When it comes to fibromyalgia think pain. Almost constant pain. Some people describe it as a nagging ache, sort of like a toothache in your muscles. Other people complain of tender places on the body. These trigger points may be at the base or back of the neck, the upper and lower back, as well as the hips and buttocks. Some people experience sensitivity around the elbows or the chest. When you experience this kind of unrelenting pain the quality of your life suffers. Needless to say, people want fibromyalgia treatment that works. They should not have to choose between pain relief and memory loss. That is this person’s dilemma.
Fibromyalgia Treatment with Alprazolam (Xanax)
Q. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and arthritis. The rheumatologist questioned me about my sleep patterns and prescribed alprazolam at bedtime.
The result was dramatic. The fibromyalgia pain disappeared within a few days. There was no impact on the arthritis pain.
Aside from the pain, I am in excellent health at 75 years of age. However, I am concerned about my memory. Does alprazolam contribute to memory problems? Must I choose between pain relief and memory?
Sleep Problems and Fibromyalgia:
A. Sleep is critical for managing fibromyalgia. This mysterious condition produces pain in soft tissue, frequently associated with tender spots. Fatigue and trouble concentrating are also common symptoms.
For reasons that are somewhat mysterious, people with fibromyalgia often complain of serious sleep problems. They frequently have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Chronic insomnia becomes a way of life. They are sleep deprived and exhausted.
Is chronic insomnia the chicken or the egg? In other words, does poor sleep cause fibromyalgia or does the pain of fibromyalgia cause insomnia?
We are not equipped to answer that question. We can say that one sleep expert, Martin Scharf, PhD, told us two decades ago that gama-hydroxybutyrate (Xyrem) was helpful in restoring normal alpha sleep and was an effective fibromyalgia treatment (Journal of Rheumatology, Nov. 1998). The FDA approved Xyrem for narcolepsy (in patients with cataplexy and excessive daytime sleepiness), not as a fibromyalgia treatment.
Alprazolam as a Fibromyalgia Treatment:
Treatment with a benzodiazepine sedative such as alprazolam (Xanax) can pose problems, especially for older people. Such drugs may increase the risk of dementia (Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, May, 2015). Alprazolam, along with other benzos, is on the list of potentially inappropriate medications for seniors.
Our Guide to Drugs and Older People offers more information about such medicines. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (71 cents), self-addressed envelope:
- Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. O-85,
- P. O. Box 52027
- Durham, NC 27717-2027
It can also be downloaded for $2 from the website in our Health Guide Section.
Other Fibromyalgia Treatment:
There are no ideal treatments for fibromyalgia. Doctors prescribe drugs that affect brain chemistry such as pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta) or milnacipran (Savella).
Reports from Readers:
Visitors to this website have shared their stories with drugs like Lyrica. Here are just a few examples:
Teresa shares this experience:
“I have been on Lyrica for about nine years for fibromyalgia. I have been experiencing increasingly disturbing memory issues, suicidal thoughts and brain fog. I have also been irritable and irrational. I have made really poor decisions, withdrawn socially and struggled at work.
“My fibromyalgia pain has not been particularly manageable since a car accident in January. After some research, I have concluded that I have most likely been endangering my health by taking these medications. (I have also been taking Topamax for migraines for years.)
“I know that part of the issues I am experiencing can be due to the combination of medications together, but I feel that a fresh start must happen for me. I am down to 200 mg of Lyrica and counting. Yes, it is extremely unpleasant! My pain level and fatigue are really high, but so far I am not experiencing the sweating that others complain about.”
Catherine is caught between the classic rock and a hard place:
“I was prescribed Lyrica when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I couldn’t handle the side effects (brain fog, balance issues) and the cost.
“My doctor switched me to gabapentin without really telling me about the side effects. I wish I had known about the mood effects before I attempted suicide. I never put two and two together for a long time.
“I was given diazepam to counter the irritable moods gabapentin produced. This worked well until I had to go off the benzodiazepine. The terrible mood swings, the irritability, and angry outbursts are becoming unbearable. But, the pain from the fibromyalgia is controlled with gabapentin, so I do not know what to do.”
Shilo experienced terrible withdrawal symptoms on stopping Lyrica:
“I’ve been taking Lyrica for fibromyalgia two years. I started tapering two months ago and it’s living a new hell. I recommend nobody take this drug at all. Worst withdrawal symptoms I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I was dying.”
Nondrug Fibromyalgia Treatment:
Nondrug approaches such as acupuncture or massage therapy may be helpful (Systematic Reviews, May 15, 2017).
Practicing yoga or tai chi, a gentle movement program, might also ease fibromyalgia discomfort.
Mindfulness training can be helpful for insomnia and fibromyalgia (Frontiers in Psychology, Aug. 3, 2018).
Share Your Own Fibromyalgia Treatment Story
Please let others know your experience with drugs prescribed to treat fibromyalgia. How well did they work? Did you experience any side effects? Have any nondrug approaches been helpful? People with fibromyalgia could benefit from your story in the comment section below.