Gentle massage therapy can be beneficial to sufferers of fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain condition. New research shows that resting brain activity is associated with spontaneous fibromyalgia pain.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases estimates fibromyalgia affects 5 million American 18 years of age or older, with 80 to 90 percent of cases occurring more in women.

Fibromyalgia can cause widespread pain that varies in intensity and fluctuates over time. “In addition to pain, fibromyalgia patients may experience other symptoms,” the researchers noted, “such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, memory problems and temperature sensitivity.”

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Michigan set out to study a possible link between elevated resting-state brain connectivity and spontaneous pain intensity in patients with fibromyalgia.

“This research shows an interaction of multiple brain networks, offering greater understanding of how pain arises,” the researchers noted.

“Our results clearly show that individuals with[ fibromyalgia] have greater connectivity between multiple brain networks and the insular cortex, which is a brain region previously linked with evoked pain processing and hyperexcitability in [fibromyalgia],” said lead researcher Vitaly Napadow, Ph.D.

The current findings provide better understanding of the underlying brain mechanisms of clinical pain in fibromyalgia and may potentially lead to markers of disease progression, according to a press release from the researchers.

Details of the study appear online and in the August issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology.

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