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Fibromyalgia Linked to Extensive Brain Inflammation

By Joseph Mercola | Nexus News

Fibromyalgia, characterized by chronic, widespread pain is an often-debilitating condition that primarily affects women. While as many as 10 million Americans have fibromyalgia, its cause remains a mystery.

Brain scans of fibromyalgia patients have offered hard evidence that the pain they experience is indeed real — mainly because their threshold for tolerating pain impulses is substantially lower than that of most individuals. But the mechanism causing this lowered pain threshold is still unknown.

Some experts, such as Dr. Frederick Wolfe, the director of the National Databank for Rheumatic Diseases and the lead author of the 1990 paper that first defined fibromyalgia's diagnostic guidelines, believe fibromyalgia is mainly a physical response to mental and emotional stress.

But while stress and emotions may indeed play an important role, more recent research shows fibromyalgia patients tend to have severe inflammation in their body, including their nervous system and brain.

Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Diagnosis can be a challenge, but the updated case definitions of fibromyalgia, issued in 2010 and later simplified in 2012, claim to correctly diagnose about 83 percent of cases.1 Originally, the condition was thought to be a peripheral musculoskeletal disease. Today, fibromyalgia has become increasingly recognized as a neurobiological problem causing central pain sensitization.

Unfortunately, there are currently no laboratory tests available for diagnosing fibromyalgia, so physicians primarily depend on patient histories, reported symptoms and physical exam findings. Classic symptoms of this condition include:

• Pain — The key marker of fibromyalgia is pain, which is profound, widespread and chronic. Pain inside of your elbows and knees, collarbones and hips is indicative of fibromyalgia when it's present on both sides.

People also frequently report pain all over their bodies — including in their muscles, ligaments and tendons — and the pain tends to vary in intensity. It has been described as deep muscular aching, stabbing, shooting, throbbing and twitching.

Neurological complaints add to the discomfort, such as numbness, tingling and burning. The severity of the pain and stiffness is often worse in the morning. Aggravating factors include cold/humid weather, nonrestorative sleep, fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety and stress.

• Cognitive impairment — So-called “fibro-fog” or foggy-headedness is a common complaint.

• Fatigue — The fatigue of fibromyalgia is different from the fatigue that many people complain of in today's busy world. It is more than being tired; it's an all-encompassing exhaustion that interferes with even the simplest daily activities, often leaving the patient with a limited ability to function both mentally and physically for an extended period of time.

• Sleep disruption — Another major part of the diagnostic criteria for this condition is some type of significant sleep disturbance. In fact, part of an effective treatment program is to make sure you're sleeping better.

Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep of fibromyalgia patients. During sleep, they are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.

• Other symptoms — Other common symptoms include irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movements, impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxietydepressionringing in the ears, dizziness, Raynaud's Syndrome and impaired coordination.

Conventional treatment typically involves some form of pain medication, and perhaps psychotropic drugs like antidepressants. I don't recommend either as they fail to address the cause of your problem. Many fibromyalgia sufferers also do not respond to conventional painkillers, which can set in motion a vicious circle of overmedicating on these dangerous drugs.

Brain Inflammation — Another Hallmark of Fibromyalgia

Using PET imaging, a recent investigation2 by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden revealed the presence of widespread brain inflammation in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia.3,4

Earlier research5 conducted at Karolinska Institutet also discovered high concentrations of cytokines (inflammatory proteins) in the cerebrospinal fluid, suggesting fibromyalgia patients have inflammation in their nervous system as well.6

The team at Massachusetts General Hospital, meanwhile, has previously shown that neural inflammation, and glial cell (immune cells) activation specifically, plays a role in chronic back pain. Animal studies have also offered evidence for the hypothesis that glial cell activation can be a cause of chronic pain in general.7

Here, they found that when glial cells in the cerebral cortex were activated, the more aggressive the activation, the greater the fatigue experienced by the patient. As reported by Medical Life Sciences:8

“The current study first assessed fibromyalgia symptoms in patients using a questionnaire. A PET tracer was then used, that is, a radioactive marker which binds a specific protein called translocator protein (TSPO) that is expressed at levels much above the normal in activated glial cells, namely, astrocytes and microglia …

[G]lial activation was found to be present at significantly higher levels in multiple brain areas in patients who had fibromyalgia than in controls. Glial cell activation causes inflammatory chemicals to be released, which cause the pain pathways to be more sensitive to pain, and promote fatigue …

One area showing higher TSPO binding in direct proportion to the self-reported level of fatigue was the cingulate gyrus, an area of the brain linked to emotional processing. Previous research has reported that this area is inflamed in chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Brain Inflammation Linked to Loss of Brain Cells

In related news, German researchers investigating inflammation mechanisms in the brain have found that as mice get older and regulation of inflammatory responses become increasingly impaired, they start losing brain cells.9

Interestingly, the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1), which produces the “high” in response to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana, also helps regulate inflammatory reactions in your brain. In short, chronic brain inflammation is in part driven by the CB1 receptors' failure to respond. To understand how this works, you need to know a little bit about how microglial cells work.

Microglial cells are specialized immune cells found in your central nervous system, including your spinal cord and brain. These immune cells respond to bacteria and are responsible for clearing out malfunctioning nerve cells. They also signal and recruit other immune cells when needed and trigger the inflammatory response when necessary.

Problems arise when the inflammatory response becomes dysregulated and overactive. In the brain, the inflammation can easily damage healthy brain tissue. The “brake signal” that instructs glial cells to stop their inflammatory activity is endocannabinoids, and the endocannabinoids work by binding to certain receptors, including CB1 and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2).

Immune Cells Communicate and Influence Inflammatory Response Using Endocannabinoids

Curiously, microglial cells have virtually no CB1 and very few CB2 receptors, yet they still react to endocannabinoids. The present study was designed to investigate this puzzling riddle. As it turns out, there's a type of neuron that does contain a large number of CB1 receptors, and it appears that it is the CB1 receptors on these specific neurons that control microglial cell activity.

In other words, it appears microglial cells do not communicate with nerve cells directly; rather, they release endocannabinoids, which then bind to CB1 receptors found in nearby neurons. These neurons in turn communicate directly with other nerve cells. So, the brain's immune response is regulated in an indirect manner rather than a direct one.

[Read more here]

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield, Massachusetts and New England (USA) & “virtually” the world. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.


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