By Paul Mountjoy (Twitter: @PaulMountjoy) WASHINGTON, January 14, 2013 — Is there a cure for the pain and suffering of fibromyalgia? The National Biotechnology Information Center (NBIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently released the findings of research funded by grants from Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals and Forest Laboratories that claim to have discovered a causative pathology (the science of cause and effect) for fibromyalgia.
The cause of the disease escaped researchers for years. In fact, the condition was considered by many in the field of medicine as psychosomatic (in the mind) because of the variety of symptoms that could not be clinically pinned down and patient reporting was the primary criteria. Dr. Frank Rice writes of findings at Integrated Tissue Dynamics that has made a major discovery of the cause of fibromyalgia, making diagnosis more certain and explaining the multitude of varied symptoms and effect.
Research has identified alterations in our core body temperature is a culprit, as our blood acts as a coolant in much the same fashion water does in the radiator of a car. Our major organs and active muscles require a constant temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit but sufferers cannot maintain a steady temperature. If we lose too much heat (hypothermia) or gain too much heat (hyperthermia), our body’s primary thermostat, the hypothalamus, struggles to maintain balance. Our blood is the means by which our body and brain get nutrients, oxygen and takes away waste and blood flow is disrupted. When we use our muscles, particularly the hands and feet, blood flows between the skin and muscles and must be kept in balance. We have internal thermostat controls distant from the hypothalamus called aterio-venous shunts or AV shunts that act as valves between arterioles or veins that supply the good stuff and venules which carry away waste. Much as the body as a whole, these must be in synch for homeostasis.
Now it has been discovered when the AV shunt is defective in function and interferes with capillary function, muscle and skin tissue cannot get proper nutrition or waste drawn away. Additionally, temperature regulation becomes an issue affecting nerve fibers.
One result is a build-up of lactic acid in muscle and deeper tissue affecting the muscular system and causes pain that can seem to ‘travel’ from areas of the body one day to the next and cause fatigue, commonly reported from victims of fibromyalgia. The sympathetic nervous system which uses the spinal cord for communication and the sensory fibers or nerve fibers that carry signals to the central nervous system, can have their communication disrupted by the results of AV shunt disorder and hypersensitized nerves send pain signals that can ‘travel’ as well.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine featured this research on its front cover accompanied by a laudatory editorial from Robert Gerwin of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. To date, the research is confined to women since women seem to suffer from fibromyalgia in greater numbers than men. According to this research, fibromyalgia has pathology and is not psychosomatic so those who suffer from this ‘syndrome’ can now rest assured it is not all in their minds.
Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and psychotherapist.
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