Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes immense pain in the people who live with it. Unfortunately, the pain of fibromyalgia generally does not subside with normal opioid pain medication. Although it is among the conditions that are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, fibromyalgia is not well understood. In fact, it is often quite difficult for people who live with it to seek disability benefits because there are few reliable tests that can prove the existence of the condition.
Fortunately, researchers have continued to study the condition in hopes of better understanding its effects on those who live with it. Recently, some experts discovered that fibromyalgia may affect brain processing in a way that causes severe pain.
To determine why painkillers do not work for many people with fibromyalgia, researchers studied the brain activity of several people who have fibromyalgia and compared it to the brain activity of those who do not have it. They put the study participants in two situations: one in which they were anticipating to be in pain and one in which they were anticipating pain relief. The results were differences in brain processing that could help explain aspects of fibromyalgia.
Researchers discovered that patients with fibromyalgia had less activity in the parts of their brains that are involved in cognitive, sensory, effective and pain regulating processes compared to those who do not have fibromyalgia. However, fibromyalgia patients showed hardly activity in the part of the brain that processes punishment and reward during the study. Subjects who did not have fibromyalgia showed heightened activity in the same area during pain anticipation and less activity when they expected pain relief.
Although this study provides a look into only one aspect of fibromyalgia, its findings bring those who live with it a little closer to being able to provide evidence of the condition. Hopefully, this will help make it easier for these individuals to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Source: Psych Central, “Fibromyalgia May Interfere with Brain’s Sensory Pathways,” Rick Nauert, Nov. 6, 2013