Patients suffering from chronic pain associated with neuropathy or fibromyalgia have many options for treating their conditions.
But chronic pain is challenging to treat, and many treatments can leave behind adverse reactions that are unpleasant.
Understanding your treatment options, including alternatives, is vital for any patient with these conditions.
What is Lyrica?
Lyrica is a medication that is made by Pfizer, and its generic name is pregabalin.
This pharmaceutical is an anticonvulsant, which means that it can prevent seizures.
While it was initially developed to treat certain kinds of seizure disorders, it was discovered that this medication could also be used to treat other conditions and symptoms, as well.
Lyrica slows impulses within the brain that related to seizure activity, but it also influences the chemical compounds that regulate pain signals.
Because of this, Lyrica is used to treat certain disorders that cause pain, including fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain.
Fibromyalgia is a condition of unknown cause that results in many diverse symptoms, including widespread pain, a heightened response to touch, and pain int the connective tissues and muscles of the body (1).
Neuropathic pain is a pain in the nerves that is caused by damage or disease and those with this condition may have burning or shooting pain in areas of their body (2).
Lyrica can treat neuropathy from diabetes, shingles (herpes zoster) infection, or a spinal cord injury.
In addition to treating these two disorders, Lyrica is still prescribed for the treatment of certain seizures known as focal seizures.
How Does Lyrica Work?
Because Lyrica affects the brain chemicals responsible for pain signaling, it can help reduce certain types of pain, particularly those caused by nerve damage.
While it was developed as an anti-seizure medication, the additional benefit of helping to treat pain has allowed this medication to be used in the treatment of neuropathic pain.
In addition, Lyrica is often used to treat fibromyalgia.
How it works in treating this disease is still not fully understood as researchers have yet to determine the cause or mechanism of action for this disease.
Those with fibromyalgia experience pain that is believed to be caused by nerve-related changes, resulting in too many signals from neurons, which then creates pain.
By decreasing the number of these nerve signals, Lyrica is able to calm overly sensitive nerves and help alleviate the pain of fibromyalgia.
Side Effects of Lyrica
The side effects for Lyrica are often correlated to the strength of the dose, with higher doses resulting in more profound or severe effects.
The most common side effects of this medication include dizziness and sleepiness.
Others may also experience dry mouth, blurred vision, weight gain, or swelling in the hands or feet (3).
Those taking Lyrica may find it difficult to concentrate or provide full attention, which is why you may not want to drive while using the medication.
Do not operate a car or other machinery until you are sure how this medicine affects you.
Some may have allergic reactions to Lyrica.
If you notice that you are having trouble breathing, have swelling in the face, neck, lips, or mouth, rash, itching, or have hives, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Some side effects may be less severe but can pose problems if they persist or worsen.
You should talk with your doctor if you experience and of the above symptoms for extended periods or if they worsen while taking this medicine.
Some of the more adverse effects of Lyrica can include:
- Unusual bleeding
- Blurred vision
- Muscle pain or weakness
- Evidence of kidney problems, including a change in urine output
Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
In rare cases, those taking Lyrica and other anticonvulsants may experience depression, thoughts of suicide, new or worsening depression, panic attacks, aggressive behavior, mania, or other mental health issues.
If you notice sudden changes in your mood or in that of someone taking Lyrica, you should seek medical attention.
Precautions for Taking Lyrica
If you have allergies, including to any of the active or inactive ingredients in Lyrica, you should not take it.
Tell your doctor about all your allergies before using the medication.
You should always share your complete medical history with your doctor, as well.
Conditions such as kidney disease, a bleeding problem or blood disorder, a history of an allergic reaction, heart problems, or a family or personal history with substance abuse may mean that Lyrica is not the best medication for you.
Tell your doctor if you have or have previously had mood problems, depression, or suicidal thoughts or behavior, as Lyrica can make these worse.
Lyrica should not be taken with alcohol or cannabis, as it can increase the effects of these drugs.
Those who are planning to have children should understand the risks associated with Lyrica.
For men, animal studies show that the active ingredient in this drug can make males less fertile and result in sperm changes and birth defects.
Women who are pregnant or plan to become so should not take this medicine, as it can harm unborn children.
Lyrica passes through breast milk, so breastfeeding is not recommended while you use this drug.
If you plan to have surgery, tell your doctor that you are taking Lyrica as well as all the other medications and products that you use, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements.
The active ingredient in Lyrica is not itself overly addictive, but when it creates pain relieving and relaxation effects in some patients, it can lead users to develop a physical dependence on the drug.
This is most common in those who use the drug for extended periods because you will require higher doses as your body gets used to the effects of the drug.
Those taking Lyrica long-term should talk with their doctor about how to avoid dependency and what signs to watch for.
Always tell your doctor about any medications that you are taking while also using Lyrica, including any natural remedies, supplements, or over-the-counter medicines you use.
Some drugs can interact with Lyrica, causing an increase in side effects and changes in how the medications work.
Among those to be most cautious of are (4):
- Any narcotic pain medicines
- Medicines for anxiety
- ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors, which are often used to treat high blood pressure
- Medications for diabetes, especially Avandia (rosiglitazone) or Actos (pioglitazone)
- Muscle relaxants
- Any medicines that make you sleepy
- Drugs used for weight loss, including orlistat (Alli and Xenical)
Do not start, change, or stop the dosage of any of your medicines before talking with your doctor first.
