Tackling Fibromyalgia’s Painless Symptoms

Fibromyalgic depression and other painless disorders lessened with new treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Pain may be the worst symptom of fibromyalgia. But this condition carries additional difficulties, including depression, exhaustion, and problems with sleep.

Patients whose brains were stimulated by a special electromagnetic coil saw a reduction of those symptoms, resulting in improvements to their mood, daily activities and interactions with others, according to a new study.

"Tell your doctor about all of the symptoms you are experiencing."

This study’s lead author was Eric Guedj, MD, PhD, of Aix-Marseille University and National Center for Scientific Research in Marseille, France.

Dr. Guedg’s research team enrolled 38 study participants who were at least 18 years old and had been battling constant pain from fibromyalgia for more than six months. Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes severe aches and tenderness in the muscles and bones, especially those in the neck, shoulders, arms, legs, back and hips.

A total of 19 of the 38 patients in this investigation were randomly assigned to have high-frequency, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of an area of the brain that helps control emotional and mental well-being.

The remaining 19 patients were stimulated with a placebo electromagnetic coil that looked and sounded like the one used in the actual rTMS. The placebo coil did not provide any real therapy.

Both patient groups were treated during 14 sessions spread over 10 weeks at a La Timone University Hospital pain treatment center and nuclear medicine department.

The researchers did positron emission tomography (PET) imaging only on the 19 patients who underwent tRMS to determine if there had been changes in that targeted section of the brain. The PET scans were administered at the start of the study, at the start of the study's second week and at its 11th week.

These researchers administered a questionnaire about whether, during the treatment period, the patients in both groups had experienced any major changes in their emotions, mental state, attendance rates and performance at work and so forth.

At the 11-week mark, these researchers concluded that patients who got rTMS experienced more improvements in their quality of life than those who underwent the fake stimulation. Those in the rTMS group saw improvements in their mood, emotions, work performance, social activities and interactions with others and in how they spent their leisure time, among other areas of their lives.

“About five million Americans experience fibromyalgia, which affects women more often than men,” Dr. Guedj said. “rTMS is a way to alter the excitability of the brain targeted by the device. A treatment such as this may provide a safe and noninvasive complement to pain pills in some people.”

Bradley Nelson, DC, international lecturer in bio-energetic medicine and energy psychology told dailyRx News, "The research showing that fibromyalgia patients benefited from this form of electromagnetic stimulation to the brain points to the importance of bio-magnetic fields in the body. The finding that this resulted in improved quality of life, but not a reduction in pain, also shows the need to get to the underlying causes of fibromyalgia and other illnesses that defy conventional treatments. These causes can vary from patient to patient, but often involve unresolved emotional baggage."

Dr. Nelson continued with, "Today practitioners in many disciplines are coming to understand that trapped emotions from past trauma are a root cause of much of the pain and illness people suffer. In many cases people have reported a dramatic reduction of pain and other symptoms once they are able to fully let go of emotional pain from their past."

The rTMS treatment did not cut the pain these patients experienced, the researchers wrote.

Also, these researchers noted that 38 is a small number of study patients. Similar research on a larger group of patients is needed before these current findings can be confirmed, they added.

This study was published online March 24 in Neurology.

The Marseille Public Hospitals and French National Institute of Health and Medical Research funded this study.

This study’s researchers reported that they had no financial or ethical conflicts of interest related to this study.

Review Date: 
March 24, 2014
Last Updated:
March 31, 2014