By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Widespread research is being carried out in order to find effective treatments for fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a severely debilitating pain condition that affects millions worldwide.
Due to the scepticism attached to the diagnosis of the condition with many physicians still believing it to be psychological, there is great amount of interest in understanding the condition better.
Research aims at developing new interventions at the general practice level that could be utilized by a large number of patients and are inexpensive, convenient and acceptable to such patients.
Research by Arthritis Research UK
Several areas of research by Arthritis Research UK in fibromyalgia include:-
Benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy especially delivered over telephone to reduce office visits
Benefits of gym-based exercise alone or with traditional treatments
Pain mechanisms, biological basis and pathology in fibromyalgia
Development of pharmacological approaches and new drugs in management of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions
Development of deeper understanding of pain perception and pain sensitivity
Latest developments in fibromyalgia treatments
Some of the latest developments in fibromyalgia include:-
Deficiencies of vitamin D in connection with chronic pain
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies have been and still are being studied in causation of fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic myofascial syndrome symptoms.
Recent reports from American Society of Anesthesiologists have found that low blood levels of Vitamin D are associated with pain and muscle weakness. Around one fourths of the chronic pain sufferers have inadequate levels of Vitamin D in the blood.
In fact the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are similar to those of fibromyalgia. While vitamin D deficiency leads to bone pain, fractures, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, sleep problems, depression and gastrointestinal problems; fibromyalgia patients experience pain, fatigue, depression, sleep problems, irritable bowel syndrome etc.
Researchers are exploring this avenue and if successful then supplementing these vitamins may benefit patients with fibromyalgia.
Use of synthetic cannabinoids
Another area of research is the use of synthetic cannabinoids or cannabis derivatives in treatment of fibromyalgia pain.
Cannabis has been used medicinally for thousands of years for treatment of pain. Cannabis was banned in the USA in 1937 and is an illegal class C drug in the UK.
Research shows cannaboids to be effective in relieving muscle spasms, pain, mood disorders such as depression, sleep problems etc.
Research aims at finding use for synthetic cannabinoids in pain conditions like fibromyalgia. Nabilone for example has been studied in fibromyalgia.
Surgical nerve stimulation
A new research area is the use of surgical nerve stimulation in alleviating pain of fibromyalgia. Recent research has shown that electrical simulation via the surgical placement of electrodes could help migraine patients. These are being studied in patients with fibromyalgia as well.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)