Fibromyalgia, which is one of the most common pain-related conditions in the U.S, affects over 10 million Americans. Up to 75% of them are women and the disease is typically passed on to their children. While fibromyalgia is currently considered incurable, treatments to alleviate the pain do exist. Given that scientists were unable to find out the root cause to date, the disease was believed to be a psychological condition up until now. With a recently published study which claims to have “solved the mystery of fibromyalgia”, this article focuses on what exactly these doctors have found and what it means for the fibromyalgia sufferers.
In the January 2017 edition of PAIN: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, researchers issued a study in which they found a brain mark which tells a lot about the pathophysiology of fibromyalgia and the areas affected by pain, such as the feet, hands, and legs.
For the aim of the study, the scientists made a comparison between 37 fibromyalgia patients with a 35-person healthy group and assessed their functional MRI to painful pressure and non-painful multisensory (sight, sound, and touch) stimulation. This allowed them to identify a brain-based fibromyalgia “signature,” which means that certain regions of the brain responded to the stimulation differently.
The scientists also noticed that fibromyalgia sufferers have an excess of blood vessels in the painful areas of the body, particularly an excess of “arteriole-venule shunts”.
Why the claim “Fibromyalgia Mystery Solved” is still untrue
Although this study is quite promising for fibromyalgia sufferers, to claim that “the mystery is solved” is sort of oversimplification. This finding has not solved fibromyalgia, but:
- Found markers for better diagnosis.
- Provides actual neural targets for therapeutic interventions,
- Help to establish a framework for assessing therapeutic methods
The bottom line is that this finding is a huge step in the right direction, as it proves that fibromyalgia sufferers indeed feel pain in many areas of their bodies despite the non-visible damage to those particular areas.
What happens next?
The next step involves doing additional research on the topic and continuing to study and learn more about pathophysiology of fibromyalgia and the way it affects the brain and the body. The ultimate goal is to find a treatment method which works for everyone, given that the disease manifests differently in each person.
Current treatment options for fibromyalgia
- Water-based and similar exercises which increase stamina, flexibility, and strength.
- Occupational therapy to reduce stress on the body and learn additional ways to perform tasks to reduce the pain.
- Counseling to deal with mental and emotional stress caused by chronic pain
Alternative Treatment Options
- Acupuncture: A Chinese technique that involves inserting needles in certain body parts to restore balance and change blood flow to the specific area.
- Massage therapy: A set of techniques to stimulate body`s muscles and tissues, improve motion, and relax the muscles.
- Yoga and tai chi: Practice that involves relaxation and deep breathing, both of which reduce fibromyalgia symptoms like stress and anxiety.