The widespread, persistent pain experienced by people with fibromyalgia reduces their quality of life. Unfortunately, the precise causes of this condition remain unknown and this has hindered efforts to find a cure. Hopes at present revolve around finding effective means of alleviating the pain and thus improving quality of life. According to French researchers, this could be achieved through a technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).
Led by Eric Guedj, a professor from Aix-Marseille University, the research team applied the technique to half of the 38 study subjects. The rest of the participants received sham brain stimulation. The patients chosen for the study had been experiencing persistent pain for more than six months. The experiment involved 14 rTMS sessions spread across ten weeks.
The study report, which has been published in the Neurology journal, reveals that rTMS exercised a beneficial effect on quality of life. Patients in the active rTMS group reported better results than those in the sham stimulation group, with improved outcomes recorded for mood, emotional state and social functioning.
The researchers could not prove the existence of a direct cause-and-effect link between brain stimulation and improved quality of life. However, their findings lend further support to the theory that fibromyalgia is not a mental disorder but the result of physical causes. According to Guedj, the improvement observed in the rTMS group can be attributed to increased brain metabolic activity, which points to a physical cause. The study also suggests that fibromyalgia symptoms can be relieved through changes in specific brain areas, Guedj noted.