Aside from the symptoms, one of the greatest frustrations of suffering from a chronic pain illness, such as fibromyalgia, can be convincing others that the illness is real and not psychosomatic. Mari Skelly and Kelley Blewster sum up this sentiment in: ‘Women Living with Fibromyalgia’:
‘My strange collection of symptoms turned out to be fibromyalgia, a mysterious chronic-pain syndrome… Great. Not only do I get an incurable disease, but I get one that nobody believes in. Not only does no one understand how it happens or why, but there is no cure because some doctors aren’t even looking.’
What makes fibromyalgia so difficult to diagnose?
According to the Harvard Gazette, the difficulty in successfully diagnosing chronic pain has been the:
“lack of an objective way to measure the presence or intensity of pain”.
As it stands, there is no simple test for fibromyalgia. Many of the symptoms of this chronic pain illness can also be found in other conditions; and patients can often have a frustrating time waiting for these to be ruled out before a Doctor is able to diagnose them successfully.
The good news is that the tide may be about to turn, as scientists pave the way to a new understanding of chronic pain illness.
New breakthrough evidence that may impact that way that chronic pain is both understood and treated:
“By showing that levels of an inflammation-linked protein are elevated in regions known to be involved in the transmission of pain, the study paves the way for the exploration of potential new treatment strategies.”
Furthermore, a recent study, published in the Oxford University research journal ‘Brain’, uncovered a link between:
“increased levels of the translocator protein in regions like the thalamus — the brain’s sensory gateway for pain and other stimuli”.
The lead author of this report, Marco Loggia, and his colleagues, are described as discovering how:
“the levels of the protein in the thalamus and other brain regions were significantly higher in patients than in controls. The PET signal increases were so remarkably consistent across participants, Loggia noted, that it was possible to spot which were the patients and which were the controls just by looking at the individual images prior to detailed statistical analysis of the data.”
You can read about these findings in further detail here.
How will these discoveries affect those suffering from a chronic pain illness, such as fibromyalgia?
Whilst the scientific value of such research may be difficult for the non-expert to understand: in layman’s terms, the breakthrough means that scientists may be coming closer to discovering a quantifiable link between certain brain activity and chronic pain. Here are just three of the potential benefits of this news:
- The more that scientists can understand the link between brain activity and chronic pain, the closer they may come to finding an effective treatment/s;
- An increased understanding (of the underlying biological factors) of chronic pain, will relieve the burden of sufferers tired of defending themselves to any sceptics;
- Each successful study undertaken in this field opens the door to further research possibilities that, in turn, may improve our understanding of chronic illness, its causes and potential treatments.
Have you ever found it difficult to convince others that fibromyalgia is a genuine illness? What advice and tips would you give to anybody struggling with this issue?
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