Fibromyalgia Patients Exhibit Changes in Cerebral Blood Flow, Study Says

Fibromyalgia Patients Exhibit Changes in Cerebral Blood Flow, Study Says

Fibromyalgia patients may have different cerebral blood flow parameters compared with the general population, according to a recent study. Researchers say these changes could be linked to clinical pain parameters and emotional factors.

The study titled, “Altered cerebral blood flow velocity features in fibromyalgia patients in resting-state conditions,” was published in the journal PLoS One.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, an abnormal pain response from normally non-painful stimuli, and an excessive sensitivity to painful stimuli in many tender points. Several brain areas are activated in response to painful stimuli, and previous studies have shown that the brain networks during rest are altered in patients with chronic pain conditions compared with the general population.

“One of the techniques that has been recently proposed to evaluate the dynamics of brain activation associated to painful stimuli is Transcranial Doppler (TCD) monitoring,” the researchers wrote. “It is a non-invasive ultrasound diagnosis technique that analyzes the [blood flow] variations in the brain by measuring cerebral blood flow velocities (CBFV) in main cerebral vessels.”

The study enrolled 15 women with fibromyalgia and 15 healthy women to investigate whether fibromyalgia is associated with changes in the brain, namely blood flow, during a five-minute, eyes-closed resting period. Researchers analyzed the anterior and middle cerebral arteries of both brain hemispheres in participants.

TCD monitoring showed that women with fibromyalgia presented a higher complexity of the CBFV signal.

Researchers also observed that women with fibromyalgia had significantly higher levels of depressiveness and anxiety than women without fibromyalgia, as well as significantly higher scores of pain intensity. CBFV changes were found to have a significant association with clinical pain parameters and emotional factors.

“All the obtained results are in accordance with previous studies that have demonstrated the relationship between negative emotional factors and activation of brain areas that are related to pain. Therefore, our results would confirm that the complexity and the frequency features of CBFV are linked with other factors such as the depression levels, the state and trait anxiety, and pain indicators of the participants,” researchers wrote.

Nonetheless, given the study’s limited number of participants and the fact that they were all women, the team emphasized that “the results should be confirmed with a large population of different age ranges and ethnicities, making possible to analyze the influence on the results of other related factors.”

12 comments

  1. Thank you so much for your post. It makes sense to me,however,I would like to know,if there is anything we can do about it ? There are so many studies out there, but not much in the way of help.So many of us suffer with this invisible illness.It takes a toll on us both mentally and physically.We are not believed,and labeled because we look”normal”.No wonder we get depressed !! As they say: “walk a mile in our shoes”.Take care everyone.Hoping for a low pain day.

  2. How could I be entered into such a study? Technically I have not been diagnosed by the lab test, but I certainly have lots of the symptoms. Cymbalta (& “kratom”) helps. (Just be aware of what kratom is…). I live in Northern California.

    • Tim Bossie says:

      Hi Richard, it definitely is a journey to get a diagnosis of fibro. We are not sure if you would be able to participate in this type of trial, but you can certainly ask your doctor about it.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I suffer with fibromyalgia and m.e. And have very bad depression to the point where my own doctors know if it was for my children I wouldn’t be here. My mood is so low that I’m currently taking 2 antidepressants, I have quite bad anxiety at times to.

  3. Bonnie Marshall says:

    From Canada..
    I have been suffering with FYBROMYALGIA for over 26 years. I can tell you, it does not get any better as you age. This is a myth..Dr. likes to brainwash you in thinking this so they are off the hook for not finding something to REALLY HELP. I have tried everything that is available and still in the 9+-10 level of PAIN..FYBRO also effects the blood pressure. Mine is a little low 90/63. Maybe this will help someone because it made me feel better just to make my voice heard. Thanks

  4. Melissa says:

    This is very interesting. I am concerned when Fibromyalgia studies focus at least to some extent on anxiety and depression. I had neither and was very high functioning both physically and mentally before Fibromyalgia and my chronic intractable migraines. In terms of anxiety – any time you take a group of people who very likely have been poked and prodded, have had to fight insurance companies, have struggled to fight good doctors, you can pretty much bet they’ll show anxiety in any sort of test. My blood pressure is taken twice at my GP and is always elevated before the exam begins. I trust my GP yet I’m still extremely anxious there. Furthermore, when you live with chronic pain, it would be difficult not to develop anxiety – your mind racing, putting 2 and 2 together as you think about coming pain fluctuations.

    As for depression: any one who loses so much of their life, who gets very little restorative sleep,for whom medication after medication failed to help or created unbearable side effects would be hard pressed to avoid clinical depression.

