Daniel Clauw, MD, director, Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, University of Michigan(DANIEL CLAUW)

Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome that has many symptoms but no known cause, so treatment is equally complex. "You can't manage it with one thing," says Daniel Clauw, MD, director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Medication is just one of many things that treat fibromyalgia. Patients need comprehensive disease management."

Besides Lyrica, approved in 2007, many other medications are prescribed for fibromyalgia patients.

  • Antidepressants (tricyclics and SNRIs), which increase the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, ease pain and promote sleep.
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Anti-convulsants

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Narcotics may not help
Although opioids (narcotics) are prescribed, some doctors believe they're largely not effective in fibromyalgia patients.

In 2007 Dr. Clauw and his colleagues published a brain imaging study in which they infused patients with an opioid and found that opioid receptors in the brains of fibromyalgia patients were already occupied—possibly because the body is pumping out natural painkillers (like endorphins) in response to the fibromyalgia. That could explain why opioid medications do little to help.

Along with medication, there are many nondrug treatments, ranging from cognitive-behavioral therapy to massage acupuncture to yoga.

Visit our A-Z Health Library for more detailed information about medications used to treat fibromyalgia.