Study Reveals New Treatment Target for Fibromyalgia: Inflammation in the Brain – National Pain Report – April 11, 2017 – By Ginevra Liptan, MD
Scientists have long suspected that inflammation in the brain (neuroinflammation) could be the cause of the amplification of pain signals in the brain seen in fibromyalgia.
They can show this to be the case in lab animals, but this theory has been hard to prove in humans—mostly because researchers can’t very easily biopsy brain tissue of living people!
However, some very creative Swedish scientists figured out a different way assess levels of inflammation in the brain, by sampling the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
Because the CSF is in constant contact with the brain, it mirrors what is happening in the brain.
And what they found was that the CSF in fibromyalgia subjects contained much higher levels of inflammation compared to healthy people.
In particular, there were very high levels of certain chemicals secreted by neurons (brain and nerve cells) in response to injury.
Treatments to Lower Neuroinflammation
We already have some evidence that treatments that specifically lower inflammation levels in the brain can lessen fibromyalgia symptoms.
Many of what we think of as anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) don’t work well on brain inflammation, but there are some treatments that do. The most effective one is called low-dose naltrexone (LDN), which is a medication but primarily prescribed by alternative medicine providers as most western medicine doctors are not familiar with its use for pain.
The most effective one is called low-dose naltrexone (LDN), which is a medication but primarily prescribed by alternative medicine providers as most western medicine doctors are not familiar with its use for pain.
I have never heard of “alternative medicine” that uses LDN or being used by any other than western medicine, so this statement makes no sense.
Naltrexone is an opiate-blocking medication that is prescribed in higher doses (50mg) to treat opiate and alcohol addiction. But when taken at very low doses (1–5mg dosage range) LDN lowers inflammation in the central nervous system.
LDN acts on specific receptors on the immune cells in the brain called glial cells and tells them to go back into hibernation and stop releasing inflammatory chemicals.
This allows the nerve cells to normalize the volume on pain.[???]
“Normalize the volume on pain” is not a scientific (or even common) concept and has never been used in any studies or research. It has no meaning.
LDN was shown to significantly reduce fibromyalgia pain in two studies done at Stanford University, and also lessened pain hypersensitivity
There are also some supplements derived from foods that may be able to calm brain inflammation including:
This yellow spice has been used as an anti-inflammatory in ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. The active ingredient is a chemical called curcumin which research has shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19445907/
- Green tea:
A chemical called EGCG (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, extracted from green tea, has shown been shown to be “strongly protective against inflammation, oxidative damage, and cell death” in the brain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21499987/
- Cruciferous vegetables:
An extract from broccoli called sulforaphane protects again brain inflammation and lessens injury to neurons. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20417626/
I have tried sometimes huge quantities of these substances and they have not relieved my pain or done anything else at all.
Some of the active ingredients in marijuana can reduce neuroinflammation. One of the major psychoactive components of cannabis is called cannabidiol (CBD), and Brazilian researchers found it reduced neuroinflammation in mice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/27889412/
The laws around medical marijuana and CBD are constantly changing, so I recommend you visit the Marijuana Policy Project site to get up to date information on laws in your state.
Ginevra Liptan, MD, developed fibromyalgia while in medical school. [I have to question how severe her Fibromyalgia was if she was able to complete medical school. -zyp]
She is a graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine and board-certified in internal medicine. Dr. Liptan is the founder and medical director of The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia and the author of The FibroManual: A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide For You…And Your Doctor.