    I do understand that depression and anxiety play a role in pain perception. But, I hope researchers are looking more at them as an effect rather than as a cause. I also hope that chronic sleep deprivation or at least chronic loss of restorative sleep is factored into our pain threshold and that the cause of it with regard to Fibromyalgia is studied and determined. My sleep is partly effected by my medications from the night before wearing off. But, when my pain is controlled, I still fail to get sufficient restorative sleep.

    I’d like to see this study expanded. I can imagine that REM sleep issues and chronic pain must play a measurable role with changes in the brain and likely the entire nervous system.

    I’d love for a real treatment to be developed that could tackle the source of Fibromyalgia…if there is a ‘switch’ that gets flipped in the brain to activate Fibro, perhaps there will be a way to switch it back off. And I’d love to someday know the root of it, be it a viral or bacterial infection that might remain dormant until a trauma occurs or anything else.

    Lastly, I’d love for researchers to speak to patients. Many of us have had years of this illness and likely have relatives with it as well. We’ve spoken with many other patients and we’ve compared medical histories to see what we might have in common.

  5. Sharon says:

    The only way my fibromyalgia symptoms disappeared was by taking gueinfensin and going on a low carbohydrate diet. I not only lost 40kgs but have been 98 percent pain free.

  6. Terri says:

    I’m going to have to quibble with this part, “Researchers also observed that women with fibromyalgia had significantly higher levels of depressiveness and anxiety than women without fibromyalgia…”

    It’s the pain I suffer that makes me depressed and anxious in the first place. This assumption that somehow depression and anxiety came first and then the fibro came second really makes me angry.

    Chicken/egg argument, but I know which came first for me. When you, as a 15 year old, avoid hugs because it hurts too much, it’s not depression. Taking anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs doesn’t resolve the pain.

    • Bonnie Marshall says:

      I agree Terri. We can’t enjoy the expressions of love from our partners. The pain is always there. They don’t understand. How could anyone that doesn’t have fibro understand? Your family gets tired of hearing about it. So does your friends,(if you are lucky enough to have them)They can’t understand what they can’t feel. I sometimes think that the Dr. don’t really understand. No fault of their own. They do not have Fibro. The pain is so bad that you get depressed, this is not fake mews. You cry the silent cry in a place where no one can see. You can’t explain it. It takes your quality of life away. Why is there not more research?

  7. Stacy says:

    I started at 30 with carpal tunnel surgery that didn’t work the first time. I always got migraines and had a bad car accident so I had trouble with my neck and back all the time. After my second carpal tunnel my neck got unbearable. I had two herniated disc. I couldn’t even lift my head off the pillow it would just bang. So I had to get surgery. That and the pain went from my hand to my neck. After surgery I was still in pain I was told I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. That was a horrible surgery to recovery from(scars aren’t pretty either). The pain was still there but the surgeries did relieve a little. I got depressed I couldn’t sleep. Im married and have three children I still have to take care of while going thru this HELL. I gained a lot of weight because the meds. My hand was really bothering me again so I ended up having surgery #3 and it helped for a little while. I went to so many different doctors and spent so much money we didn’t have. To still be miserable and in pain. I miss my life I miss me! I’ll never be that person again! After the neck surgery I couldn’t work anymore. I had filed for disability and was denied. The second time after going to beg for it I did get it. My husband is such an amazing man he has stood by me even when he shouldn’t have. My two oldest children think it’s a joke. I lost all my friends they don’t understand they think I’m lazy. Most of my family don’t understand they think I’m a hypercondriact. There are days I can’t get out of bed and days I make myself! I was so depressed I tried to kill myself twice. Pain takes over your life.

  8. Judy in RI says:

    Wondering if any studies correlate Fibro with white matter brain lesions. The latter are usually seen as a result of ‘mini strokes’. I was diagnosed with the white matter lesions when I received a CAT scan after a concussion. My doctor could not tell me if any relation to Fibro. I have no symptoms of mini strokes, such as dementia, etc. My doc could also not tell me if this condition is progressive, or how to reverse it. Apparently lots of folks have it but little is known about it….
    I also want to report that I have recently been forcing myself to drink 8 glasses of water a day (64 ounces). I do not like water, but someone gave me a tip of drinking it with a straw. Goes down very quickly, and over the course of a long day is quite easy to do. I have found my energy has increased noticeably when I get my daily dose of water. So maybe some of my fatigue was due to dehydration. Give it a try if you think you might not be drinking very much. Does not take much to become dehydrated, esp. as we get older…..

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