- Chronic Pain & Wellness
- Chronic Pain & Wellness
Fibromyalgia May be Linked to Other Diseases
Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain syndrome associated with muscle tenderness and increased sensitivity to pain. Understanding the mechanisms of what causes fibromyalgia has been difficult to come by, and as a result, doctors have struggled to find successful treatments for its sufferers. Medications often fail to provide meaningful results that improve quality of life. Despite the difficulty in figuring out what makes this vexing pain disease tick, we seem to be making some headway in finding clues that may help provide relief.
Interestingly, fibromyalgia actually shares something in common with a number of other life-altering medical diseases including epilepsy, migraine headaches, strokes, neuropathic pain, Parkinson's disease, coronary artery disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetes, hepatitis C, primary biliary cirrhosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.
What trait does fibromyalgia share with these other conditions? The answer is they all seem to have evidence of mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria are organelles inside the cells of the body that perform a number of critical functions including the production of the cell’s energy. If our mitochondria are not working efficiently, then our cells don’t function well, and this seems to correlate with all of these different diseases including fibromyalgia. In fact a decline in function of the cells’ mitochondria is also a sign of aging and deterioration of the body.
What does mitochondrial dysfunction have to do with fibromyalgia? Biopsies taken of muscles from fibromyalgia patients have shown morphological changes in their mitochondria. The problem seems to have something to do with the increased production of something called reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside of the mitochondria. This is a sign that these mitochondria are being overburdened by oxidative stress. Compare this to a car that is chronically low on oil and in need of a tune-up 24/7.
Can mitochondrial dysfunction be treated? Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ) is an essential ingredient used by the mitochondria to produce energy. CoQ is considered to be a useful marker of mitochondrial dysfunction, and studies seem to show CoQ deficiencies in fibromyalgia. CoQ deficiencies inside the mitochondria can lead to increased levels of ROS causing the mitochondria to function poorly and leading to tissue breakdown.
CoQ is a potential candidate for treating fibromyalgia because it improves mitochondrial function by directly increasing mitochondrial energy production and as a potent anti-oxidant that reduces oxidative stress. Studies have looked at anywhere from 100-300 mg per day of CoQ supplementation for fibromyalgia treatment. If you are considering CoQ supplementation, first consult with your physician.
How do I know if I am CoQ deficient? Unfortunately, blood levels correlate poorly with levels of CoQ inside the cells, so blood tests are likely not going to be helpful. The only current way to accurately assess for CoQ deficiency is to measure it in the muscles themselves.
About the author
Dr. Peter Abaci
Bay Area Pain and Wellness Center: A Prospira Center of Excellence
Peter Abaci, MD, is certified in anesthesia and pain management by the American Board of Anesthesiology. He serves as the Medical Director of the nationally recognized Bay Area Pain and Wellness... View Articles