Unlike patients with other chronic pain conditions, those with fibromyalgia aren’t likely to benefit from opioid drugs due to observed differences in the brains of those with the condition. While this means that fibromyalgia patients are spared the risks of opioid addiction and overdose, they are susceptible to different risks and side effects of the medications commonly prescribed them. If melatonin performs as well as or better than currently-used fibromyalgia medications, then patients might only experience the side effect of better sleep.
Typically, antidepressants are used in the treatment of fibromyalgia because they act not only on the emotional but the physical state as well. These medications come with a host of potential side effects, ranging from dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting and digestive troubles to more serious risks including uneven heart rate, excessive bleeding, jaundice, bloody stool and seizures.
Researchers recently sought to compare the effectiveness of melatonin with that of amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant. They split 63 women with fibromyalgia into three treatment groups: amitriptyline alone, amitriptyline combined with melatonin and melatonin alone. They measured pain scores and Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire scores before and after six weeks of treatment.
The results of this study found melatonin alone and melatonin combined with amitriptyline to outperform the effects of the antidepressant alone. The gains seen from combining the two treatments were slight, meaning that melatonin alone may be a viable substitute for the antidepressant in fibromyalgia management.
See more on the study at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
While melatonin comes with a much shorter list of risks and side effects than antidepressants and other medications used for pain, it should be noted that some people react poorly to it, particularly when taken at high doses. Study participants were given 10mg doses of melatonin, an amount that can, for some, result in poor sleep quality. Other side effects possible with melatonin are brief depressed state, stomach cramps, headache and dizziness. Melatonin may be unsafe for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with diabetes, high blood pressure, depression or seizure disorders.
Patients with fibromyalgia may consider melatonin as a safe and potentially effective alternative to other medications. Given its accessibility, affordability and relative safety, it is worth a try.