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The Why and the Way Fibromyalgia Studies are Important to You

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Reprinted with the kind permission of Celeste Cooper

To get a better understanding of fibromyalgia and the disorders that cluster with it, we need to study them side by side so any trends are exposed. Also important is screening for the presence of myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) to assure the participant pool has been identified correctly, because MPS is known as the great imitator.
It’s Not Just Fibro

Many pain disorders have centralization effects, probably most, so while looking at centralization in fibromyalgia; we may need to be more diverse in our thinking.

Dr. Robert Bennett and his team found that fibromyalgia is often accompanied by another pain disorder. Therefore, while we do experience body-wide pain not directly related to injury or peripheral disease (which indicates centralization-involvement of the brain), and sleep problems, fatigue, and cognitive issues, we also have clustering of disorders. The American College of Rheumatology identifies depression or anxiety, migraine, tension headaches, digestive and bladder problems, pelvic pain, and TMJ. The CDC suggests FM occurs with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and ankylosing spondylitis (AS), and it could have a loose underlying genetic factor. Low back pain syndrome is also considered a disorder of centralization, but chronic low back pain patients do not share a clustering of noted disorders. If we compare the two, it suggests that centralization of pain is not the only factor at play in fibromyalgia. It could be, and is suggested in some studies, that the amplification of pain by the brain (centralization) is not the only central nervous system involvement.

Investigators are doing some interesting work by looking at fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome together because they are often associated. Gene expression might help us understand clustering in a meaningful way. Leaky gut syndrome has been associated with fibromyalgia and a study on ME/CFS and the association and treatment of leaky gut holds some promise. Since these two disorders frequently occur together, this might help us find better treatments. Though the results differ somewhat, studies suggest the need for more research regarding abnormal immune reactions in both FM and ME/CFS (SEID). Interestingly, leaky gut syndrome has been implicated in many autoimmune disorders and in irritable bowel syndrome,  prevalent in fibromyalgia.

Myofascia and Fibromyalgia: Could There Be an Answer to Your Question?

Any time a person tells me their physician cannot explain neuropathy symptoms (numbness, tingling, sensitivity, weakness, cramping, spasms, etc.), I ask them to learn more about myofascial pain syndrome (MPS).  Myofascial trigger points are pain generators in many of the comorbid conditions identified in this article. Rheumatologists are internal medicine doctors and many do not understand MPS, how to assess for it, or what treatments work. However, there are physicians and therapists who do.

You may find an article I did at Health Central from an interview with pain specialist, Dr. Karl Hurst-Wicker quite interesting.   It is a necessary read for anyone who wants to understand the role of centralization and peripheral pain generation in fibromyalgia and other unexplained pain.

It’s time to get it right. When funding by unbiased organizations such as the NIH is at an all time low, we need to make every effort to do it the right way. If you have any of the clustering of symptoms, report them to your doctor and share this blog. Every piece of data counts and so do you.

Resources linked:

American College of Rheumatology, Fibromyalgia

Center for Disease Control, Fibromyalgia

Fasano A., Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases.

Health Central, Fibromyalgia Centralization and Peripheral Myofascial Pain: Interview with Karl Hurst-Wicker, MD

Hyland NP, et. al. Microbiota-host interactions in irritable bowel syndrome: epithelial barrier, immune regulation and brain-gut interactions.

Jacob E, et. al. Gene expression factor analysis to differentiate pathways linked to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression in a diverse patient sample.

Kosek E, et. al. Evidence of different mediators of central inflammation in dysfunctional and inflammatory pain–interleukin-8 in fibromyalgia and interleukin-1 β in rheumatoid arthritis. 

Maes M and Leunis J.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome at

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

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