Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Traditional Medicine Offers Little for Fibromyalgia

With so many different symptoms, it’s no surprise that fibromyalgia and CFS patients are typically taking 6–12 different prescription drugs. Lyrica, Elavil, Klonopin, Paxil, Effexor, Xanax, Trazadone, Neurontin, Zanaflex, Ambien, Lunesta, Cymbalta,  and Provigil have all been heralded as “the drug” for fibromyalgia. 

Some of these are helpful, some worthless, and some really dangerous.
Drug management alone typically fails to yield lasting relief from the most common fibromyalgia and CFS symptoms, and patients’ and doctors’ optimism over a new drug treatment eventually gives way to this sad reality. Oh well, a new drug with an even larger marketing budget is on the horizon. (Forgive my cynicism. I’ve just seen this situation so many times!)

Many of the most commonly prescribed drugs for fibromyalgia have side effects that are similar or identical to the symptoms of FMS and CFS. These similarities can cause a lot of confusion when doctors are trying to determine the effectiveness of treatment. Ambien, for instance, can cause flu-like symptoms, achy muscle pain, sore throat, and fatigue. Sounds like CFS, doesn’t it?

Tranquilizers are often prescribed for restless leg syndrome; achy, tight muscles; and sleep problems. But these drugs deplete the sleep hormone melatonin, which then leads to a disruption of a person’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). Instead of promoting deep restorative sleep, these drugs prevent it!
It’s important to realize that your drug or drugs may be causing or contributing to some or all of your symptoms. 

I spend a great deal of time with my new patients reviewing and discussing their current drugs—how they interact with each other, and the potential side effects. I often find that by asking the right question, I can help the patient realize that her symptoms began or worsened soon after the drug treatment began.
Sometimes, though, I do find drug-induced symptoms that began months after the start of the drug treatment. Drugs deplete essential nutrients that the body needs to properly function, but it can take weeks, months, or even years for the drug to fully deplete the nutrient and for you to see the side effects surface.

Still, not everyone can be drug free, and most of my patients are on at least one prescription medication. But the least offensive drug should be used—sparingly—and only to manage symptoms unresponsive to more natural therapies.

A study conducted by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research demonstrates the need the limitations of traditional medicine alone for treating fibromyalgia.

Thirty-nine patients with FMS were interviewed about their symptoms. Twenty-nine were interviewed again 10 years later. Of these 29 (mean age 55 at second interview), all had persistence of the same FMS symptoms. 
Moderate to severe pain or stiffness was reported in 55% of patients, moderate to a great deal of sleep difficulty was noted in 48%, and moderate to extreme fatigue was noted in 59%. These symptoms showed little change from earlier surveys. 

The surprising finding was that 79% of the patients were still taking medications to control symptoms. 

We can conclude that the medications weren’t making a significant impact.

Conventional medical treatments for FMS and CFS is a controversial topic, and I certainly have no desire to offend the many brilliant medical doctors out there. 

Still, in my experience, most traditional doctors continue to rely on prescription medications to treat fibromyalgia, even though their own studies show them to be ineffective and potentially dangerous. 

They still just don’t get it. Those with fibromyalgia and CFS are sick and they want to feel well, not drugged.
Just try to find a doctor who really knows anything about these illnesses. Most don’t. It’s even harder to find one who is having any lasting success treating these illnesses. How many folks with fibromyalgia get well under the care of a traditional rheumatologist? 
I rest my case.

I speak to fibromyalgia support groups across North America, and I can tell you what the answer is: very few. The three-month wait for a new patient appointment typically ends in a two-hour interview and exam followed by a 10 minute visit to discuss test results, and then several prescription drugs and a follow-up appointment every 3–6 months.

And let’s face it, those with fibromyalgia are medical misfits, they don’t usually respond to medications like other folks. The ACR has, like many physicians, thrown up their hands and admitted they have little if anything to offer for those suffering from fibromyalgia. They focus more on helping their patients “cope.” At least they’re honest about their limitations.


  1. I feel like I'm a merry go round of medications and none give me relief. In the last year my case has gotten so bad I had to leave my job. I've been to local doctors in NM and even the Mayo clinic in AZ but nothing helps. Now I've gone from pain and brain fog to sweating and sleeplessness, acid flowing through my veins and now the depression is setting in. I don't know what to do, where to turn and no one gets it. I tell very few people that I have it because they think I'm crazy. I wish someone could figure out the cause/cure or at least find a way to make it tolerable.

  2. Millie I totally understand your frustration, I do phone consults with patients all over N. America. Please clinic 205-879-2383 they'll be glad to help.

  3. I need some advice, but dont have a job or much money. Its been really hard for me. I have been taken lots of med but got off them because of all the side effects it was giving me. I have applied for ssdi but no luck and also had lawyers but wont help me because I cant take the medicines. I am stuck and I cant get a job because no one wants to hire me.. I really dont know what to do. I try to go to the fibro center but want 10,000 dollors. I am stuck please help me. I am in so much pain with no where to go..

  4. Casey, my advice to you is that when you apply for SSDI, make sure you focus more on the mental aspects of your illness (inability to concentrate, anxiety, depression, etc.), because it is next to impossible to get SSDI for physical illness. You need to be evaluated by a psychiatrist and see a psychologist or counselor and have them complete SSDI paperwork for you if you want to get approved. Every city has these services available for FREE if you have no income or small fee if you are low income, and they can help you find other resources to help you in your time of need.

    As far as help getting better, Dr. Murphree has a ton of information available in his emails and web site. I believe his theory is true, that people with fibromyalgia and/or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) have depleted the vitamins and minerals in the body which are essential to health and function. The pain and dysfunction from that can then lead to other problems like fibromyalgia.

    Unfortunately, even once you know and believe you have the correct cause and solution to the problem, you still have to be able to afford to get help. I recommend focusing on getting SSDI so that you can have the money for treatment. Once you have a little income, start with a consultation with Dr. Murphree! I was where you are now in 2001 and my heart goes out to you. Just hang in there and get informed as much as possible and ask your family or friends for help if you can.

    I wish you well!

    1. Absolutely true...lawys will not discuss cases if u are not medically treating so its a catch twentytwo ..i found also that the drugs SIDE EFFECTS prescribed were WORSE THAN THE SYMPTOMS we were trying to FIX..I suffered two yrs with sleepless nights and finally found some help with the mental evaluation diagnosis and effects of meds which eventually led me to winning my disability case..its grueling and mind boggling but DON'T GIVE UP...I KNOW I ALMOST DID BUT U CAN MAKE IT..THERE ARE MANY LIKE US !!!!!!!

  5. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia was given to me when I was having chronic headaches. It seems lack of sleep, changes in barometric pressure, stress can bring on a killer headache. I also have osteoarthritis. Sometimes I can't tell what one is the source of all my pain. I am on two different antidepressants to treat the fibro. The headaches have almost disappeared but the muscle pain and the fatigue attack me out of the blue without warning. I do not understand why they insist on treating a nerve disease with an antidepressant. I felt so much better when all I took was a 5mg valium once a day. The doctors in my state will not prescribe it. I have been thinking about applying for disability or SSI. I am holding down a full time job but they insist on OT all the time and I do not get the rest I need to recover. I am frustrated and do not know where to turn to get relief.

  6. Can you recommend someone in the Phoenix metro area who DOES get it?

  7. same here. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia by four different doctors but none have been able to help me.. Do you have any suggestions for a doctor in Tulsa