Medical Breakthroughs: Fibromyalgia Pain Relief

Monday, November 29th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Background:Fibromyalgia is a chronic invisible condition that has been around for years. William Balfour, a surgeon at the University of Edinburgh, described it in the early 1800’s. For many years, it was called different names, including chronic rheumatism, myalgia and fibrositis. In 1987, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized fibromyalgia as a true illness and a major cause of disability. It affects an estimated six million Americans, mostly women.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic, non-degenerative, non-progressive, noninflammatory, truly systemic pain condition. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome, which means it is a specific set of signs and symptoms that occur together. Laboratory tests for fibromyalgia are only used to rule out other conditions. There is no blood test that can accurately identify fibromyalgia. To be diagnosed with the condition, a person must have “tender points” in all four quadrants of the body: the upper right and left and lower right and left parts of the body. Patients must have widespread pain for at least three months before they are diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Symptoms:The American College of Rheumatology has defined 18 tender points on the body that are characteristic of the illness. Besides stiffness, symptoms include:
 Muscle aches
 Tiredness
 Tingling sensations
 Poor sleep patterns

Treatment:There are some medications that seem to ease the pain. Relaxation techniques are also used as well as antidepressants in some cases. Regular exercise has also been shown to be of benefit, including stretching exercises.

New Study:Researchers at the Ohio University Medical Center in Columbus are studying a new drug pregabalin. They want to determine whether it can alleviate pain associated with fibromyalgia. Kevin Hackshaw, M.D., a rheumatologist and lead investigator in the study, says the drug works differently than other pain relievers. “This medication is part of a newly developed family of drugs that interrupts a chemical process that has been specifically linked to fibromyalgia-related pain,” said Dr. Hackshaw.

Unlike other medications for fibromyalgia, which focus on the brain chemical serotoin, pregabalin targets pain pathways in the spinal cord brain connection. This drug is currently experimental. It’s also being tested on arthritis.

For more information, contact:
Debbie Roller
Research Secretary
The Ohio State University
480 West 9th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 293-3771