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The Role of Glutamate in Fibromyalgia and Other Chronic Pain Conditions

The human nervous system uses several different neurotransmitters to send messages throughout the body. The names of some of these compounds are very familiar: serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, dopamine, and acetylcholine may come to mind.  One of the lesser known neurotransmitters is the compound glutamate.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it appears that this lesser known compound may play a role in pain transmission for those who suffer from fibromyalgia, and perhaps other chronic pain conditions.  It is an excitatory neurotransmitter, meaning that it has a stimulant effect on the nervous system. Researchers report that higher than normal levels of glutamate can be correlated with self reports of increased pain.  For those with fibromyalgia, higher levels of glutamate in the brain (on a chronic basis) may contribute to the prolonged chronic pain experience associated with this condition.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that is used in the food industry to enhance flavor. Some health care practitioners believe that avoiding foods that contain MSG may help control a patient's glutamate levels, helping to keep pain in check.

Sources:; University of Michigan School of Medicine; Wikimedia


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