Fibromyalgia: A New Test Leads To A Cause And Maybe A Cure

For years and years and years and years, people suffering with fibromyalgia have faced a battle on two fronts.

  1. They battle chronic pain and all of the associated physical, mental and emotional problems that come with chronic pain.
  2. They fight a public and medical perception that fibromyalgia is not a real medical condition. That the pain is all in their heads.

A new study, published in the November issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, may help fibromyalgia patients on both battle fronts.

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The Study

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Using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), researchers in France were able to detect functional abnormalities in certain regions in the brains of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia, reinforcing the idea that symptoms of the disorder are related to a dysfunction in those parts of the brain where pain is processed.

“Fibromyalgia is frequently considered an ‘invisible syndrome’ since musculoskeletal imaging is negative,” said Eric Guedj, M.D., and lead author of the study. “Past imaging studies of patients with the syndrome, however, have shown above-normal cerebral blood flow (brain perfusion) in some areas of the brain and below-normal in other areas. After performing whole-brain scans on the participants, we used a statistical analysis to study the relationship between functional activity in even the smallest area of the brain and various parameters related to pain, disability and anxiety/depression.”

In the study, 20 women diagnosed with fibromyalgia and 10 healthy women as a control group responded to questionnaires to determine levels of pain, disability, anxiety and depression. SPECT was then performed, and positive and negative correlations were determined.

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The Results

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The researchers confirmed that patients with the syndrome exhibited brain perfusion abnormalities in comparison to the healthy subjects.

Further, these abnormalities were found to be directly correlated with the severity of the disease.

An increase in perfusion (hyperperfusion or excessive blood supply) was found in that region of the brain known to discriminate pain intensity, and a decrease (hypoperfusion or inadequate blood supply) was found within those areas thought to be involved in emotional responses to pain.

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Conclusions

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In the past, some researchers have thought that the pain reported by fibromyalgia patients was the result of depression rather than symptoms of a disorder. This study strongly refutes that belief.

According to the lead researcher, “Interestingly, we found that these functional abnormalities were independent of anxiety and depression status.”

This study also gives researchers a diagnostic tool to help predict a fibro patient’s response to a specific treatment and evaluate brain-processing recovery during follow-up.

“Fibromyalgia may be related to a global dysfunction of cerebral pain-processing,” Guedj added.

“This study demonstrates that these patients exhibit modifications of brain perfusion not found in healthy subjects and reinforces the idea that fibromyalgia is a ‘real disease/disorder.‘”

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What This Means For Fibromyalgia Patients

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This research does 3 important things for fibromyalgia patients:

  1. It gives legitimacy to their condition. No longer will family doctors, friends, family, employers, etc.. be able to tell fibro sufferers that their pain is not real, that it’s all in their heads.
  2. It gives researchers a tool to test treatment modalities.
  3. And now that they ‘know’ which areas of the brain are affected and how they are affected, they should be able to chart out a more direct route to a cure…or at least a treatment.

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5 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia: A New Test Leads To A Cause And Maybe A Cure

  1. I recently attended a meeting of the UK’s Fibromyalgia Association – all it takes is meeting these people to realize that the pain they experience is real. This is good news for them, I only hope that it gets the news coverage it deserves.

  2. I just wrote up a summary of this study for a news site I freelance for and found it very interesting. I am glad that it shows fibromyalgia is a “real” disease – I have several friends who have it.

  3. This is more good news!!
    I have suffered from fibromyalgia for over 5 years and had a hard time finding out why I was suffering and then getting a doctor to care after I was diagnosed. I had some friends and acquaintances who did not, or do not, understand and because of all the negative attention the disease has received it is hard for someone who suffers to deal with it. So many ads that claim you just need a different diet, vitamin or claim it is all in your head.

    This is great news for sufferers. If they work together with the information they’ve found here in the US; I believe they should be able to eventually help more people.

    Here is a TEST for fibromyalgia that has been imporved in many other countries but still waiting for FDA approval in the US.

    http://www.autoimmune.com/FibromTest.html

    I think together with the study above and this study they may be able to come to some conclusion of cause or treatment soon.

  4. I am writing to you from the Pacific Northwest Foundation about a case study that may be of interest to your concerns regarding fibromyalgia. While this was not a study undertaken by the Foundation, it was a case with which we have had access to in virtually every detail. This includes the chart notes (with the patient’s approval) as well as the observations and insights of the patient’s health care provider.

    The case involves an adult female who had been disabled for eight years with diagnosed fibromyalgia. Within four months of treatment, she was able to backpack, regularly work a full day and have little or no pain.

    As with all our studies, it is our hope to stimulate additional efforts to determine if these results were an aberration or have wider implications. To this end, we wanted to make you aware of the cast study (which can be found online at http://pnf.org/html/fibromyalgia.html), in the hope that it might prove useful as a starting point for research within your organization.

    Thanks and kind regards,

    Frank Cook
    Pacific Northwest Foundation

  5. Don’t get your hopes up that this will change alot of peoples minds. Why?, look at other links to this, what do several of them say?, If we want to get better all we have to do is exercise, now as a fibro suffer, as well as arthritis, and other issues(basically my body hates me and has launched nuclear war) I know exercise does help some(I do stretches, with a combo of easy beginning yoga and ti-chi) it is definitely not a cure all as one article suggests, and if you push I you can end up worse, But the problem with people including docs, is they will only believe what they chose to, if they don’t want to understand you will say just exercise everything will be fine, so again it’s on us, others and they probably already do, will understand us and know that no 2 people are the same, and will encourage us. For me the biggest effect of this article is so that I don’t have question myself, I usually don’t but well with negativity sometimes from docs I do.

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