Saturday, 29 June 2013

Elementary, my dear Watson*

I'm sure many of you will have seen the article below in the last week or so, as it marks a possible breakthrough in research for Fibromyalgia:

Doctors confirm Fibromyalgia is not imaginary

In all honesty I have some difficulty with the article, as it seems to use the phrases "nerve endings around the blood vessels" and "blood vessel endings" interchangeably when they are clearly not the same thing. Also, whilst it's fantastic to have a proven pathology, there's too much focus on the hands and no clear indication of whether the findings would be consistent around the rest of the body.

Does anybody else suffer particularly with their hands? I have hand issues on and off but they are not and have never been my primary pain source.

Also, being by nature particularly anal about standards of written English, the article's poor grammar flicks automatic "disregard" switches for me.

However despite any misgivings it will be interesting to see where research takes us in the future. The question which came to my mind is that if the finding of these specific nerve endings is going to supersede the four quadrant and pressure point tests in the diagnostic stage, if this pathology is found to not be present where does that leave patients who have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia using the accepted tests?

(This diagram from illustrates just some of the variety of symptoms found in Fibromyalgia patients - one of the reasons I find this sudden focus on purely the hands unsettling.)

I have my reservations about this new theory being widely accepted - the following is an article from 2008 which already declared Fibromyalgia was not a figment of imagination:

Fibromyalgia: a real disease

This particular research demonstrated abnormalities in cerebral blood flow to be part of the pathology discovered in Fibromyalgia patients, and also ties neatly to the pre-existing concept of central sensitisation of pain. It bothers me that previous findings seem to be disregarded wholly in the face of newer ones - why can both of them not be true? What makes them mutually exclusive by default, as seems to be suggested?

It's also worth bearing in mind that at any point in time, you can always find counter-balancing negative studies reported, such as the following:

Weather conditions do not affect pain or fatigue in Fibromyalgia

The Dutch researchers aren't dismissing the idea entirely, as the headline would suggest, but in their particular control group they found more evidence against than for the concept of symptom differentiation caused by the weather. I've covered this in my own post Winter is Coming, and I have spoken to plenty of people who react similarly to cold and wet conditions or to high atmospheric pressure.

I can't help but feel deep down that people have gotten carried away with this new hand research, when there is already a body of research present receiving little to no attention. It's far from the only research being carried out in this area, but for whatever reason it has accumulated much more coverage.

I read a statistic recently which suggested ground-breaking research in even basic science can take up to forty years to penetrate into medical practice and become part of accepted treatment. - on that basis I'm sure more will have been discovered by the time this research has had any chance to enter the popular medical conscience.

Whilst it can only be celebrated that we now have a widely-seen proof of Fibormyalgia being real (as if any sufferer ever doubted it for an instant!) I think it's easy to see why the community as a whole remains quite divided in their opinion of the new findings.

On a lighter note I wanted to share this as I'm unsure if everyone will have seen it - Christine Miserandino's Spoon Theory made the BBC News website here in the UK!

Running low on spoons

Well done Christine!

I'd love to hear what others have to say about the new research, or indeed any of the existing work I've posted. Please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me (The Green Moranth tab gives you several options of how to do so.)

Wishing you all many spoons xx

(EDIT: A friend very kindly sent me the full paper for the new research - it isn't ruling out anything, merely suggesting the hands were a source of the particular phenomenon being previously recorded and so chosen for use in this study. Short version: you apparently cannot trust ANY press to report scientific research accurately!)

* Yes, I'm well aware Holmes never said it, but who am I to fly in the face of tradition?

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