Clinical Trials for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic and debilitating condition with no known cure and limited treatment options. Currently, numerous clinical trials for fibromyalgia are taking place. The hope is that scientists will gain a deeper understanding of the illness and how to relieve it. Here’s all you need to know about clinical trials for fibromyalgia and some of the ongoing research.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a common condition where we still know very little about how it works. Most experts agree that it is a nervous system disorder that causes imbalances in several different neurotransmitters. These include serotonin, norepinephrine and a chemical called substance P. This imbalance makes people with fibromyalgia extremely sensitive and they usually experience pain throughout their bodies. This often happens alongside a number of other serious symptoms.
Although the exact cause of fibromyalgia is still a mystery, it seems to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, it often first appears following periods of extreme physical or emotional stress. Fibromyalgia is most common in women and tends to occur between the ages of 20 and 50. However, it can affect both males and females and happen at any age.
What Are the Symptoms?
As well as widespread pain in several different areas of the body, there are some other common fibromyalgia symptoms:
- Muscle stiffness
- Sleep problems
- Cognitive difficulties (known as “fibro fog”)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
These symptoms can range from mild to disabling, and not everyone with fibromyalgia will experience them all. The fact that fibromyalgia affects everyone differently, combined with lack of understanding about the disease, means that effective treatment options are scarce.
Fibromyalgia Treatment Options
There is no cure for fibromyalgia and treatments aim to relieve pain and other symptoms, while improving the patient’s quality of life.
Unfortunately, regular painkillers are often ineffective for fibromyalgia. However, some people may find relief from certain antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for fibromyalgia include amitriptyline, gabapentin and pregabalin.
Another treatment option for fibromyalgia is physical therapy and exercise. In fact, regular exercise is thought to be one of the best treatments for fibromyalgia.
In addition to physical therapy, fibromyalgia sufferers may find occupational therapy useful. The aim is to help them to adapt to their condition and function better in daily life.
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People with fibromyalgia also often need emotional support and this can come in the form of counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga are a good way to manage stress and may also help patients to cope with their symptoms better.
Some people find complementary therapies such as massage and acupuncture helpful, although there is little clinical evidence to support their use.
What Is a Clinical Trial?
One of the purposes of clinical trials for fibromyalgia is to find out whether these alternative treatments are effective. They also aim to develop more effective medications to better understand the underlying causes of the disease.
A clinical trial is a kind of experiment that involves human volunteers. The goal is to test a new drug or therapy, or compare existing therapies to find out which is most effective. Clinical trials can also monitor the effects of lifestyle changes, such as following a special diet or exercise regime.
What Are the Different Types of Clinical Trials?
There are many different types of clinical trials, but two of the most common are interventional and observational studies.
Interventional studies compare two or more treatments or use a placebo to test the effectiveness of a medicine. The participants are usually divided into groups and each group receives a different intervention. Observational studies are similar in many ways; however, the participants are not divided into groups for comparison and there is no placebo treatment included. Therefore, many people consider interventional studies to be the more scientific method of the two. The gold standard for interventional studies is something called a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial.
A controlled trial means that some participants will receive an intervention, while others will act as a control group. Being in the control group usually means receiving a placebo. When a trial is randomized, this means that participants are allocated to the treatment group or the control group at random. Finally, “double-blind” means that neither the participants nor the researchers know who has been allocated to which group. All of these factors reduce the risk of bias and make the results of the trial more reliable.
What Are the Different Clinical Trials for Fibromyalgia?
There are many different types of clinical trials for fibromyalgia. Some aim to learn more about the causes of the condition, while others seek more effective treatment options.
Some of the current clinical trials for fibromyalgia include:
- Testing a drug that is already used for pain and muscle spasms
- An evaluation of the costs of and treatments for fibromyalgia
- Investigating the safety of sodium oxybate (a drug already approved for narcolepsy)
- A clinical trial on the treatment of fibromyalgia pain
- The use of a nutritional peptide to treat fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
- Whether therapy dogs are useful for fibromyalgia patients
- The use of a qi gong technique known as “eight brocades”
- Using autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) for fibromyalgia
As you can see, there are many diverse clinical trials for fibromyalgia underway. Hopefully, they will lead to a better understanding of the condition and new ways to treat it soon.