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Migraine, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS

By Celeste Cooper

May was fibromyalgia (FM) and ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) awareness month, and what a month it was! It warmed my heart to see the many campaigns for raising awareness. And now June is upon us, and it’s time to raise awareness for migraine disease and its connection to FM and ME/CFS.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation [1], “Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent and 8th most disabling disease in the world.” Couple that with FM and ME/CFS, and it’s easy to understand why some of us have more difficulty managing our symptoms. I know I am not alone in this conundrum of events. This is immensely comforting in one way and horrific in another. No one would wish any one of these painful conditions on someone else. (If they would, they need to hone some coping skills, maybe see a psychotherapist.)

Migraine, FM and ME/CFS: Show and Tell

It appears that migraine is not alone in frequently intruding on other disorders. Following are some characteristics that have been identified in migraine that have also been noted in FM and ME/CFS.

You can find additional research on my blog [7].

The Myofascial Connection

Not all migraineurs have co-existing conditions such as myofascial pain syndrome, FM or ME/CFS. However, we do know that peripheral pain, such as that from myofascial trigger points [8], does intensify the body-wide tenderness of fibromyalgia and can be a migraine trigger. We also know that myofascial pain is included in the Canadian diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS. So, we must consider myofascial trigger points as possible peripheral triggers to all three disorders.

Terms of Interest

Could CoQ10 Help Migraine, Fibromyalgia, and ME/CFS? 

“In order to understand how CoQ10 works, it is first necessary to understand mitochondria.  Imagine that each cell in your body is a car. Mitochondria are the engines – or energy producers – in each cell that make your “car” run. It is the job of the mitochondria to supply this energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is where CoQ10 comes in. To continue the car analogy, it is the oil that enables the engine to work. [It] is the catalyst that makes it possible for the mitochondria to produce ATP, the molecule upon which all cellular functions in the body depend.”  – Karen Richards, ProHealth  [9]

There have been many studies on oxidative stress, the role of mitochondria, and the possible benefits of CoQ-10. One study [10] suggests mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress play a role in headache symptoms associated with FM and that “CoQ10 supplementation should be examined in a larger placebo controlled trial as a possible treatment in FM.”

Mitochondrial dysfunction may also play a role in the onset of ME/CFS symptoms, e.g. fatigue and post exertional malaise, and may explain in part the central metabolic abnormalities observed in ME/CFS,  according to Morris and Maes, 2014 [11].

In a literature review published in the journal Headache (Markley, 2012 [10]), it was concluded, “Arising from these extensive neurophysiological studies, the treatment of metabolic encephalomyopathies with pharmacological doses of riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 has shown positive benefits.”

Yet, despite the pleas for more research in every study cited in this article, there has been a vast difference in the dates of one study to the next. In fact, it was difficult to find any newer research of similar content on most. We need more research on migraine, FM, ME/CFS, and the role of the central nervous system and cellular metabolism. It could be the key to unlocking the mystery behind many of the associated disorders mentioned here. The prevalence is more than a coincidence. Several common factors need further investigation. It is important that we raise awareness and explore possibilities.

What Can We Do?

We are willing to try an array of different treatments to help us feel better. I don’t want to play Debbie Downer; we do have more information on migraine today than we did a decade ago, for sure, but we need more. So, advocate for awareness by sharing what you learn about migraine, FM, ME/CFS, and other invisible illnesses – this month and every month.

In healing, Celeste

Celeste Cooper, RN, is a frequent contributor to ProHealth.  She is an advocate, writer and published author, and a person living with chronic pain. Celeste is lead author of Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, and Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain (a four book series). She spends her time enjoying her family and the rewards she receives from interacting with nature through her writing and photography. You can learn more about Celeste’s writing, advocacy work, helpful tips, and social network connections at CelesteCooper.com [12].