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.”


  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.

  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.

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