Does Effexor help with fibromyalgia? (+3 tips)
In this article, we will discuss if Effexor, as an antidepressant drug, can help with the treatment of fibromyalgia. How does it work, What is the connection between Effexor and fibromyalgia? What does research report about fibromyalgia therapy? Is there an FDA approved therapy for fibromyalgia?, What are the preferred guidelines for using Effexor in its therapy?
Does Effexor help with fibromyalgia?
Yes, Effexor helps in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Effexor is indicated by doctors as an off-label drug in treating cases of fibromyalgia. It is used for its treatment due to the observed benefits from their experience (1).
Fibromyalgia is a complicated chronic illness that causes musculoskeletal pain and sensitivity throughout the body.
Effexor showed encouraging results in relieving the pain and impairment caused by fibromyalgia (2).
This impact appears to be independent of its anxiolytic and antidepressant characteristics. Therapy is more effective when blocking both serotonin and norepinephrine, which is the effect of Effexor, than blocking only one of them (2).
What is the connection between Effexor and fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is associated with low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters have a role in the management of pain, so drugs that increase their levels improve these symptoms and are recommended in these cases.
Treatment with serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as Effexor is effective in compensating for this decrease in neurotransmitters. It increases the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain and is found to be very effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia (3).
Effexor is not the first line of treatment for fibromyalgia. However, it can help a lot with its symptoms, such as pain, depression, and anxiety. Some other medications, such as Lexapro, can also be effective and used in therapy.
What does research report about fibromyalgia therapy?
A study carried out between December 2001 and April 2002, published in 2003, was conducted on several outpatients who were all diagnosed with fibromyalgia and were treated with Effexor. During the study, within the first week of therapy, five patients stopped the medication due to its adverse effects (2).
The intensity of pain from fibromyalgia didn’t improve or decrease until the 6th week of therapy. The pain and the impairment caused by fibromyalgia improved significantly after the 12th week of therapy. This makes Effexor a promising drug for the treatment of this case and greatly improves it, but it needs more time for the results to show (2).
Another clinical trial was carried out on fifteen patients suffering from fibromyalgia for more than 6 months, 18 years each. They were treated with Effexor with a divided dose of 37.5–75 mg/day. All of the cases showed great improvement in the symptoms after therapy (4).
Is Effexor a possible long-term therapy for fibromyalgia?
Effexor is recommended in some cases for the treatment of fibromyalgia, however, it can’t be used for long-term therapy.
Long-term therapy may worsen the side effects of Effexor and may lead to permanent damages which cannot be cured.
Some side effects of long-term therapy of Effexor may include:
- dry mouth.
- blurred vision.
- loss of appetite.
- abnormal bleeding.
- sexual disorders.
- suicidal thoughts.
Dose adjustment and following your doctor’s instructions are critical to decrease these side effects. Most of these symptoms start to disappear after 2-6 weeks of therapy as the body starts to adjust itself to the new medication.
On the other hand, combinatory therapy and switching between different drugs can be more effective than using only one drug for a long period.
It is important to consult your doctor and don’t change or stop your medication until your doctor says. A sudden stop of the drug makes you suffer withdrawal adverse effects.
What is the most effective treatment for fibromyalgia?
The best treatment for fibromyalgia is multidisciplinary. It should include pharmacological combination treatments in addition to non-pharmacological practices.
Pharmacological treatment may include antidepressants, analgesics, anticonvulsants, and opioids. These drugs are used either alone or in combination, according to your doctor’s recommendation.
Non-pharmacological management includes cognitive therapy, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes following a healthy lifestyle.
Is there an FDA-approved medication for fibromyalgia?
There are some FDA-approved medications used for the treatment of fibromyalgia. These drugs include:
- Lyrica (pregabalin) is used mainly as an antiepileptic. It is considered a gamma-aminobutyric acid agonist which was FDA-approved in 2007.
- Cymbalta (duloxetine) is an SNRI antidepressant approved in 2008.
- Savella (milnacipran), is an SNRI antidepressant approved in 2009.
Lyrica is used mainly to relieve the pain and aching of muscles caused by fibromyalgia.
It decreases the nerve signals produced during fibromyalgia that calm down the sensitized nerve cells. Lyrica is one of the drugs used for therapy with other analgesics for muscle pain.
The two FDA-approved drugs for fibromyalgia which are Cymbalta and Savella are both of the same class of antidepressants as Effexor. They belong to the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors that increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
So Effexor works with the same mechanism as other drugs approved for fibromyalgia leading to the successful treatment.
What are the guidelines for using Effexor in therapy?
- Take your dose at the same time every day and try not to miss it.
- Take the medication with meals to avoid stomach upset.
- Don’t rush for improvement results, it may take several weeks before you feel better.
- Don’t stop your medicine suddenly but it must be discontinued gradually.
- Tell your doctor about any medicine you are taking if he is intending to prescribe Effexor.
- Blood pressure must be monitored during therapy as the drug may raise your blood pressure.
In brief, Effexor is effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Most clinical trials support its use in the treatment of such cases. Effexor is well-tolerated, available, and affordable however, not recommended for long-term therapy. Don’t take this medication until you get it prescribed by your physician or healthcare provider. It is critical to follow the given instructions carefully to achieve the best results.
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Wolfe F, Smythe HA, Yunus MB, Bennett RM, Bombardier C, Goldenberg DL, et al. 1990. The American College of Rheumatology 1990 criteria for the classification of fibromyalgia. Report of the Multicenter Criteria Committee. Arthritis Rheum;33:160-72. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2306288/
Sayar K, Aksu G, Ak I, Tosun M. 2003. Venlafaxine treatment of fibromyalgia. Ann Pharmacother. Nov;37(11):1561-5. doi: 10.1345/aph.1D112. PMID: 14565792. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14565792/
Bradley LA. 2009. Pathophysiology of fibromyalgia. Am. J. Med.; 122: S22–S30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19962493/
Megan M. Dwight, Lesley M. Arnold, Hadley O’brien, Ray Metzger, Emily Morris-Park, Paul E. Keck, 1998. An Open Clinical Trial of Venlafaxine Treatment of Fibromyalgia, Psychosomatics, Volume 39, Issue 1, Pages 14-17, ISSN 0033-3182, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0033-3182(98)71375-1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033318298713751