Fibromyalgia (FM) and Central Nervous System Problems

  • By : Admin
  • Category : Fibromyalgia
Do you hurt all over, frequently feel exhausted, can’t seem to ever feel “rested” after a night’s sleep, don’t respond to any of the recommended medications from your family physician, and no test seems to uncover anything specific? If this sounds like you, it is possible that you are suffering from fibromyalgia (FM). FM is a chronic/long-term condition including generalized pain in the muscles and joints, usually on both sides of the body above and below the waist, with associated “tender points” where moderate to firm pressure causes pain classically in the following locations (but anywhere is possible):

  • Back of the head
  • Between shoulder blades
  • Top of shoulders
  • Front sides of neck
  • Upper chest
  • Outer elbows
  • Upper hips
  • Sides of hips
  • Inner knees


In fact, a generalized hypersensitivity is common and it seems like you just can’t turn off your brain. It can begin with a physical or an emotional event but doesn’t have to, as it can also seem to come out of nowhere. In the Untied States, about 2% of the population, mostly women and especially with increasing age, are affected by FM. One common underlying clinical finding is non-restoring sleep with frequent interruptions during the night. Sleep disorders that are associated with FM include restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.


One study including 168 FM patients associated fibromyalgia with a disturbance in the central nervous system (CNS). Researcher performed various tests, including an auditory brainstem response (ABR) which tests the cranial nerve that is responsible for our hearing and balance; a test that measures for eye movements primarily when sleeping; and a third test that measures balance functions. The following is a list of the results from the study:


  • 78% of the FM patients complained of dizziness or vertigo. Most of these cases were mild but 4% complained of constant, severe dizziness.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss was found in 15% of the FM patients.
  • 51 of the subjects (30%) had abnormal ABR test findings.
  • 58% had abnormal eye movement tests and 45% had abnormal findings on the balance test.


Some studies also report that similar symptoms associated with whiplash associated disorders (WAD).


Below related Study published by

Foundation of Fibromyalgia Is Altered Central Nervous System, New Study Validates

The central nervous system has been shown to be the “origin of fibromyalgia,” which National Pain Report broke in the news in May.


And now, a new study has taken that finding further.


A German study published this week in BMC Neurology investigated central nervous system involvement in fibromyalgia sufferers by imaging the central nervous system with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) – a fancy neuroimaging technology that offers a relatively non-invasive, safe, and low-cost way to monitor brain activity.

What the researchers discovered is important to the very understanding of the painful disease:  The central nervous system’s processing in people with fibromyalgia is fundamentally altered, AND, there is a clear distinction between fibromyalgia and major depression.


So, while it may be in your head, it’s certainly not all in your head!  And, fibromyalgia is NOT depression, although the two conditions can be present together.


“Based on data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies (a different imaging technology than fNIRS), we hypothesized that pain associated cortical activation in FMS patients is stronger and has a wider spatial distribution compared to controls that can be detected with fNIRS,” the study authors wrote. “To test this hypothesis we performed fNIRS under painful stimulation in groups of patients with fibromyalgia, unipolar major depression without pain, and healthy controls.”


“Our study adds to the growing evidence of an augmented cerebral activation upon painful stimulation as one contributor to pain in fibromyalgia,” the researchers said. “Additionally, clear differences in cortical activation during a cognitive task could be observed between patients suffering from fibromyalgia and major depression.”


Highlights from the new study include:


  • Patients with fibromyalgia have lower pressure pain thresholds and report on higher pain intensities
  • Fibromyalgia patients show bilateral cerebral activation upon unilateral painful stimulation
  • At-threshold pain stimulation induces cerebral activation only in fibromyalgia patients
  • Cognitive performance is not different between fibromyalgia patients and controls, while prefrontal activation is distinct between patients with fibromyalgia and depression
  • Fibromyalgia patients with lower cortical activation perform better in the VFT than those with high cortical activation


The authors concluded, “The major contribution of our explorative study is that fNIRS, as an easy-to-apply, new imaging technique without side effects, is suitable to investigate pain-associated cortical activity. Furthermore, fibromyalgia patients show a cortical activation pattern upon painful stimulation that is distinct from healthy controls and especially from patients with depression. This strengthens the notion that fibromyalgia is an independent entity rather than being a mere variant of depression.”


These exciting new research findings show increased promise for a better understanding of fibromyalgia’s core foundation, as well as its distinct difference from conditions it is often confused with, like depression.


This and other newly published studies, coupled with the news National Pain Report broke about fibromyalgia getting its own reimbursement code, gives us a good feeling about the changing public opinion about fibromyalgia – and National Pain Report is working hard to advance this ball.


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