In a recent study, researchers found that many patients with fibromyalgia experience neuromuscular hyperexcitability (NMH) — characterized by muscle spasms and the inability to control muscle movement — and this can be associated with poor patient outcomes.
People with fibromyalgia tend to have widespread pain and tender points in the muscles, tendons, and joints. Fibromyalgia symptoms can lead to a negative overall quality of life in patients.
The condition is difficult to diagnose due to its broad spectrum of symptoms and the lack of specific diagnostic tests. Among the possible tests to evaluate fibromyalgia symptoms is electromyography (EMG), which can determine alterations in muscle activity and link them to fibromyalgia muscle pain symptoms.
Besides EMG, the ischaemia-hyperpnea test (IHT) can be used to determine NMH more specifically.
The study, “Ischemia-hyperpnea test is useful to detect patients with fibromyalgia syndrome,” published in the European Journal of Rheumatology, aimed to determine the frequency of muscle spasms in fibromyalgia patients detected through IHT and evaluate its potential as a diagnostic tool.
A total of 145 fibromyalgia patients underwent standard EMG testing to rule out any muscle or nerve damage, and also IHT to assess NMH. Patients were also evaluated for overall quality of life, pain scores, degree of disability, psychological distress, and quality of sleep.
According to the IHT results, the patients were divided into three groups: 62.52% of the patients were positive, 22.76% were negative, and 11.72% were borderline. These results indicate that the majority of fibromyalgia patients suffer from muscle spasms and uncontrolled muscle movements.
When comparing the three groups in relation to clinical fibromyalgia factors, the researchers observed that IHT-positive patients were younger — an average of 52.55 years old compared to 58.76 years old in the IHT-negative group. The IHT-positive patients also presented lower vitality, lower capability to perform social activities, major fatigue, and an overall poor mental quality of life than patients who tested negative by IHT.
“NMH, as defined by positivity at IHT, is present in a majority of our [fibromyalgia] patients and identifies patients in which fibromyalgic symptoms cause a higher distress, leading to [quality of life] impairment,” the researchers wrote in their report.
The team believes that IHT could be a useful tool for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and to identify patients with a poor outcome.