Reported February 3, 2003

Validating Fibromyalgia Part 1: Behind the Pain

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- According to the Mayo Clinic, 6 million to 8 million Americans have fibromyalgia. It is described as constant pain in every part of the body and fatigue that leaves many unable to get out of bed. There is no proven treatment and with no easy test to diagnose it, many doctors don't even discuss it. Now, ongoing research finally gives answers where there have been none.
Often the greatest strength is found in times of frustration.
Shari Ferbert says, "I can't just sit there and let this happen to me. It's wrecking my life."

It is fibromyalgia.

"I have burning in various parts of my skin, like Indian burns, and throbbing, and sometimes it's shooting pain," she says.

Ferbert says the response she gets from doctors is often worse than the pain. "They just don't understand it. They don't understand the symptoms of it."

Rheumatologist Daniel Clauw, M.D., tells Ivanhoe, "In many cases, people will see an average of six to eight physicians before they are ultimately diagnosed with fibromyalgia."

According to Dr. Clauw, of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, diagnosis may not be such an ordeal anymore. "This study has helped establish that when people with fibromyalgia say they're experiencing pain, they in fact are experiencing pain," he says.

In a study he headed up, Dr. Clauw looked at blood flow in the brains of people with fibromyalgia and a healthy control group. "When we gave the fibromyalgia patients a low pressure stimulus, they had a high rating of pain. But, in the controls, it was barely detectable," he says.

When the stimulus doubled in the healthy group, pain showed up the same as it did in the fibromyalgia patients under low stimulus. What does that mean?

Dr. Clauw says, "If you will, fibromyalgia patients have the volume control turned up too loud on their pain processing areas of their brain."

That may not be the only problem. Nurse researcher Joan Shaver, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of Illinois at Chicago, says fibromyalgia patients may also have low levels of growth hormone. Growth hormone is important to muscle health and not having muscle pain. It is also related to quality sleep -- a major problem for people with fibromyalgia.

In healthy people, the hormone peaks with early sleep. In people with fibromyalgia, it stays low, which may be to blame for disruptive sleep. From there, it's a snowball effect.

"We do know that major sleep disruption leads to fatigue and pain," says Shaver.
For Ferbert, this research is a step in the right direction. With her non-profit group Advocates for Fibromyalgia Funding, Treatment, Education and Research and their first $10,000 grant, she intends to keep it moving forward.

"People can try all the antidotes and all these different trial and error type things they want, but the answer's in the research," she says.

At this time, Shaver says growth hormone supplements probably won't help because they are much higher doses than the body produces. To contact AFFTER, go to