Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a debilitating condition that causes chronic muscle pain. Those with FMS find it very hard to complete even everyday tasks and it can be a painful proposition to raise a family, enjoy a relationship, or hold down a job. Though every day, more and more proof comes to light showing that FMS is a disease process, there are many doctors and laymen who believe that FMS is all in the head, and not a “real” medical condition. Now, a new study has added one more bit of proof to persuade the naysayers.
Researchers at Louisiana State University have found that the widespread body pain of fibromyalgia sufferers is linked to certain unique metabolite differences. The study has been published in The Journal of Pain.
The scientists looked at 16 fibromyalgia patients to determine how metabolite dysfunction in the hippocampus region of the brain might be affected by the pain of fibromyalgia. Researchers already know that the state of the hippocampus has an intimate relationship with stress and stress-related disorders. As with so many other medical conditions, those with fibromyalgia find that stress exacerbates their symptoms. The connection between stress and fibromyalgia is well documented and the onset of painful symptoms can often be found to have a direct link to the onset of a stressful event in the life of a patient. Previous studies involving brain imaging have demonstrated that there is a disturbance of the central nervous system when a subject is given pain stimulus.
Because of this link that connects pain, the workings of the hippocampus, stress, and fibromyalgia, the researchers sought to find the definitive differences in the response of the brain to fibromyalgia. In particular, the scientists hoped to ascertain how these differences affected pain perception, fibro-fog, and the body’s ability to regulate the central nervous systems response to stress.
On analyzing the brain scans of the 16 participants in the study, the scientists saw a significant increase in hippocampus activity in response to chronic pain. This excitability of the hippocampus in reaction to chronic pain may be the reason for the magnified sense of pain common to fibromyalgia patients which is known as hyperalgesia.
Scientists believe that the metabolite abnormalities seen in the brains of pre-menopausal fibromyalgia patients gum up the signals in the hippocampus region. This, in turn, serves to block the brain’s ability to activate the regulatory mechanisms in the brain that would help the body cope with stress.
A separate study recently completed in Italy and printed in the American Journal of Neuroradiology, supported the growing body of evidence that suggests the brain is very involved in FM. The purpose of the study was to determine the metabolic alterations in some brain regions processing pain in patients with fibromyalgia.
Twelve patients with fibromyalgia (average age 43.2 years) and twelve healthy control patients, underwent a single session of MRS (magnetic resonance spectroscopy) on a 3T MRI. The data were collected and used to evaluate differences of brain metabolites between both groups. The findings indicated elevated levels of glutamate and creatine in brain which strengthens the opinion that underlying the pain processing of fibromyalgia sufferers is a complex neurophysiologic imbalance in different brain areas.
This information, along with other more recent studies, is shedding some much needed light on the subject of fibromyalgia, its causes and physiological responses. Also, the new information helps in diagnosing this elusive syndrome. Better pharmaceuticals and other types of treatments can be developed as well, making life for the FMS sufferer easier.