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What treatments work for fibromyalgia?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Everyone gets aches and pains. But if you have fibromyalgia, you have widespread pain across your body, most of the time. It may be bad enough to stop you getting on with your life.

Doctors are not sure exactly what causes fibromyalgia. But they think it’s something to do with the way your nervous system deals with pain. The pain is real, but it doesn’t harm your body and it’s not a sign of something seriously wrong.

There are a number of treatments that may help you cope better with fibromyalgia. However, there is no cure that will get rid of it altogether. Treatments include gentle exercise therapy, medicines, and talking treatments.

You’ll need to discuss the options with your doctor to see what’s likely to help you. Some people find that a combination of medicines, exercise, and talking treatments work best. [13] The purpose of treatment is to control your pain and help you get on with life.

Key points about treating fibromyalgia

  • Gentle, supervised exercise can help you feel better and keep you fit.

  • A talking treatment called cognitive behaviour therapy may help you manage your condition.

  • Many people with fibromyalgia take medicines for their pain. A type of antidepressant called amitriptyline is often the first choice.

  • Most medicines are not formally approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia. But many of them are used because they’ve been shown to work for similar conditions.

  • You may find treatments work for a while, then stop working. You’ll need to work with your doctor to try new things to keep on top of your pain.

  • Taking part in several different treatments - for example, a talking treatment, an exercise programme, and taking medicine - may work best.

  • Some alternative therapies, such as biofeedback, have had good results.

Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition. Learning to manage your condition is very important, to help you get on with your life as much as possible. To find out more, read Living with fibromyalgia.

Improving your sleep can also be helpful for people with fibromyalgia. There’s not a lot of research on this, but you might sleep better if you exercise most days, stick to a regular sleep schedule, and keep your room cool and quiet. For more tips, see How to get a good night’s sleep.

Which treatments work best for fibromyalgia? We've looked at the best research and given a rating for each treatment according to how well it works.

For help in deciding what treatment is best for you, see How to use research to support your treatment decisions.

Last Updated: February 07, 2011
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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