Head case

Imagine knowing, without question, that you’re ill, but your doctor tells you “it’s all in your head.” Your muscles and joints ache throughout your body, you have trouble sleeping, which leads to chronic fatigue, physical weakness, and ultimately to a sense of hopelessness. For many years, this was the dilemma of those with fibromyalgia (FMS) – a disease that even today remains difficult for many physicians to diagnose.

Thanks to a wide range of research over the past decade, those who suffer from FMS have been given new hope as well as more effective treatment options. And now, a new study may revolutionize how the disorder is diagnosed, bringing with it a sense of vindication to any FMS patient whose doctor ever implied that their debilitating health problems were imagined.

Proving the pain 

Ironically, the key to this new FMS diagnosis technique actually IS in the head – or, more specifically, the brain. In an interview with Ivanhoe Newswire released this week, rheumatologist Daniel Clauw, M.D., of the University of Michigan, tells how he studied the blood flow in the brains of FMS patients, compared with the brain blood flow of healthy subjects.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Dr. Clauw observed that the area of the brain that registers pain showed an increase of blood flow when FMS patients were given a low-pressure stimulus. The identical stimulus showed no change in the brains of control group subjects. But when a more intense stimulus was administered to the control group, the blood flow increased in the same way as it had when the FMS group received the low-pressure stimulus. Dr. Clauw says his research finally offers visual proof that FMS patients experience hypersensitivity in the pain processing areas of their brains.

This possible breakthrough in the diagnosis of FMS is much-needed and long overdue. In the interview, Dr. Clauw notes that it’s typical for FMS patients to be examined by a number of different doctors before the accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made. Nevertheless, Dr. Clauw points out that his research may not lead to a widespread use of his MRI technique – and doesn’t necessarily need to. Now that he’s demonstrated that FMS patients are experiencing genuine pain, he feels it’s enough for doctors to simply listen to their patients. As he puts it, “When they tell you they’re tender, they’re tender.”

Borrowing from motherhood 

After a fibromyalgia diagnosis is made, the question of treatment is almost as problematic as recognizing the disorder. How do you treat aching and burning sensations that may vary in location and intensity from day to day? Inevitably, many attempts to manage the disease have only masked the symptoms with prescription drugs and Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS).

At HSI we’ve written many times about the special challenges of treating fibromyalgia. In an e-Alert we sent you last spring (“The Last Sighting” 4/16/02), we told you about an FMS treatment called relaxin. This naturally occurring hormone is best known for its role during pregnancy. Since the 1930s, scientists have been aware of how relaxin softens the tissues of the birth canal, promotes cell proliferation to help the uterus grow, and allows ligaments and other connective tissues to elongate. Relaxin transforms the pregnant woman’s body to accommodate its changing needs.

After realizing that women typically experience relief from fibromyalgia and other pain disorders during pregnancy, scientists hypothesized that the relaxin hormone may be responsible, since its production quadruples during pregnancy. To test the theory, they began using it to treat patients suffering from FMS.

Patients treated with relaxin experienced significant and, in many cases, immediate relief. Further studies have shown that it also offers remarkable benefits in fighting age-related diseases, like osteoporosis, and effectively reduces many of the physical signs of aging, like dry skin and hair – with no side effects. And since the relaxin hormone is present in both sexes, research shows it can help men address pain and aging disorders, as well.

Sky BioHealth Solutions, Inc. have developed an oral form of relaxin called Vitalaxin, which can be purchased through Dr. Jonathan Wright’s Tahoma Clinic Dispensary, available online at tahoma-clinic.com.

More options

Another treatment for FMS combines Amazon rainforest herbs into a formula that has been shown to overcome the degenerative effects of both fibromyalgia and lupus. I sent you an e-Alert (“Lupus Sufferer Feels ‘Like a Million Bucks'” 6/19/01) with information about this formula called Myco+, which is reported to have no side effects and doesn’t interfere with other mainstream treatments for either Lupus of FMS. You can find out more about Myco+, at the web site for Raintree Nutrition: rain-tree.com.

And finally, in the HSI Members Alert this past December we told you about a study reported in the British Medical Journal that showed how more than half the FMS patients in a group of 66 reduced their symptoms and experienced less discomfort after a 3-month aerobic exercise program, using a treadmill or stationary bike for one hour, twice a week.

In the U.S. alone there are some 8 million people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Most of them are women, and most of them will experience their symptoms later in life. But unlike FMS patients that have gone before them, those being diagnosed today have a number of effective treatments to choose from, as well as the knowledge that their disorder has come a long way in finally achieving the proper respect of the medical establishment.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson

Health Sciences Institute

“Validating Fibromyalgia: Behind the Pain — Full-Length Doctor’s Interview” Ivanhoe Broadcast News, 2/10/03
“Brain Tests Confirm Fibromyalgia Patients Feel Pain” Ivanhoe Broadcast News, 2/6/03
“Validating Fibromyalgia Part 1: Behind the Pain” Ivanhoe Newswire, 2/3/03
“Validating Fibromyalgia Part 2: More Than Growing Pains” Ivanhoe Newswire, 2/3/03