A study published by a team of investigators at the University of Toronto’s Music and Health Research Collaboratory and the Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario presented evidence that the use of low-frequency sound stimulation (LFSS) in clinical management of fibromyalgia (FM) leads to symptom improvement. The study’s findings were published in the journal Pain Research Management, the journal of the Canadian Pain Society.
FM is a chronic condition associated with widespread pain in muscles and joints, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbance, fatigue and even psychological distress. According to the CDC, FM affects approximately 2% to 5% of the US population, predominately women (Female to Male 7:1) and the majority are diagnosed as unknown etiology (cause). Past research has shown that there is a connection with Thalamocortical dysrhythmia (TCD) and FM.
In the human brain, the thalamocortical system consists of neural signals that are continuously firing between the nuclei in the thalamus and neurons in the cortex. These neurons do not idle and are found to always be either at 5 Hz during a resting state or upwards of 500 Hz when activated. In TCD, normal thalamocortical resonance is disrupted by changes in the behavior of neurons in the thalamus that leads to their persistent oscillations at around 5 Hz. The present study uses LFSS to regulate TCD by normalizing the neural oscillatory activity in a sample of FM patients.
The investigators studied a cohort of 19 females who were previously diagnosed with FM without a comparison control group. The cohort was administered 10 treatments (twice per week for five weeks) that involved 23 minutes of LFSS at 40 Hz delivered using transducers while the patients were lying face up in a relaxed position. The researchers repeated measures before and after treatment and surveyed participants using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, Jenkins Sleep Scale (JSS), and Pain Disability Index, while also measuring the ability to sit and stand without pain (in minutes), cervical muscle range of motion (ROM) and muscle tone. Mean percentages were calculated at the end of treatment and included self-reports of improvement on pain, mood, insomnia and activities of daily living (ADLs).
The study’s findings showed that in this cohort of patients the LFSS treatments provided 65% improvement in median pain, mood, ADL and insomnia scores. Patient’s self-assessments of pain and ADL were improved by a median of more than 70%. Just fewer than 90% of patients reported their condition to be much or very much better, and none reported worsening symptoms. The median pre-treatment score of 20 on the JSS was reduced to two, and 73.68% of patients reported using a reduced dose of medication. The length of time patients were able to sit or stand increased, and ROM was improved from 25% at baseline to higher than 75% in nine patients. Only three of 19 patients had ROM lower than 25% after treatment.
Another surprising finding was that two weeks after treatment was concluded, 3 patients reported no symptom recurrence. 68.4% reported recurrence of pain, while sleep disturbances reappeared in 17.8% of the cohort. In those who experienced pain recurrence, median time of onset was 10 days, according to the researchers.
The study presents evidence that LFSS may have a significant effect on the reduction in FM symptoms that impact patients’ daily activities. Although this is a preliminary study with no comparison group, it does add to a body of knowledge about the disease. The researchers believe that a phase 2 or 3 trial is warranted given the potential LFSS may have as a treatment option for FM.