Finding an Effective Pain Medication for Fibromyalgia

pain medication

Image: Michal Kowalski

One of the hardest parts of living with fibromyalgia has to be finding a pain medication that actually works, right? I mean what person with a long-term case of fibromyalgia hasn’t tried at least four to five different pain medications only to find that none of them offer any real long-term relief.

But in the wide universe of pain medications, things can vary quite a bit. Some medications are great for pain but have a lot of risks and side effects. Some medications are very safe but don’t seem as effective. And what works for one person may be completely useless for another. So with all of those options out there, how do you figure out which pain medication is right for you? Well, let’s look at the options and some of the different pros and cons of each.


Tramadol is one of the newer pain reliever drugs out there and has been used effectively for treating moderate to severe pain. This efficacy has led to doctors prescribing it frequently for patients with fibromyalgia. And the results have been promising for many people.

There’s the traditional anecdotal evidence that suggests that lots of people with fibromyalgia who take tramadol find it very effective for treating pain when a lot of other drugs fail. And then there are more scientific studies that have shown the same thing.

And tramadol has two major advantages when it comes to treating fibromyalgia pain. First, it isn’t an opioid. It’s actually an opioid agonist, which is a class of drug that actually prevents the interaction between neurotransmitters in the brain, changing the way your body perceives pain. That means that tramadol doesn’t carry any of the risks of addiction and dependency that opioids do.

Second, tramadol doesn’t have any serious side effects. ¬†But that’s not to say there are no side effects. People who take tramadol frequently report mental fog or sleepiness, particularly at high doses. And tramadol, like every pain medication, affects everyone differently.

Pain medication for fibromyalgia

Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

Cymbalta is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for fibromyalgia, and according to a lot of people with fibromyalgia, one of the least effective at dealing with their pain. That makes sense given that it isn’t actually a pain medication. Cymbalta is an antidepressant.

Cymbalta is an antidepressant. The reason that it’s prescribed for fibromyalgia is that the neurotransmitter that Cymbalta helps build up in the brain, serotonin, seems to also have a positive effect on the symptoms of fibromyalgia. The advantage of Cymbalta¬†is that for people in the early stages of fibromyalgia, low doses of Cymbalta can help manage their pain without the need for harder drugs.

The disadvantage of Cymbalta is that as a pain medication it really isn’t that effective for treating severe cases of fibromyalgia.

Milnacipran HCI (Savella)

Savella is one of the first medications specifically designed to treat fibromyalgia. It works in a similar way to antidepressants like Cymbalta by preventing the re-uptake of serotonin in the brain, increasing overall levels of serotonin. This helps with a variety of symptoms like pain, fatigue, and stiff muscles.

Savella is very effective for some people and not effective for others like a lot of pain medications. If Savella works for you then it can be a very useful medication for managing your fibromyalgia pain in the long term. But there are some side effects to look out for. Savella can cause dizziness and headaches. And some people have reported that after taking Savella their blood pressure increased dramatically. That can lead to heart attacks and strokes, so be careful to get your blood pressure monitored regularly.


Opioids are one of the most effective pain medications when it comes to dealing with truly severe pain. This makes them effective for serious cases of fibromyalgia. And on days when every muscle is screaming, sometimes a quick-acting and effective opioid is vital. So in the short term, opioids are one of the best options for treating serious pain.

But they do have drawbacks. Opioid addiction has become a serious epidemic in America. Both the number of people dependent on opioids and the number of overdose deaths have been increasing exponentially. As a result, doctors are often reluctant to prescribe opioid pain medication to patients.

In the long term, it’s often better to try to find a way to manage your fibromyalgia pain without opioids. Not only do you avoid the risks associated with opioid pain medications, but you also don’t have to worry about suddenly getting cut off. Of course, for people with severe pain, there’s often no other option.

But tell us, what pain medication do you use to treat your fibromyalgia? Does it work? Are you interested in trying any of these others? Let us know in the comments.