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Fibromyalgia is a complex pain disorder that affects an estimated 8-12 million people in the United States. While fibromyalgia is more prevalent in adult women, this complicated disease can also affect men and children. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made by having chronic pain in all four quadrants of the body for over 3 months and having pain in at least 11 out of 18 designated tender spots. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of fibromyalgia is that these painful symptoms can wax and wane, and sometimes with no apparent trigger. In addition to the painful symptoms caused by fibromyalgia, many patients also experience depression, anxiety, and mood changes.
The cause of fibromyalgia and fibromyalgia symptoms is not exactly known, but recent research suggests possibly a genetic component, dietary triggers, and central nervous system involvement.
Fibromyalgia can also be caused by physical trauma or illness. The treatment of fibromyalgia is just as complicated as the disorder. Different treatment modalities include exercise, diet change, pharmaceuticals, massage, yoga, trigger point injections, and stretching.
The confounding issue with fibromyalgia, and the treatment of fibromyalgia is that no two patients experience the same symptoms, or respond to the same treatment. Some patients obtain relief via exercise and stretching alone, whereas other patients need their symptoms treated with injections and pharmaceuticals.
Recently, there has been new research illuminating how ketamine infusions have been beneficial for the treatment of fibromyalgia. In one study, treatment with ketamine reduced patient’s pain by 50% in more than half of the study participants. It is thought that ketamine reduces the central nervous system sensitization associated with increased pain in fibromyalgia. Ketamine also reduces the activity of glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. Glutamate excitotoxicity has been linked to fibromyalgia, in addition to depression, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis and possibly chronic fatigue syndrome. Benefits of ketamine infusions for the treatment of fibromyalgia might also be due to ketamine’s ability to improve circulatory function. This is a significant, and promising, treatment modality for fibromyalgia that is continuing to be researched and studied.