New information on fibromyalgia
People who suffer from fibromyalgia know something is not right, even
though they appear fine otherwise. This painful condition is not well
understood, making it that much more difficult to diagnosis and treat.
New research offers a better understanding of the disorder and may
provide doctors with a way to diagnose the condition and monitor treatment.
Fibromyalgia causes mild to severe pain in the joints, tendons, and
muscles of the body. Other symptoms may include fatigue and disrupted
sleep. Fibromyalgia can last indefinitely, but does not seem to progress
or affect survival. Although the condition is traditionally classified
as a rheumatic disease, researchers believe fibromyalgia has its roots
in the nervous system. This idea is supported by the results of a study
published in the May 2003 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism.
The study involved sensory testing of 85 individuals suffering from
fibromyalgia and 40 healthy volunteers. Using testing of the pain reflex,
various temperatures, mechanical pressure, and electrical stimuli, the
researchers discovered that patients with fibromyalgia have highly excitable
pain centers in their nervous systems compared to healthy individuals.
This translates to higher pain sensitivity and lower tolerance for pain
than the average person. A simple pinprick may be excruciatingly painful
for someone with fibromyalgia.
The results also suggest measurement of the pain reflex may be one way
to determine which patients would benefit from painkillers that target
the central nervous system, such as antidepressants. A low dose of the
antidepressant amitriptyline (Elavil) is already known to be effective
at diminishing the pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Besides the possible use of antidepressants to combat the pain, a number
of other strategies are effective at alleviating the pain. These include
pain relief medications including acetaminophen, aspirin, and nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs. Doctors recommend low-impact exercise, such
as walking, swimming, and cycling, as well as stretching to ease stiffness.
Good sleep habits are also important to ensure the body has time to rest.
September 2003 Update
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