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PRESS RELEASE: New Insights into Chronic Pain Conditions such as Migraine and Fibromyalgia are Providing Safe, Affordable, and Effective Treatments for Millions of Suffering Patients
Barcelona Spain—March 8, 2016: Doctors have struggled for years in their treatment of chronic pain disorders such as migraine and fibromyalgia because the treatments have been based on an incomplete understanding of these conditions; the resulting treatment plans were therefore incomplete and insufficiently effective, leaving many patients to suffer despite receiving the “best available” medical treatments, generally with multiple pharmaceutical drugs such as analgesics of various types, each with significant cost and adverse effects. New comprehensive reviews of the research literature have provided more accurate disease models to provide clinicians new ways of understanding these conditions; these new insights are already translating into relief for millions of patients with chronic pain. These new insights are particularly relevant for patients with migraine, fibromyalgia, painful autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as low-back pain and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
“We have worked to develop and test this comprehensive disease model for the past eight years, and we recently had a breakthrough in our understanding of the underlying factors that perpetuate heightened brain sensitivity that leads to the perception chronic pain,” stated ICHNFM Director Dr Alex Vasquez, regarding his most recent publication last week in the top-tier peer-reviewed medical journal Nature Reviews Rheumatology (March 3, 2016) titled “Neuroinflammation in fibromyalgia and CRPS is multifactorial.” “We now appreciate that inflammation of the brain and spinal cord—neuroinflammation—is what underlies the phenomenon of central sensitization, which causes these patients to be exquisitely sensitive to benign sensations that are interpreted by the nervous system as pain, leading to disability and prescription drug dependency. These conditions cost the international community hundreds of millions of hours per year in needless suffering and lost productivity along with billions of dollars per year in direct medical expenses.”
Migraine affects between 5-15% of the population internationally per year. “If you look only at the USA and the UK, you’re looking at a minimum of 20 million people and up to 60 million people who suffer from migraine, either periodically or several days per week on average.” Fibromyalgia, which is now appreciated as having several metabolic similarities with migraine, affects approximately 3% of the American and European population; while migraine causes pain and other symptoms such as nausea and sensitivity to light on a periodic basis of typically several days per month, the pain of fibromyalgia typically occurs on a daily (indeed hourly) basis. Thus, while the number of affected patients with fibromyalgia is fewer than with migraine, the number of “sick days” can actually be much higher with fibromyalgia, necessitating daily treatment and resulting in daily disability. These conditions commonly overlap, and approximately 50% of patients with fibromyalgia also have migraine headaches.
“These patients enter a vicious cycle, a self-perpetuating circle that we call ‘the pain revolution’,” said Dr Vasquez, referencing his most recent book, titled Pain Revolution for Migraine and Fibromyalgia. “What we see in all of these patients is a vicious cycle of brain inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction, and the combination of these two, along with other important factors such as nutritional deficiencies, leads to a phenomenon in the brain and spinal cord called ‘central sensitization’, wherein the nervous system becomes acutely sensitive to pain and other sensory stimuli.” Vitamin D deficiency is well-known to cause bone pain, while it also promotes heightened pain sensitivity within the brain, making other pain conditions worse. Dysfunction of mitochondria, the intracellular organelles chiefly tasked with the production of energy in the form of ATP, simultaneously causes inflammation and is caused by inflammation, thereby creating a vicious cycle of inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction. “When inflammation affects the brain, the result is altered mood and behavior, what is known as ‘sickness behavior’, and also heightened pain perception, which is known as ‘central sensitization,’” says Dr Vasquez. “The worst-case scenario is the combination of inflammation with mitochondrial dysfunction; this combination is devastating for the brain, leading to hyperexcitation as well as, in more severe and prolonged cases, seizure and death of brain cells—neurodegeneration.”
Dr Vasquez notes that treatments that improve mitochondrial function are uniquely safe and effective in the treatment of both migraine and fibromyalgia. “In the treatment of migraine, the focus is on the improvement of mitochondrial function, so that the cells can produce more energy while controlling inflammation and free-radical production. In the treatment of fibromyalgia, in addition to improving mitochondrial function, we also have to