Fibro is an abbreviated term for Fibromyalgia Syndrome, also known as FMS or FM. It’s a chronic illness that causes hypersensitivity to pain, sleep disturbances, chronic widespread pain and chronic fatigue. These symptoms reduce and increase in severity over time.
About the Name
The name of the condition, fibromyalgia, means pain in the ligaments and muscles. The name was given to the condition decades ago, but research has shown that the name isn’t an accurate reflection of what happens in the body. Since there are such a wide variety of conditions, fibromyalgia has also been called fibrositis, muscular rheumatism, unspecified rheumatism and neurasthenia. None of these are accurate descriptions of the condition either.
In 1990, the medical community decided to recall this condition fibromyalgia syndrome. There are professionals who suggest this still isn’t accurate and that the name Pain Amplification Syndrome or Central Sensitization Syndrome would be more accurate.
Fibromyalgia can be debilitating and many people are willing to try almost any type of treatment to live a normal life. There are a variety of treatment options and the effectiveness of these treatments varies from person to person. One method of treatment is through neurotransmitter medications.
What Are Neurotransmitter Medications?
These types of medications are typically used to treat depression. Research has shown that low levels of certain types of neurotransmitters are found in patients with fibro just like they’re found in patients with depression.
Some people who have fibromyalgia may be resistant to using medications that treat depression. This could be partially because of society’s general negative attitude towards depression. Or it could be the individual’s personal thoughts and viewpoints of depression. Depression is just a health condition and doesn’t make an individual less worthy because they have it. That said, if a doctor prescribes anti-depressant medications for a person with fibro, this doesn’t mean the physician believes the patient is depressed. There has been documented proof in many reputable research journals that anti-depressants are effective in treating some of fibromyalgia’s abnormalities.
The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) says: “anti-depressants are recommended for the treatment of FMS because they decrease pain and often improve function.”
Types of Neurotransmitter Medications
Trazodone: This is an older type of anti-depressant that tends to have fewer side effects. It’s sometimes used to help treat sleep problems associated with fibro.
TCAs (Tricyclic Antidepressants): These include amitriptyline, nortriptyline and dosulepin. Also considered an old class of antidepressants, TCAs help muscles relax, provide some pain relief and can help a fibro patient sleep. The problem with TCAs is that patients can sometimes build an immunity to the medications. Dose increases are required to experience the same benefits. And even then the effectiveness of the medication can eventually wear off. There are also significant negative side effects which increase with the dose increase.
Acupan (Nefopam Hydrochloride): This is an analgesic that’s prescribed to treat constant pain. It also provides relatively fast relief of acute pain. Negative side effects are fairly low.
Tropisetron: This serotonin receptor is currently being tested for treating fibro and is being used experimentally. It can be difficult to administer, although research shows that it can reduce pain.
SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors): This is a modern class of anti-depressant. Examples of SSRIs include citalopram, fluoxetine and paroxetine. Some people can better tolerate SSRIs than TCAs. They’re not effective with everyone because they work exclusively to balance or fix serotonin levels and serotonin levels aren’t the cause of fibro-related problems in every patient.
SNRIs (Serotonin-Norephinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors): Considered newer than SSRIs, SNRIs work to balance or fix both norephinephrine and serotonin levels which can be very effective in treating fibromyalgia symptoms. There are generally few negative side effects.