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Fibromyalgia: Pain Inhibition Issues a Key Problem

Fibromyalgia is a complex problem; if it weren't we would surely have a lot more figured out by now. That being said, one thing is for sure--one key problem is that there is a dysfunction in the usual pain inhibition mechanism.

Here is an example:  If I put on an article of clothing that is uncomfortable--such as a piece of underwear that's too might feel uncomfortable at first, but as the minutes to hours go by I become less aware of the discomfort....unless I happen to have fibromyalgia.  In that case, the discomfort is the same at the end of the day as it was when I put that undergarment on in the morning.  Can you imagine? If you have fibromyalgia...yes you can imagine.

A couple of studies have shed some light on our understanding of this problem.  In one study, the authors compared the pain experience of fibromyalgia to people with irritable bowel and also normal individuals.  Somehow the fibromyalgia group was the least able to inhibit the pain.  In a second study, fMRI showed fibromyalgia patients to have reduced connectivity in the area of the brain responsible for pain inhibition.

At this point in time, it is simply suggested that fibromyalgia patients make lifestyle changes that will cause less pain--such as wearing looser fitting clothing and shoes, or anticipating physical activity for the day and using whatever assistive devices will help them to get through it. In this case, more inhibition would be a good thing, but it's just not there!



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