Fibromyalgia is a huge issue, which affects 10 million Americans and about 3-6% of the world’s population, and is thus among the most prevalent pain-related conditions worldwide.
This disease mostly affects women, which make 75-90% of all sufferers, and is passed on to their children. Moreover, age increases the risk of developing fibromyalgia.
There is no cure for this condition to date, and medicine has succeeded to find treatments that relieve the pain.
Since researchers were not able to find its cause, this condition was believed to be psychological. Yet, a recent study claims to have finally solved this mystery.
In the January 2017 edition of PAIN, it was stated that:
“The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, neuroscientists and researchers published a study in which they discovered a brain mark that explains the pathophysiology of fibromyalgia at a neural level, as well as the areas most affected by pain (the legs, hands, and feet), have an excess of blood vessels that play a major role in the feeling and intensity of pain. “
The team of researchers analyzed 37 fibromyalgia patients and 35 healthy people and estimated their functional MRIs to painful pressure and non-painful multisensory (sight, sound, and touch) stimulation.
They identified a brain-based fibromyalgia “signature”, which showed the way in which certain brain areas responded to these both types of stimulation, and found that they were different between the two groups.
Scientists also discovered that fibromyalgia patients have an excess of blood vessels in the painful body areas, specifically an excess of “arteriole-venule shunts”, which are involved in the conscious sensation of touch and pain.
Therefore, the mismanaged blood flow causes achiness, muscle cramps, and fatigue.
Yet, even though these findings are promising, the reality is that the study has just offered a gross oversimplification of the disease and its cause.
It has found markers which can identify and diagnose this condition, it might provide actual neural targets for therapeutic interventions, and it offers help in establishing a framework for the evaluation of different therapeutic methods and in predicting a treatment response on an individual basis.
Therefore, it is a huge step forward, as it confirmed that patients really do feel pain in their bodies, and stimulates further research on the healing and treatment of fibromyalgia pain.
Researchers should analyze various treatment methods and options, and study the pathophysiology of fibromyalgia and its effects on the brain and body, in order to find a method suitable for all patients.
Current fibromyalgia treatment options
The current treatment options for this condition soothe the inflammation that is the leading cause of pain, and these include:
- Physical therapy to learn exercises that boost stamina, flexibility, and strength
- Occupational therapy, which provides tips on how to set up the living and working place in a way to reduce stress on the body
- Counseling to teach you to deal with the mental and emotional ramifications of chronic pain
These are the most effective remedies to soothe the pain due to fibromyalgia:
- Natural anti-inflammatory foods and supplements like omega-3 fish oil and curcumin efficiently reduce the inflammation in the joints and fibromyalgia pain.
- 5-HTP: It stimulates the body to produce serotonin, which improves mood, and is helpful in the treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms like pain, fatigue, stiffness, and anxiety.
- Magnesium + Malic Acid: the Journal of Korean Medical Science in October 2011 published a study which discovered that women who suffered from fibromyalgia also had lower magnesium levels. Moreover, scientists have also found that fibromyalgia patients might have difficulty producing malic acid, which is essential for the function of the muscles.
- Adaptogens: These are herbs which help the body to fight fatigue, stress, and to produce high-energy molecules and restore function to fibromyalgia- damaged regions in the body.
Alternative Treatment Options
- Massage therapy: Massage manipulates the muscles and soft tissues in the body, and thus relaxes the muscles, lowers your heart rate, improves the range of motion and boosts the production of natural painkillers by the body.
- Yoga and tai chi: this ancient practice uses slow, meditative movements that involve deep breathing and relaxation, and helps in the treatment of stress and anxiety, and relieves fibromyalgia symptoms.
- Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese healing technique involves inserting small needles in various places on the body. This changes the blood flow in the area and the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal column, and thus reduces the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
It is always best to try to improve your health at a cellular level, with healthy lifestyle habits, and a balanced diet, and approach the following medications with caution, due to their side-effects.
- Pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen sodium (Aleve), as well as prescription pain medications to soothe pain and improve sleep.
- Anti-seizure drugs like Neurontin and Lyrica which are used in the treatment of epilepsy are also helpful in the treatment of fibromyalgia pain.
- Antidepressants like Savella and Cymbalta treat fatigue and reduce pain.