Fibromyalgia understood: Sensitive receptors generate excessive pain

Brain scans puts to rest talk of 'all in the mind'. Photo: wiki commons (public domain)

WASHINGTONNovember 3, 2013 — Studies conducted at Georgetown University and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by Daniel Clauw M.D. and Richard Gracely M.D. and supported by the National Fibromyalgia Research Association, the U.S. Army and NIH have revealed via advanced brain imaging that fibromyalgia is rooted in physical source and not generated by psychological issues.

Advanced technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) clearly shows brain blood flow and neurological changes during painful episodes that affect victims of the disorder.

SEE RELATED: Fibromyalgia pain: Resetting the hypothalamus with diet, sleep, excercise

fMRI reveals blood activity measuring oxygen rich and oxygen poor flow as a basic measure and showcases the effect of the brains neurobiology at the precise moment pain from FM occurs and provides a roadmap of areas most and least active during the period of time FM pain strikes .

An article of this study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism-the American College of Rheumatology, states the a pathological process makes FM sufferers sensitive to even minor pain signals that are neurobiologically amplified.

The article states that the medical fraternity has discounted FM as physical in source because there was no known specific, identifiable biological cause so the symptoms were chalked up as a psychological disorder, but Dr. Clauw emphasizes the neuroimaging gives “A unique opportunity to look at the neurobiology underlying tenderness.”

This study used a measurable source of pressure on the hands of FM and non-FM control subjects by applying mild pressure on subject’s hands and using the fMRI for a 10 minute scan as pressure was applied. Those with FM had brain scans light up when blood flow instantly and substantially increased in the pain receptor areas in the same manner as the scan would show a physical injury occurring under similar circumstances. The changes were identified in 12 areas of the brain with FM subjects but only two areas of the brain lit up with no significant discomfort reported by non-FM control subjects.

SEE RELATED: Fibromyalgia: Drs. Rice and Albrecht help those who suffer

The fMRI proves FM victims as hypersensitive to pain signals and suffer pain generated by events that would normally not affect those without FM.

The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research reports ongoing studies by Dr. Clauw and a team of collective researchers from the Department of Anesthesiology, Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, Ann Harbor, the Department of Women’s Health research Program at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the Chronic Pain Management Program at Kaiser Permanente.

In concert with Dr. Cluaw is University of Michigan Rheumatologist Dr. Leslie Arnold who claim that up to 75 percent of people with FM are misdiagnosed yet in more recent years, this figure is improving.

Dr. Clauw’s research team has determined FM as a disorder of pain processing with evidence suggesting both ascending and descending pain pathways operate abnormally analogous to a “volume control setting” set way too high. Patients also exhibit alterations in levels of neurotransmitters that cause augmented central nervous system pain processing and levels of several neurotransmitters that facilitate the transmission of pain that are elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid and the brain.

SEE RELATED: Fixing fibromyalgia pain: Relief found in REM sleep

The understanding of FM is considered “no longer poorly understood” as are the resulting related issues such as chronic pain states, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic sleep disorders chronic related disease, headaches, fatigue, stiffness, osteoarthritis, depression and other gastrointestinal problems.

This information combined with the recent release of research results from Dr.’s Frank Rice and P.J. Albrecht at Integrated Tissue Dynamics which explains blocked AV shunts and capillary dysfunction creating variances in body temperature and peripheral nerve association to central nerve pain should assuage concerns and put to rest suspicions of the medical and legal fraternities, FM victim’s families, and friends once and for all that FM is not only physical in source but in the realm of rheumatoid diseases, second only to osteoarthritis.


Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and psychotherapist

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Paul R. Mountjoy

Paul Mountjoy is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science

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