May 11, 2012
This Saturday, May 12, is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, so it’s a perfect time to talk about fibromyalgia as it relates to opiate use. Over the past few years we’ve seen an increased number of fibromyalgia patients that have started receiving prescriptions for painkillers to address their chronic pain symptoms. As a Registered Addiction Specialist, this is extremely concerning to me especially at a time when we are also seeing prescription painkiller use exploding nationwide.
Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition that is marked by widespread aching and pain in the muscles and joints. Fibromyalgia affects more than 12 million Americans, and women are 10 times more likely to suffer symptoms than men. Some symptoms of fibromyalgia can include:
• Widespread pain
• Extreme fatigue
• Tender points
While the causes of fibromyalgia are unknown, many researchers believe the condition can occur from hormone imbalances that affect the central nervous system, as well as stress, illness or certain types of trauma.
Fibromyalgia can be very challenging to treat, and although there is limited evidence showing that opioids are an effective form of treatment, it seems these prescription painkillers are prescribed frequently for fibromyalgia patients. According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, approximately one-third of the patients who participated had been prescribed opioids for their condition; and two-thirds of them had received “strong opioids.”
Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating condition that affects the quality of a patient’s everyday life, but there are several alternative therapies that can be helpful in achieving relief from fibromyalgia. Unconventional treatments like acupuncture, electro acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic care, massage therapy, and even meditation have been shown to help alleviate pain for some patients. While alternative therapies may be helpful, it is always recommended that patients consult their doctor before starting any treatment program.
National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day is sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA). On May 12 and throughout the month of May, the NFMCPA will work to raise awareness for the condition by offering activities and other opportunities for local communities to participate. For a list of local resources and local events, please visit the NFMCPA at fmcpaware.org.