People with fibromyalgia have abnormal blood flow to particular areas in the brain, according to study results released today and reported at Fibromyalgia symptoms include tiredness and widespread muscle pain. Diagnosis, treatment and insurance coverage are often elusive due to the condition’s inability to be shown through blood tests or X-rays.

“Fibromyalgia may be related to a global dysfunction of cerebral pain-processing,” study author Eric Guedj, M.D., of Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire de la Timone, in Marseille, France, said in a news release reported on “This study demonstrates that these patients exhibit modifications of brain perfusion [blood flow] not found in healthy subjects and reinforces the idea that fibromyalgia is a ‘real disease/disorder.'”

Fibromyalgia is a common pain condition, according to a press release posted on, from Studies indicate that at least 6 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia, but estimates range as high as 10 to 12 million people. Between 80 and 90 percent of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women. Sufferers often turn to massage therapy to ease their pain, and massage has been shown by research to decrease pain and improve sleep.

In this new study, 30 subjects—20 women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and 10 healthy women—underwent single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans to measure blood flow.

“Fibromyalgia is frequently considered an ‘invisible syndrome’ since musculoskeletal imaging is negative,” said Eric Guedj, M.D., and lead author of the study. “Past imaging studies of patients with the syndrome, however, have shown above-normal cerebral blood flow (brain perfusion) in some areas of the brain and below-normal in other areas. After performing whole-brain scans on the participants, we used a statistical analysis to study the relationship between functional activity in even the smallest area of the brain and various parameters related to pain, disability and anxiety/depression.”

In their abstract, the researchers noted, “These results show that brain perfusion abnormalities in patients with fibromyalgia are correlated with the clinical severity of the disease.”

Results of the study are published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.


—Karen Menehan, MASSAGE Magazine Editor in Chief