Fibromyalgia: A Decade of Advances

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • It's hard to believe it's already been a full decade since we ushered in the new millenium; 10 years since we all somewhat nervously waited to see if the Y2K hype would become a reality.  Thankfully the Y2K disasters predicted by some never happened.  But it has been quite a decade of changes nonetheless.  While I could write pages about all of the changes on the national and world fronts, since this is a chronic pain site, I'll focus on changes that impact two rather large segments of the chronic pain community. 

    Fibromyalgia – A Decade of Advances

    Perhaps no chronic pain condition has seen more changes than fibromyalgia.  Ten years ago very few people had even heard of fibromyalgia and even fewer had any idea what it was.  Today, thanks to Pfizer's Lyrica commercials, anyone who watches TV at least knows that fibromyalgia causes a lot of pain.  Sure, there are still some skeptics out there, but they are fewer and farther between than ever before. 

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    A decade ago, there were no FDA approved treatments for FM.  Now there are three – Lyrica, Cymbalta and Savella.  And thanks to the availability of these medications, more doctors are willing to treat FM patients.  Fibromyalgia research has also come a long way.  Once thought to be a muscle problem, studies over the past decade have revealed that FM actually appears to have neurological origins.  We now know there is a problem with how our brains process pain signals. 

    The next ten years holds a lot of hope for FM patients.  There are already other new medications waiting in the wings, hoping to get FDA approval soon.  And as researchers continue to learn more about exactly what is causing fibromyalgia, even more targeted treatments can be developed. 

    ME/CFS – Finally Real Hope

    It has been a decade of struggle for the ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) community.  Few illnesses have had such an uphill fight for recognition and credibility.  It's a complicated and multi-systemic disease that only a few researchers have been willing to tackle.  And I won't even get into the funding problems and the mistreatment by the CDC.  If you'd like to know more, you can find a lot of excellent background information about ME/CFS research as well as history on the CDC controversy on Cort Johnson's Web site, Phoenix Rising.  

    As frustrating as the past 10 years have been for the ME/CFS community, we ended the decade with a huge research breakthrough and tremendous hope for the future.  Just three months ago, it was announced that the XMRV retrovirus had been linked to ME/CFS.  Of course, additional studies have to be done to confirm the findings, but if that turns out to be accurate, it will rock the entire medical community.  For one thing, ME/CFS patients will finally have the respect they deserve.  And once the cause is known, scientists can develop treatments targeting the disease rather than just treating its symptoms. 

    Wishing you a new year full of love, joy, hope and especially freedom from pain,

Published On: December 31, 2009