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New Hope for Fibromyalgia Sufferers

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New Hope for Fibromyalgia Sufferers

New Hope for Fibromyalgia Sufferers

April 11, 2001

By Tom Keppeler, Knee1 Staff

The symptoms of fibromyalgia, a debilitating disease that attacks the muscles and tissues surrounding the joints, may be allayed by a number of unexpected cures, recent studies say.

Fibromyalgia, a poorly understood, chronic condition, not only attacks the joints, but may also lead to depression and fatigue. According to Reuters Health, 90 percent of those afflicted with the condition are female. The disease exhibits itself in any of 18 ways, including pain in the hips, elbows, knees, shoulders, and neck. The disease's accompanying depression receives a great deal of attention, as well.

The blue feelings that accompany fibromyalgia led scientists to study the effect of antidepressants on the condition. In a study printed in the most recent Journal of Family Practice, 25 percent of fibromyalgia patients who took antidepressants felt relief of their pain, fatigue and insomnia. However, scientists do not know whether the antidepressants relieved their symptoms, or rather made the patients feel better about themselves, thus taking the focus off the uncomfortable symptoms. "The bottom line is that antidepressants are worth trying," Dr. James Slawson of the Medical College of Wisconsin told Reuters Health. "The results are not bad for the hard-to-treat condition of fibromyalgia." Further studies are expected to explore which antidepressant medications are most effective for treating the disease.

A number of less-conventional treatments may have an impact on fibromyalgia, as well. A University of Louisville study concluded last month that women who meditate six times per week for about an hour a day experienced fewer symptoms of the condition. The researchers noted that the stress-management technique may reduce cortisol, a hormone that shows up during high periods of stress. In addition, patients who meditated during the program slept better, had a more positive outlook, and found their condition to have less of an impact on their lives, according to Reuters. "We looked at how your body responds to stress in general when you're not meditating," Dr. Sandra Sephton, the study's co-organizer, told the news service. "And the research shows that meditation sort of dampens down your physiological response to stress even when you're not meditating." Another study, led by the University of Virginia, examined the impact of magnets on the condition. The university studied the effect of magnetized mattress pads on 94 people. The result? Positive results in enough people to make it statistically significant. "People with this condition are fairly desperate to find help for their pain and often seek nontraditional approaches, one of which has been magnet therapy," lead researcher Dr. Alan P. Alfano told HealthScout News. "But there has been very little research applied, and few conditions have been studied." The study, which was printed in the most recent Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, broke its participants into four groups: the first, with a magnetized mattress pad between their mattress and box spring; another, which had the pad atop their mattress; a third group, which slept on a demagnetized pad; and, lastly, a group with no pad. The group that slept directly on the magnetic field experienced the most "clinically meaningful" decreases in pain intensity, according to HealthScout.

However, the researchers warn that there is no explanation as to why the magnet therapy seems to have worked. More research must be done before the three controversial treatment methods become accepted or even recommended, scientists say. Now, however, the hope of experimental cures brings hope to the millions who suffer from this debilitating chronic condition.

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