Those with opioid addiction are at a higher risk of developing a dependence on Lyrica.
The active ingredient in this drug affects the GABA receptors in your brain, which can cause a heightened sense of euphoria from the effects of opioids.
Opioid addicts can abuse Lyrica to lessen withdrawal symptoms, as well.
Lyrica should not be used to help with opioid withdraw or to substitute for opioid effects.
Alternatives to Lyrica
Those looking for alternatives to taking Lyrica for their medical condition have several choices.
Because this medicine has many side effects and interacts with several common medicines, many cannot take Lyrica or its generic form, pregabalin.
Alternative for Fibromyalgia
The conventional treatment of fibromyalgia includes medications, alternative therapies, and changes to lifestyle that can help reduce pain and improve sleep.
While long-term use of pain medications is not recommended due to the risk of dependency, non-opioid pain relievers, as well as antidepressants, are commonly prescribed for this condition.
Physical therapy and various exercises are also often recommended for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Aerobic exercise is usually exceptionally good for helping with stress reduction and to promote better sleep, which are two significant symptoms of this disease.
Many people with this condition avoid exercise because it generates pain, so exercise is crucial to keeping muscles healthy.
And the chemicals released during exercise can help to relieve pain and fight depression, as well.
Other therapies that are sometimes used to treat fibromyalgia include the use of moist heat, relaxation techniques, and physical therapy for the conditioning of muscles and to promote relaxation.
A physical therapist can help learn ways to stretch muscles to relieve pain, to relax tense muscles, and to use muscles in ways that promote safe movement.
Cymbalta, which is an antidepressant, has been approved by the FDA to treat fibromyalgia.
Other drugs in the same class, known as SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) can also be prescribed, including Savella (5).
Some doctors prescribe drugs to help with sleep, which can be a problem for those with fibromyalgia.
Anti-inflammatory medicines, including over-the-counter and prescription medications, are sometimes used but are not helpful for treating many patients with this disease.
Muscle relaxants are also commonly used by patients with fibromyalgia.
Alternative for Neuropathic Pain
Nerve pain is often exceedingly difficult to treat. In addition to Lyrica, other anticonvulsants, are sometimes prescribed for treating neuropathy.
For example, gabapentin (Neurontin) is commonly used to treat pain associated with shingles.
Certain antidepressants can also help to treat nerve pain, especially for those with chronic pain as well as depression.
Those with chronic pain often suffer from mental health problems, and these drugs can help with both issues at once.
The most commonly prescribed of either (6):
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), like fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Tricyclic antidepressants, including doxepin (Sinequan), amitriptyline (Elavil), and nortriptyline (Pamelor).
- SNRIs like duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor)
While opioids can be useful in treating nerve pain, these are not long-term solutions to a chronic problem.
Taking medications in combination is often the most effective when treating nerve pain.
PEMF Therapy as an Alternative to Lyrica
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, also known as PEMF therapy, is a treatment option for both fibromyalgia and neuropathy that uses a device that emits pulses of low-frequency electromagnetic energy.
PEMF therapy replenishes the naturally occurring energy your cells need to function.
By exposing your cells to the pulsed waves of this energy, they become recharged and can function more effectively.
Treating using PEMF stimulation has been shown to be an effective alternative for treating both fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain.
Because PEMF therapy has no adverse effects, it is preferred by many to prescription drugs, which can have severe reactions and interactions.
PEMF therapy is a proven treatment for reducing chronic pain, including that caused by inflammation or nerve damage.
The stimulation using electromagnetic waves can calm misfiring neurons, restore the neural connections in damaged nerves, and improve the electrical signaling that can lead to hypersensitivity in fibromyalgia and nerve pain in neuropathy.
In addition to reducing the pain associated with fibromyalgia, patients with this disease also note an improvement in sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of depression and anxiety when using PEMF therapy to treat their condition.
There are numerous studies documenting PEMF’s effectiveness for fibromyalgia patients, including those that are from this double-blind, placebo-controlled designs.
PEMF stimulation also increases blood circulation, reduces inflammation, and encourages repair at the cellular level, which are essential for treating nerve pain. Neurons send electrical signals to your brain using electrical impulses.
When the electrical charge in these cells becomes weakened or damaged, the messages they send and receive become confused or cause certain types of receptors to misfire, resulting in pain.
PEMF stimulation can help restore the correct electrical energy of your nerve cells, which improves their function and reduces miscommunication that can lead to problems.
PEMF therapy is used with much success for treating diabetic neuropathy, a common cause of nerve pain.
This type of treatment improves the conduction velocity as well as signaling latency, which indicates that neural impulses are being more effectively sent.
Patients report less pain and improved quality of life.
Lyrica is a drug that affects the nerve signals of the body, which can help with conditions associated with nerve sensitivity and pain.
Those with fibromyalgia and neuropathy can find relief from this drug, which has many adverse effects.
Alternatives to Lyrica are available, including treatments that do not have any adverse reactions, such as PEMF therapy.