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New Treatment May Reduce Non-Pain Symptoms of Fibromyalgia


A study suggests that a new treatment called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) may lessen the non-pain symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as emotional and social disorders, and improve quality of life. The research is published in the March 26, 2014, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Fibromyalgia is a disease known for the main symptom of pain, however, it may also cause tiredness, interrupted sleep, depression, dizziness, digestive problems, headache, tingling, numbness and frequent urination.

“About five million Americans experience fibromyalgia, which affects women more often than men,” said study author Eric Guedj, MD, PhD, with Aix-Marseille University and National Center for Scientific Research in Marseille, France. “rTMS is a way to alter the excitability of the brain targeted by the device. A treatment such as this may provide a safe and noninvasive complement to pain pills in some people.”

For the study, 38 people who had persistent fibromyalgia pain for more than six months were randomly assigned to receive either rTMS or sham stimulation for 14 sessions over 10 weeks. For the sham stimulation, the electromagnetic coil looked and sounded like the actual treatment, but no stimulation was given. The researchers then assessed the changes in quality of life at the eleventh week, measured by a questionnaire, as well as brain metabolic changes using PET neuroimaging.

The study found that at week 11, people who received the rTMS therapy had greater improvement in quality of life and in mental components of the questionnaire than those in the sham stimulation group.

The improvement in quality of life involved mainly affective (mood or feelings), emotional (joy, sadness, anger, anxiety), and social areas (work performance, participation in social activities, contact with friends and engaging in hobbies and interests), and was correlated with brain PET metabolic changes.

At the beginning of the study, those receiving the treatment had an average score of 60 on the quality of life questionnaire, where scores range from zero to 100 and lower scores indicate better quality of life. Those receiving the sham treatment had an average score of 64.

After 11 weeks, the average score of those receiving the treatment had dropped by about 10 points, while the average score had increased by two points for those receiving the sham treatment.

The study was supported by Marseille Public Hospitals (APHM) and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM). 

To learn more about fibromyalgia, please visit  

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 27,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. 

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.comor find us onFacebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.

Rachel L. Seroka | American Academy of Neurology

Further reports about: Fibromyalgia Neurology PET Treatment disorders dizziness metabolic pain

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