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People affected with fibromyalgia (FM) experience widespread, pervasive and chronic pain due to an increased pain sensitivity in the body [1] .It affects between 2-5% of the population [2].  Pain is the most common reason that Australians seek medical care and conditions that cause chronic pain, like fibromyalgia, cost Australians $34 billion each year ([3, 4]).  Undoubtedly it is a socioeconomically very relevant disease.

Cold laser therapy promises to be a valuable alternative treatment option especially for people who are highly sensitised to touch. Over cumulative treatments we can decrease sensitisation in the nervous system which should lead to sustained improvement in the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

 

What are the causes?

 

The causes and mechanisms of this disease are poorly understood. However, it seems to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Being a female and having a positive family history increases the risk of having fibromyalgia. It often occurs together with other inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis.

 

What happens in Fibromyalgia?

Even though the entire body can hurt, the pain usually does not originate from the painful structures but is, according to recent research, rather falsely generated in the brain due to pain processing abnormalities. Studies show that fibromyalgia patients have a pain threshold half as high as people without the condition, which makes the brain register non-painful sensations as painful [5].

 

The consequences of Fibromyalgia

Sleep problems and subsequent fatigue and memory problems are common complications. Further, the difficulty in treating this condition can impair a patient’s mental health and lead to depression or anxiety. Bowel and bladder problems are also reported frequently.

 

Limited treatment options

Treating fibromyalgia can be very difficult because of the lack of a clear, organic cause. Therefore, the treatment includes psychotherapy and unspecific psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants or pregabalin, which is also used as an anti-epileptic drug [6]. Medical professionals who specialise in pain management are currently only able to successfully treat 20% of pain sufferers [4].

 

How Cold Laser Therapy can help

Low level laser, or cold laser, can treat fibromyalgia. Whilst we see improvement from a large percentage of patients we note sustained improvement can take longer than less complex conditions. Where patients are highly sensitised we are able to employ devices that do not touch the skin but still deliver the required dose to have a clinical effect. Patients treated with cold laser often report improved sleep patterns and improved mobility soon after treatment begins. Reduction in pain and systemic improvement can start to be felt within the first six treatments although ongoing treatment (less and less frequently) is usually required.

 

References

  1. EmergeAustralia. Fibromyalgia (FM). 2018 [cited 2018 20.12.2018]; Available from: https://emerge.org.au/diagnosis/related-conditions/fibromyalgia-fm/.
  2. Guymer, E. and G. Littlejohn, Fibromyalgia. AUSTRALIAN FAMILY PHYSICIAN, 2013. 42(10): p. 690-94.
  3. Williams, C. Pain drain: the economic and social costs of chronic pain. Pain 2015 23.11.2015 [cited 2018 12.12.2018]; Available from: http://theconversation.com/pain-drain-the-economic-and-social-costs-of-chronic-pain-49666.
  4. Painaustralia. Painful Facts. 2018 [cited 2018 12.12.2018]; Available from: https://www.painaustralia.org.au/about-pain/painful-facts.
  5. Bradley, L.A., Pathophysiology of Fibromyalgia. The American Journal of Medicine, 2009. 122(12).
  6. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Questions And Answers About Fibromyalgia. 2014 [cited 2018 20.12.2018]; Available from: http://web.archive.org/web/20160315112712/http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/fibromyalgia/.