Pain is one of the most common complaints from people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Many of them often try over-the-counter (OTC) medications to try to relieve the pain they experience, whether it is joint pain, soft tissue pain or headaches.
Some OTC medications can provide effective pain relief for some of the six million men and women who suffer from fibromyalgia in the United States.
Over-the-Counter Drug Types
Over-the-counter or OTC pain relievers are those that can be bought from a pharmacy without a prescription. Before trying an OTC pain reliever, it is important to research the different ones on the market to select the one that will help relieve your symptoms.
There are two main categories for OTC medications, analgesics and NSAIDS, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Using both types of these drugs together provides relief for many patients.
What are Analgesics?
Analgesics are made to help relieve pain from muscle aches, joint pain and headaches. They can also be used to reduce fevers and help to relieve cold symptoms. There are both narcotic and non-narcotic analgesics on the market.
Non-narcotic analgesics are sold over-the-counter in drugstores and department stores. However, there are some non-narcotic analgesics that are available in prescription strength.
Most analgesics are safe and effective for reducing fevers and pain. They are some of the most commonly used drugs around the world, with the most popular OTC analgesic being acetaminophen.
It is used in many different drugs and sold under many brand names, including Tylenol. Acetaminophen is the most common type of pain reliever taken by those with fibromyalgia and it works well to alleviate pain.
How do Analgesics Provide Pain Relief?
When the body senses pain, it sends a signal to the brain and the brain interprets that signal and then responds with a feeling of pain.
Using analgesics helps to interrupt pain signals being sent to the brain, so the body never receives a message back to feel pain.
Along with blocking pain signals to the brain, some analgesics can change the way the brain interprets some pain signals.
How Effective are OTC Drugs for Fibromyalgia?
Although many people use OTC pain relievers to combat fibromyalgia related pain and headaches, they usually only provide temporary pain relief.
They are especially effective in reducing pain due to headaches or migraines, but many people need something stronger than OTC medications to get long-term pain relief.
Analgesic Side Effects
Even though analgesics are usually safe for most people to take for pain, they do have some side effects. Some of the side effects associated with analgesics, especially acetaminophen can be:
- Bruising or Bleeding
- Sores or Ulcers on the Lips and Mouth
- Rash or Hives
- Decrease in Urination
- Sharp, Stabbing Pain Along the Side or Lower Back
- Severe, Unexplained Weakness
Before taking an analgesic to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, a doctor should be consulted.
What are NSAIDS?
NSAIDS, which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammation drugs, are a type of medication that helps to relieve both pain and inflammation that can accompany many diseases.
Many NSAIDS can be bought over-the-counter and there are several prescription NSAIDS as well. They are commonly used to treat sprains, muscle strains and arthritis, but they may also be used to treat fibromyalgia pain.
However, they have been found not to work well for fibromyalgia. Some of the most common NSAIDS are aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen.
How do NSAIDS Work?
NSAIDS work to relieve inflammation and pain in the body by prohibiting the development of prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are chemicals that exist in cells located throughout the body and they are responsible for fever, pain and inflammation in various areas of the body.
These chemicals are a product of an enzyme called the Cox enzyme. NSAIDS work by blocking the production of the Cox enzyme, which will lead to less prostaglandins in the body.
How Effective are NSAIDS for Fibromyalgia?
Effectiveness of any drug can vary among patients and it depends on which drugs are used. NSAIDS are commonly used to treat fibromyalgia, but they don’t always work well.
Some NSAIDS, like ibuprofen and aspirin, work well to resolve mild to moderate pain, but they don’t work well for severe pain.
NSAIDS mainly treat inflammation, but fibromyalgia is a non-inflammatory disease, so they mainly relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Compared to other drugs, NSAIDS are not very effective in providing long-term benefits when treating fibromyalgia.
NSAIDS Side Effects
Even though some NSAIDS are available over-the-counter, they can cause serious health risks. Though they may cause minor side effects, if taken long-term, NSAIDS can cause serious gastrointestinal problems and liver damage. Some of the other side effects that may be caused by taking NSAIDS include:
NSAIDS can cause damage to the gastrointestinal system because they prohibit that production of prostaglandins, which cover the lining of the stomach.
Due to prohibiting prostaglandin production, acid can seep through the stomach lining. This leads to ulcers being formed and it can cause internal bleeding, which can be life-threatening.
There is also evidence that NSAIDS can destroy vitamin stores in the body, which can lead to chronic fatigue. NSAIDs should only be taken for a limited period of time and under the supervision of a doctor.
Further Resources for OTC Medications and Fibromyalgia
For more information about taking over-the-counter medications to treat fibromyalgia, there are several websites that can be referenced. Your doctor can also provide you with more information about effective drug treatments for fibromyalgia.
They can tell you the options for OTC medications, as well as prescription drugs, that can help reduce the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Not every drug will be effective for everyone with this disease. You should consult with your doctor before taking any OTC medication.