Support of fundamental research
is extremely important in fibromyalgia as well as in many disorders characterized
by pain and sleep abnormalities, and many disciplines of medical research
contribute to the knowledge base in understanding these symptoms. Since
it is impossible to know with certainty which area will produce the next
important discovery, the community of science, has to be open to all ideas.
Discoveries can come from research funded in a variety of areas. For example,
the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports pain research at different
levels--from the gene, molecule, cell, and organ to the human organism
itself. NIH spends more than $75 million on pain research, which is conducted
and supported by 15 institutes, centers, and offices. While this figure
would not be reported as funding for fibromyalgia research specifically,
certain aspects of pain research are applicable to understanding fibromyalgia.
The research on fibromyalgia covers a broad spectrum
from basic research to clinical studies to behavioral interventions. For
example, investigators are examining the interactions between the nervous
system and the endocrine (hormonal) system and regulation of adrenal function
in fibromyalgia patients. Studies have shown that abnormally low levels
of the hormone cortisol may be associated with fibromyalgia. Researchers
are studying regulation of the function of the adrenal glands (which make
cortisol) in fibromyalgia. People whose bodies make inadequate amounts
of cortisol experience many of the same symptoms as people with fibromyalgia.
It is hoped that these studies will increase understanding about fibromyalgia
and may suggest new ways to treat the disorder.
Treatment of fibromyalgia requires a comprehensive
approach. The physician, physical therapist, and others in the medical
support system, as well as the patient, may all play an active role in
the management of fibromyalgia. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise,
such as swimming and walking, improves muscle fitness and reduces muscle
pain and tenderness. Heat and massage may also give short-term relief.
Antidepressant medications may help elevate mood, improve quality of sleep,
and relax muscles. People with fibromyalgia may benefit from a combination
of exercise, medication, physical therapy, and relaxation.