Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome affecting 3-6% of people around the world. The disorder is more common in women — 75-90% of cases — but men and children can also develop it, and it affects all ethnic groups.
At Coastal Pain Medicine in Pompano Beach, Florida, pain management specialist Dr. Patrick Brennan and our team offer a number of in-office, minimally invasive treatments to help our patients with fibromyalgia.
One of the more cutting-edge options is IV ketamine therapy, which can often be effective for widespread pain. Here’s what you need to know about fibromyalgia and how it’s treated.
Fibromyalgia is a difficult disorder to live with and often a difficult disorder to diagnose. In the past, it was described as a “hysterical condition” in women, and its diagnosis is still viewed skeptically in some circles because it fails to show up on an X-ray, other imaging tests, or blood tests.
We know fibromyalgia is a condition where pain and stiffness occur in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments throughout the body. Current thinking is that it alters the way the brain processes pain signals, causing amplified pain sensations even when there’s no pain trigger.
Symptoms can develop gradually for no apparent reason, or they can be triggered by trauma, infection, or stress.
If fibromyalgia doesn’t show up on a test, how can we diagnose it? It used to be that doctors would look for the 18 known tender points for the condition. Those are places on your body where, if we touch them, you feel a distinct tenderness.
Pain can even be referred to places other than the points. But this vague test was dropped some years ago as being insufficient to rule out other conditions.
Today, diagnosis is based on two things:
During your evaluation, Dr. Brennan reviews your entire medical history and performs a physical exam, determining where you feel pain and how severe it is. He most likely will also order blood and imaging tests to rule out any other cause of your discomfort.
If everything comes back negative, he may provide a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Dr. Brennan offers different treatment options, depending on the severity of your pain and how much it affects your daily life. Some common treatments include stretching exercises, oral pain medications, and epidural steroid injections that reduce inflammation, thereby reducing pain.
Another, more recent, option is IV therapy using ketamine. Ketamine was initially used as an anesthetic on battlefields and in operating rooms, but it’s now gaining traction as a treatment for many different conditions, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia.
Research indicates that low-dose ketamine serves as a potent analgesic for neuropathic (nerve-related) pain. In prolonged studies, patients experienced relief for up to three months after their last dose.
The IV form of ketamine, known as racemic ketamine, comes as a mixture of two mirror-image molecules, “R” and “S.” It likely binds to NMDA receptors in the brain, which increases the amount of the neurotransmitter glutamate.
The elevated glutamate activates the AMPA receptor, leading to the release of other molecules that help nerves communicate effectively. The end result is improved nerve function and decreased pain. Ketamine also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which further reduces pain.
Because fibromyalgia is believed to be due, in part, to nerve dysfunction, ketamine’s effects on the nervous system make it well-suited to treat the condition.
If you have fibromyalgia and want to learn more about how IV ketamine therapy can alleviate your pain, contact us at Coastal Pain Medicine today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Brennan.