Fibromyalgia sufferers are ready for relief. Their journey to diagnosis takes an average of five years, and treatments that successfully manage pain for everyone across the board are difficult to find. Designing a pain management plan can take sometimes years of trial and error, which is why so many patients may try whatever new supplement is touted to relieve fibromyalgia pain. In this series, we will look at a number of different supplements, examining available research and patient testimonials to see if they live up to the hype. This week, we shine the spotlight on melatonin for fibromyalgia.
Does taking melatonin for fibromyalgia work?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps to regulate sleep and waking cycles. While melatonin can be found in small amounts in meat, fruits, grains, and vegetables, many people choose to add melatonin supplements to help them sleep. But does melatonin for fibromyalgia work to control pain, too?
Research in 2000 found that in a four-week open study of melatonin on pain patients, the number of tender points and the severity of pain improved significantly for those patients who completed the study. While not a placebo-controlled, double-blind study, this was a promising beginning to the study of melatonin for fibromyalgia.
In 2014, a slightly larger study from Brazil wanted to see which was more effective at reducing fibromyalgia pain: 25 milligrams of amitriptyline, ten milligrams of melatonin, or a combination of amitriptyline and melatonin together. Study participants kept pain diaries in which they recorded the intensity and duration of their pain, rating it from one to 100 on the Visual Analogue Scale. At the end of six weeks, all patients reported lower pain, but patients taking melatonin alone or amitriptyline and melatonin together had lower pain scores than those who just received amitriptyline.
Melatonin and sleep
Melatonin may be not only a way to directly address fibromyalgia pain directly but to also combat a primary cause or symptom of that pain – lack of sleep.
Researchers at Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins have found that people who suffer from sleep disorders have an increased sensitivity to pain. This is seen most profoundly in those who suffer from chronic pain. In fact, new research is investigating the idea that sleep disorders may be one of the primary causes of chronic pain (rather than the reverse which has for years been thought to be true).
Børge Sivertsen, PhD, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Bergen and leader of the study that found increased sensitivity to pain in insomniacs, pointed out that although the connection is obvious, the underlying reasons are unclear, noting:
“While there is clearly a strong relationship between pain and sleep, such that insomnia increases both the likelihood and severity of clinical pain, it is not clear exactly why this is the case.”
Because of this connection, however unclear it may be, melatonin may be a way to combat fibromyalgia while lying down. A meta-analysis of the research found that melatonin made a clinically significant difference in both the quality and quantity of sleep for people with sleep disorders. This means that they were able to fall asleep more quickly and sleep for longer periods of time.
Cautions for melatonin for fibromyalgia use
If you are considering taking melatonin for fibromyalgia pain, talk to your doctor first. It is important to discuss any supplements you are considering as they may have serious side effects or interactions with prescription medications.
Some things to think about when considering supplementing with melatonin for fibromyalgia include:
- The study from Brazil utilized a higher dose of melatonin than standard for help with sleep – ten milligrams of melatonin nightly for six weeks. A standard dose of melatonin is between one and three milligrams. The Mayo Clinic offers melatonin dosing guidelines that vary widely depending on what you are supplementing for.
- Melatonin is present in our body naturally and is, in fact, what sets our internal circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm tells us it’s time to go to bed or wake up and is regulated by the sunlight that prompts the brain to increase or decrease melatonin production.
- Supplementing with melatonin needs to be done at the correct time of day so as to not throw off your natural biological rhythms.
One of the most important things to ask your doctor about is drug interactions. Melatonin has severe interactions with sedative medications. Other moderate reactions are possible with the following types of prescriptions:
- Birth control hormones
- Diabetes medications
- Anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs
Even caffeine can cause a moderate interaction.
Some groups should not consider supplementation with melatonin for fibromyalgia. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use melatonin because it has not been studied enough in this population. Those with bleeding disorders, seizure disorders, and transplant recipients should also approach melatonin supplementation with care.
Supplementation with melatonin for fibromyalgia does seem to hold some promise, both for relieving fibromyalgia pain itself and for treating and relieving sleep disorders that can contribute to pain. While side effects are possible and some people may not be able to use melatonin due to comorbid conditions, many others are able to safely supplement with melatonin for fibromyalgia.
Do you now or have you ever taken melatonin for fibromyalgia pain? What was the result?