Similar Pain Responses in Brains of Osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia Patients

Osteoarthritis (OA) patients who experienced pain had brain mechanisms similar to fibromyalgia (FM) patients, according to a study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

Osteoarthritis (OA) patients who experienced pain have brain mechanisms similar to fibromyalgia (FM) patients, according to a study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

Researchers at the University of Manchester compared brain wave activity in response to painful laser pulses to the skin in 16 patients with OA pain and 16 patients with FM pain to 15 patients with no pain.

The researchers discovered similarities in FM and OA patients’ brain patterns, specifically in how their brains behaved when anticipating pain. Both FM and OA patients experienced the same levels of pain and pain coping methods, though insula activity was significantly higher in FM patients during anticipation, which correlated to the intensity and extent of reported clinical pain.

“Interestingly, responses during pain anticipation were reduced in an area at the front of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” lead study author Christopher A. Brown, PhD, said in a statement. “These reduced responses corresponded to less ability to develop positive ways of coping with the pain in both groups of patients.”

Based on their findings, Wael El-Deredy, PhD, a contributing author, suggested remedies to OA and FM symptoms that deal with their unique brain mechanisms.

“Brain responses to pain expectation can be altered by relatively short and inexpensive mindfulness-based talking therapies in patients with different types of chronic pain,” El-Deredy said. “Our current findings therefore provide both a new target for development of new therapies and some optimism for simple interventions to improve the brain’s control of chronic suffering endured by many patients with chronic pain conditions.”