Fibromyalgia is a condition characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain often accompanied by other complaints such as fatigue, sleep disturbances and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also often associated with cognitive difficulties giving rise to symptoms commonly referred to as “fibro fog” which is a difficulty with the ability to focus, pay attention, concentrate on mental tasks commonly with an alteration in mood. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Fibromyalgia is not completely understood, in part because there is no evidence of a single event that “causes” fibromyalgia. Rather, many physical and/or emotional stressors may trigger or aggravate symptoms. Those have included certain infections as well as emotional or physical trauma. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose because there is no specific test and the symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions.
The criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia include:
- widespread pain for more than three months on both the left and right sides of your body, above and below your waist
- pain in at least 11 of the 18 ‘tender points’ when they are pressed. The tender points are the areas on your body where your pain is likely to be at its worst. They are places on the body where everyone is most sensitive to pain, so if you have fibromyalgia, these areas will be very painful.
It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects nearly 1 in 20 people with a 9:1 female-to-male ratio. In most cases, it occurs between 30 and 60 years of age, but it can develop in people of any age, including children and the elderly. It is the second most common disorder, after osteoarthritis, observed by rheumatologists.
Fibromyalgia is a persistent disorder with symptoms that can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, including limited ability to engage in everyday activities, limited ability to maintain outside work and difficulties in maintaining normal relationships with family, friends and employers. These limitations can lead to the occurrence of anxiety and depression in many patients.
As with many other syndromes, there is no efficient cure for Fibromyalgia and no universally agreed treatment. All current treatments, such as prescribed medications, aerobic exercises, cognitive behavioural therapies and hyperbaric oxygen treatment consist of symptom management. Integrated programs based on these treatments have been shown to alleviate pain and some other symptoms but with limited effectiveness.
How HBOT can help it?
There are a number of reports in the literature which demonstrate some benefit from HBOT to people suffering from Fibromyalgia. In one such study patients were randomly assigned to treatment with HBOT or no initial treatment followed later with HBOT. The treated group of patients were evaluated at baseline and after HBOT. Patients in the crossover-control group were evaluated three times: baseline, after a control period of no treatment, and after HBOT. Evaluations consisted of physical examination, including tender point count and pain threshold, extensive evaluation of quality of life, and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging for evaluation of brain activity. The HBOT protocol comprised 40 sessions, 5 days/week. Sixty female patients were included, aged 21–67 years and diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at least 2 years earlier. HBOT in both groups led to significant improvement of all symptoms and quality of life. No improvement in any of the parameters was observed following the control period. The study provides evidence that HBOT can improve the symptoms and quality of life in patients suffering from Fibromyalgia. Since there is currently no solution for patients with Fibromyalgia, and since HBOT is obviously leading to significant improvement, it seems reasonable to let patients benefit from HBOT, if possible, now rather than wait until future clinical studies are completed.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Diminish Fibromyalgia Syndrome – Prospective Clinical Trial
PLoS One. 2015 May 26
Reflections on the neurotherapeutic effects of hyperbaric oxygen
Efrati S, Ben-Jacob E. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. 2014