On Friday’s my blog posts will focus on Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue (FM/CFS). It is an illness that I finally received a diagnosis of in 2010. It is part of my daily life and affects the members of my family so I feel it needs to be something I write about. However, I don’t want to be defined by my illness, so I’ll give it a space on Fridays and that will be it for the week! Please bear with me if you do not suffer from this illness or know someone that does. Just click the little red X in the upper right corner and come back another time for another topic like my year studying joy that I’ll be posting about every Wednesday or the Bucket List for my 44th year I intend to conquer.
This post is going to sound awfully clinical and impersonal but it’s because I’m relaying information discussed at the workshop.
A few weeks ago my husband and I attended a seminar by Dr. Daniel Clauw called CHRONIC PAIN: MAYBE IT’S ALL IN THEIR HEAD. Currently Dr. Clauw is a Professor of Anesthesiology, Medicine (Rheumatology) and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan. He serves as Director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. He joined the faculty at Georgetown University in 1990, and while there, founded the Georgetown Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. He has become an internationally known expert in chronic pain, and especially the central nervous system contributions to chronic pain.
During the workshop he described the three mechanic characterizations of pain. Peripheral damage or inflammation is pain felt by an actual injury, disease such as arthritis or even pain caused by cancer. Neuropathic pain is caused by damaged nerves such as lower back pain. Central pain is pain that is felt by a type of volume control switch in the brain that is turned all the way up. Most chronic pain sufferers have two or all three of these types of pain.
For most people with FM this volume control is set too high for all sensory issues. That leads an individual to possible irritations and pain caused from a number of issues such as loud noises, smells, bright lights, stress, etc. These people feel pain at levels where some people wouldn’t experience any.
A number of functional neuroimaging test have been performed as a way of studying chronic pain. Functional MRIs are allowing doctors to see changes in blood flow with various stimulants such as pressure and heat. Hopefully bringing them closer to finding prescriptions that will help with these brain functions. Currently opioids are given too often to individuals to help with pain, however, those do not affect central pain. Some patients may feel some relief from taking these medications, however, the relief felt would then be from the drugs affecting peripheral damage or inflammation such as arthritis that the individual may not even be aware they have due to the overall feeling of pain caused by FM.
Dr. Clauw’s current preferred drugs are Flexeril (primarily to aid in better sleep habits which leads to a decrease in pain sensitivity) and Neurontin.
In clinical studies he has seen overwhelming evidence that leads him to believe a patient can greatly help their pain sensitivity levels by making some lifestyle changes. For instance, he mentioned exercise, even if you have to start out walking 5 minutes a day. Start there and after a week or so increase to 7 minutes and so on. The exercise will release dopamines in the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cell. Several important diseases of the nervous system such as restless leg syndrome (suffered by many FM patients) are showing connections to dopamine levels in the body.
Well that’s all the medical talk I can do in one day! But as the heading of this post says – I do have something interesting to share with you all! I have had my initial exam and completed a very lengthy survey and have been enlisted to take part in a 15 month clinical study regarding pain and stress management in FM patients. As these 15 months roll along I’ll keep you updated on the aspects of the study. I go back next Wednesday and will be placed into one of three groups. There are various group sessions and individual interviews in which I’ll participate. This is not concerning drugs of any sort and we’ve been instructed to stick with our regular prescription routine and continue meeting with our regular doctors throughout the study. Anyway – I’ll be sure to relay anything I’m doing that works for me – but even if I’m in a group that doesn’t show improvement in whatever it is we’ll be doing, I’ll still feel good about the fact that I helped them cross one more item off the list of things tried.
Have a great day! Gentle hugs!