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Recent Fibromyalgia Findings

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Source: The Science & Research of CFS, The CFIDS Chronicle Special Issue, 2005-2006. Just released, this issue is generating huge buzz in the CFS community. Copies are available through the CFIDS Association’s website at www.cfids.org for $12 each. Visit http://www.cfids.org/special/default.asp to browse a complete listing of articles, including links to several online samples. Source: Special Issue: The Science & Research of CFS, The CFIDS Chronicle, 2005-2006 Issue. A publication of the CFIDS Association of America.

Although there are some immunological aberrations in FM, including a decreased number of natural killer cells, most researchers now believe that the illness is not an immune system disorder. “Essentially, there is nothing specifically immunological in fibromyalgia – and if there is, whatever little there is, I think it is secondary to the central nervous system problem that fibromyalgia patients have,” says Dr. Muhammad Yunas. “It’s a chronic, neurologic disease.”

Numerous research studies have found biologic abnormalities in FM patients, and it’s increasingly uncommon to hear physicians suggest the illness is all in your head. “There was a time when we thought fibromyalgia was psychosomatic. We now understand the pain in fibromyalgia is caused by an abnormality in the central nervous system in which pain sensations are amplified,” explains Dr. Robert Bennett, an FM expert at Oregon Health Sciences University.

This “central sensitization theory” is described in detail in the August 2005 issue of the Journal of Rheumatology. Basically, the theory is that fibromyalgia results from miscommunication among nerve impulses in the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord – causing FM patients to feel intense pain when they should only feel mild discomfort or fatigue.

Recent investigations found multiple triggers for this amped-up response to pain. For instance, FM patients have three to four times higher levels than normal of substance P, a central nervous system neurotransmitter involved in pain processing. Researchers also found lower levels of substances that diminish pain sensation, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Dr. Daniel Clauw, the director of the Center for the Advancement of Clinical Research at the University of Michigan, says, “The pain of fibromyalgia is not occurring because of some injury or inflammation of the muscles or joints. There is something wrong with the way the central nervous system is processing pain from the peripheral tissues. It’s overamplifying the pain.”

Pharmaceutical companies are now interested in developing drug treatments base on the new research.

Reprinted with kind permission of the CFIDS Association of America, that nation’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Online at www.cfids.org.

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