What do they do?

Several different types of medications are used to relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. For example, certain antidepressants, when prescribed at lower doses than those used to relieve depression are often helpful for relieving pain and promoting restorative sleep; when prescribed at higher doses, they can also be helpful for the depression and anxiety that can both result from and exacerbate a chronic painful condition.  Other drugs that may be useful in fibromyalgia treatment include muscle relaxants to relieve painful muscle spasms; anti-seizure medications, which are also used for nerve pain; and traditional analgesics. 

How do they work?

Though the cause of fibromyalgia isn’t known, one theory is that it stems from a problem with pain processing in the central nervous system, rather than a problem at the site of pain.  For that reason, many of the drugs prescribed for fibromyalgia alter brain chemicals and block overactive nerve cells involved in pain transmission. Many of these medications not only relieve pain, but help fatigue, improve mood, promote sleep and relieve other problems associated with fibromyalgia, including irritable bowel syndrome and restless leg syndrome.

Who are they for?

The drugs in this chart are often helpful for relieving pain in people for whom simple analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs don't work well enough, and for people who need treatment for other symptoms and problems related to fibromyalgia.

What’s important to know about the drug class?

Only three drugs – duloxetine (Cymbalta), milnacipran (Savella) and pregablin (Lyrica) – are FDA-approved for fibromyalgia; however, a number of others have been shown to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms and are often prescribed off-label.

As with any medications, the drugs used for fibromyalgia can have adverse effects. More common side effects including dizziness, drowsiness and dry mouth.  Use of other sedatives, including alcohol, can increase their potentially dangerous effects. Before starting a medication for fibromyalgia, be sure to let your doctor know any other medications you are taking.

See all fibromyalgia drugs.