Tests Prove Fibromyalgia is Not Depression
Fibromyalgia can be distinguished from depression, according to a study by researchers at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada.
People with fibromyalgia not only have widespread pain, a large percentage also battle depression. This has led some investigators to argue that fibromyalgia might represent a form of depression, but pain system function tests prove otherwise.
The Canadian research team evaluated three groups of subjects: 40 healthy controls, 26 people diagnosed with depression, and 29 fibromyalgia patients. All participants were asked to determine when a heat probe changed from a warm sensation to pain. The ability of the body to reduce the impact of pain was also measured.
Prior studies by the primary investigator, Serge Marchand, P.D., a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada, have shown that the body’s natural ability to inhibit pain in fibromyalgia patients does not work. When the body is subjected to a lot of discomfort, the spinal cord system should pour out pain-relieving substances to soothe the tissues. This does not happen in people with fibromyalgia, but what about those with depression?
The temperature at which healthy subjects rated the heat probe as painful was much higher than the temperature for the fibromyalgia patients. The depressed subjects fell in between these two groups, so they do have some evidence of increased pain sensitivity, but nothing close to the fibro patients.
Looking at the system that should keep pain under control, the healthy and depressed groups both produced a similar response that led to pain relief. This same system did not work at all in the fibromyalgia patients.
According to Marchand, “This result shows that fibromyalgia can be distinguished from major depressive disorder.” The system in the spinal cord that helps block out pain works efficiently in depressed patients, but fails to function in people with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia patients often struggle with symptoms of depression, and depressed patients report various pain complaints, such as headaches and back pain. Marchand suspects this overlap in symptoms may be related to the increased pain sensitivity in both groups. Despite this similarity, he emphasizes that the fibromyalgia patients were significantly more heat sensitive because the system in the spinal cord to ease pain does not work.
Source: Normand E, et al. “Pain Inhibition Is Deficient in Chronic Widespread Pain but Normal in Major Depressive Disorder” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2010; DOI: 10.4088/JCP.08m04969blu.
Maybe this will stop the doctors from telling us it’s just all in our heads. I heard that for way too many years.
Thanks for the study.
Yes Julie hopefully it will! And not only doctors but other people as well that think it is all in our heads~ I get so tired of hearing that!
Julie the SS does recognize fibro as an illness as it is listed on the list of illness.
I have a friend on SSDI due to her fibro. You have to have it real bad.
When the VA approved FM in 1998 as a illness for compensation, they have MDD as a secondary illness caused by FM.
Thank you very much for this information. When admitted to the hospital for Depression, I think they really got the two of these mixed up!
I live in the UK and Drs here do not reconize Fibromyalgia has a neurogical disorder. I have been pasted around from one to another, first to Orthopedics to Rheumatology and now I am placed on a waiting list to see a Psychiatrist. My GP is very unsypathetic and has told me its “mind over matter” and its up to me if I get well or not. It has taken 4yrs to get a clinical diagnosis.
Angela, dont give up! The doctors are only doing what we call :practicing medicine. Process of elimination.You know what you live with everyday and have to let them know all the symptoms you live with. The medications may not work either. Look for a naturopathic doctor. They seem to understand it more than these trained medical doctors. Some people get so educated that they are just plain stupid!
It is all sad and frustrating. For me it has been seven decades and I am tired. It would have been nice to have experienced life without FM. I truly believe that it has taken so long for doctors to catch up because the ones who taught them in medical schools were so sure that they were right about us. I am seeing some progress. But now it’s either brushoff or meds I can’t begin to tolerate.
The answer to an unsympathetic doctor is to try a different doctor. It is true, and very apparent in the group I belong to. Many doctors still do not accept Fibromyalgia and that some doctors are unsympathetic to sufferers. Others are much more sympathetic and much more willing to help.
It took up to 6 years of listening to the doctors saying there wasn’t anything could do for me. I finally found a PA that figured out the closest to what I feel I have. Fibro is the closest we came to figuring this is what is wrong with. Now thanks to the diagnose I can take pain relievers. But there hasn’t been any help for me as far as the sleeping. I’m lucky to get 5 hours of good sleep.
Ellen, have you read one of the emails sent by the Fibromyalgia Network regarding the insomnia suffered by people that suffer from FM…… Some have recommended Melatonin, together with Zinc and Magnesium pills…… Try it you have nothing to lose…. I am trying all three recommended supplements and I sleep very well… so far so good! Blessings!
Angela, I live in the UK too and your doctors need to “Get with the programme”! The NHS website clearly lists one of the possible causes of Fibromyalgia as a disturbance in the central nervous system to the way pain messages are processed. If that doesn’t describe a neurological disorder, I don’t know what does. I hope by now that you have found some relief and a better informed doctor.
I find your articles very informative. It helps when others can valid how I feel every day.
I am so glad that finally study shows that we are not a nut case. If we are depressed it’s because doctors are trying to tell us that we are, because they cant find scientific proof of whats really happening to cause the pain. To all fibro patients, keep your head up and keep the FAITH because GOD still LOVES you the way you are and He will help us through this battle!!!!
Thank you for the reseach …
I am tired of my Dr. who records that I am depressed & keeps sending to me shrinks who keep trying to convince me … Its all in my head … and making my pain worse … with STRESS … by keep trying to make me talk about things that happened in my childhood 45 years that I could care less about and that dont effect me anymore … they r sick
It’s also crap that Social Security & Medical Retirement, doesn’t recognize this as a disability. I have been denied by both! They want more paperwork & test results! Really? Some days I don’t even crawl out of bed! My arms & legs are killing me!
This research proves what I feel. Who wouldn’t feel upset or down at times when they have so much to deal with with all of the constant fibro symptoms. It’s just totally overwhelming, but it does not feel the same as clinical depression.
What a relief to read so many comments re: fibro. It was really comforting to see that its not all in my head. I went to ER recently because of the pain and once I told him I suffered with fibro, then that was the answer to everything. I find it condescending the way they just shrug you off when you mention that you have fibro. So thank you all for the encouragement…:)
Years ago my physician told me I didn’t want to believe there was nothing wrong with me. He suggested I see a psychiatrist. As it happened I WORKED for a child psychiatrist who suggested I find a NEW doctor!
I agree about social security not recognizing fibro as a disability. Politics aside, it’s very unfair to those of us who have paid into the system for years!
I TO SUFFER FROM FIBRO AND AM VERY LIMITED TO PHYSICIANS IN MY AREA THAT KNOW HOW TO TREAT IT. IT TOOK THEM 9 YEARS TO SAY I HAVE FIBRO. ITS BEEN AT LEAST 15 TO 16 YRS NOW THAT IV HAD THIS AND IM STILL TRYING TO FIND A DOCTOR THAT CAN TREAT ME FOR FIBRO. I SEE THE LOCAL DOC HERE AND EVERYTIME I SEE HIM HE CHANGES MEDS ADDS OR TAKES ME OFF OF SOME OR CHANGES MY DOSE. MEANWHILE IM STILL SUFFERING.