Fibromyalgia is a condition that is defined broadly by an onset of pain throughout the body. It can carry with it symptoms such as fatigue, cognitive issues, anxiety, and poor balance. Around ten million people in the United States are affected by fibro, so it is definitely a problem that is starting to get more attention in the scientific community. Treating it, however, remains somewhat of a mystery, which is why researchers are actively looking for a treatment for fibromyalgia.
Treatment for fibromyalgia – New research
1. Hyberbaric hope for fibro
Fibromyalgia is much more prevalent in women than in men. Women make up 90% of those who are diagnosed with this condition. A study completed on 48 women at Rice University and institutions in Israel found that a hyperbaric oxygen chamber could be the key to relieving the pain of fibro.
A hyperbaric chamber is an enclosed room that exposes those inside to pure oxygen at higher rates than atmospheric pressure. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) increases the flow of oxygen in your bloodstream to promote healing in the cells of your body. This device is commonly used to treat many other conditions, like gangrene and burns.
Every participant that finished this two-month experiment showed marked improvement in their fibro condition. This was verified by before and after brain scans and advanced the theory that fibromyalgia is a condition that is caused by anomalies in the pain-related areas of the brain.
Dr. Shai Efrati, lead author stated:
“The results are of significant importance since, unlike the current treatments offered for fibromyalgia patients, HBOT is not aiming for just symptomatic improvement. HBOT is aiming for the actual cause — the brain pathology responsible for the syndrome. It means that brain repair, including even neuronal regeneration, is possible even for chronic, long-lasting pain syndromes, and we can and should aim for that in any future treatment development.”
2. Tailored acupuncture
New research has shown that acupuncture that is tailored on the individual level can have great pain relieving effects for those with fibromyalgia, and can last at least a year. The experiment consisted of 153 adults who were provided with either tailored or sham acupuncture in nine weekly sessions lasting for 20 minutes each. All patients remained on their current medications during the trial and side effects were rare and mild.
Patients were asked to evaluate their pain levels, as well as depression and quality of life, before and after the trial. After the ten weeks, the perceived pain levels were greatly reduced in those receiving the real acupuncture treatments by an average decrease of 41%. Other symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety also showed large improvement for those receiving actual acupuncture treatments.
3. Mindfulness meditation
Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have discovered evidence that mindfulness meditation can more effectively combat pain than a placebo. This research was conducted on 75 pain-free patients split into various groups and used a heating probe to simulate pain. The pain was evaluated using brain scans and self-reporting from the participants.
The mindful meditation group reported that their pain intensity was reduced by more than double that of the placebo group. Furthermore, the MRI scans showed that the mindfulness meditation altered brain patterns in a unique way that was not present in the placebo group. Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy says:
“This study is the first to show that mindfulness meditation is mechanistically distinct and produces pain relief above and beyond the analgesic effects seen with either placebo cream or sham meditation.”
4. Vibration exercise
Regular exercise is one of the best therapies for fibromyalgia patients, but the pain produced from this condition can be make this option unappealing. A new alternative has been put forward by researchers from Indiana University called vibration exercise that can be used to reduce pain symptoms for those with fibromyalgia.
Vibration exercise involves a patient standing, kneeling, or laying on a vibrating platform, which stimulates the muscles making them contract and relax. This can have some great benefits, such as increasing bone density and circulation as well as strengthening muscles.
Tony Kaleth, associate professor in the School of Physical Education and Tourism says of this treatment for fibromyalgia:
“Vibration training is increasingly being studied in clinical populations as a potential therapeutic mode of exercise training. Although the results are largely equivocal and in need of further study, studies have reported improvements in strength, muscle spasticity and pain in select populations.”
5. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
Fibromyalgia is most notably known for causing widespread pain, although it does have other symptoms such as fatigue, interrupted sleep, numbness, and depression. According to French researchers, a technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation can be used on patients to improve these non-pain symptoms by correcting certain anomalies in the human brain found in pain patients.
A study was conducted with 38 people who had fibromyalgia pain for 14 sessions over a ten-week period. Patients wore a hat lined with electrodes, which could send targeted electric charges to the brain in the hopes of altering these areas. The participants were broken into two separate groups, one receiving the real repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and the other a sham stimulation.
Those receiving the real rTMS treatment showed an increase in quality of life revolving around more joy, better work performance, increased social activity, and engaging in more hobbies and interests as well as a decrease in anxiety, anger, and sadness. Those in the sham group actually had a slight decrease in their quality of life scoring. The researchers note that though they did find an association between the treatment for fibromyalgia and quality of life, more research needs to be done as it did not prove a cause and effect link.
Which of these new treatment for fibromyalgia options would you like to try?