimental Basis
The drug Guaifenesin is an expectorant that is available over the counter. It is known to many of us on a retail basis as Mucinex and Robitussin.
The drug works to thin mucus that builds up in the body whenever you feel the effects of a cold or the flu, making it easier to breathe by opening up the sinus and bronchial air channels.
The pain that is experienced by many patients with fibromyalgia is caused by a build-up of calcium phosphate, particularly in the muscles and in muscle tendons.
Guaifenesin works as a muscle relaxer, in addition to its mucus thinning properties, which also reduces the pain that sufferers of fibromyalgia experience.
Although the drug is traditionally found in a liquid form (as in the case of the brand name products Mucinex and Robitussin), to be effective with fibromyalgia patients it has to be taken in a solid pill form, at about 300 milligrams to start.
There is some argument in the medical community that suggests that the effects of Guaifenesin is nothing more than a placebo and really does nothing to reduce pain in the muscles and joints.
For those who believe in its effects, it should not be taken with aspirin (salicylic acid) or other products containing salicylic acid such as acne creams, some commercially available shampoos, and mouthwash because those products prevent Guaifenesin from passing through the kidneys.
Whether a mere placebo or an effective treatment for fibromyalgia, it is deemed to be very safe when used as prescribed.
Peripheral Nerve Stimulation as a Treatment Option
Peripheral Nerve Stimulation or PNS is another alternative treatment option that some fibromyalgia sufferers have found success with.
The technique, which has not been approved by the FDA for widespread use on fibromyalgia patients, involves the implantation of wire electrodes beneath the skin, in the area of either the head or lower back.
Connected to a battery-powered stimulator unit, a small electrical current is administered to nerves in the body.
The treatment has produced some positive effects on those sufferers of the disease, although it is a treatment option that comes at a price (close to $100,000 in some instances).
The use of PNS treatment is usually reserved for those individuals who suffer from the disease in such a debilitating way that walking or standing is near impossible.
As this treatment is studied more to deem its true benefit, it may provide certain fibromyalgia patients with the relief they are looking for.
The effects of the implanted electrodes appear to block pain receptors and turn off the signal of severe aches and pain that fibromyalgia victim experiences.
The amount of pain reduced through this experimental treatment is pegged at 50 percent to 60 percent.
This reduction in half has been deemed acceptable by sufferers who have the most extreme form of fibromyalgia who have not benefitted from the approved medications.
A Word of Caution Concerning Experimental Treatments for Fibromyalgia Sufferers
It should be noted that the information presented here does not constitute medical advice.
If you or someone you know suffers from fibromyalgia, you should consult a physician or pharmacist for information on any course of disease management that you wish to pursue.
Only a professionally trained person can provide you with the right information specific to your situation and give you the pros and cons of a prescribed treatment course.