Doctor Looks To Brain For Answer To Fibromyalgia

Low-Pressure Stimulus Shows High Rating Of Pain In Patients

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that can be tough to treat. There is no known cause and it is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic several other problems, experts say. Now doctors are discovering new clues to unravel the mystery of the life-altering illness.

By all accounts, Shari Ferbert appears healthy on the outside. But she suffers from an illness that constantly pummels her body on the inside.

“It’s chronic pain, every minute, every day,” said Ferbert.

Even worse than the pain is the response she gets from doctors.

“They just don’t understand it. They don’t understand the symptoms of it,” said Ferbert.

To learn more about how fibromyalgia pain is processed, Dr. Daniel Clauw, of the University of Michigan, looked at blood flow in the brain.

“In many cases, people will see an average of six to eight physicians before they are ultimately diagnosed with fibromyalgia,” Clauw said. “The abnormality in pain processing and fibromyalgia is somewhere between the spinal cord and the brain.”

Fibromyalgia patients and healthy subjects were given a brain scan, while a device applied fast-pulsing pressure to their thumbs.

“When we gave the fibromyalgia patients a low-pressure stimulus, they had a high rating of pain. But in the controls, it was barely detectable,” said Clauw.

Clauw believed this proved that even mild touch, which wouldn’t faze most people, is perceived as very painful in the brain of a fibromyalgia patient.

“Fibromyalgia patients have the volume control turned up too loud on the pain-processing areas of their brain,” said Clauw.

Fibromyalgia is often treated with antidepressants. But doctors say more targeted drug therapies may soon be available.

In the meantime, exercise, good nutrition, and relaxation techniques may also help ease the pain, Clauw suggests.

Source: The Boston Channel (www.thebostonchannel.com)

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