An MRI May Help Diagnose Fibromyalgia

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Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose, in part because the causes are not fully understood by doctors. Additionally, the symptoms commonly associated with fibromyalgia widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body is the same problems associated with other diseases.

Many times, doctors are faced with the difficult task of ruling out other issues before identifying fibromyalgia as the cause. Fibromyalgia is a set of symptoms, which when they occur together are known as a syndrome. People with fibromyalgia syndrome report chronic pain throughout the body, debilitating fatigue, pain at the joints, anxiety and depression. The symptoms can make it difficult to sleep and exercise, which affects the patient’s overall quality of life.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is used for a lot of different things. It helps doctors diagnose soft-tissue injuries, spinal problems, vascular abnormalities, gastrointestinal problems, and diseases or abnormalities of the brain.

MRI May Help to diagnose fibromyalgia

Researchers at the University of Colorado conducted a study that identified something unique in the brains of people with fibromyalgia. They performed a functional MRI, a type of scan that allowed them to measure and map brain activity while subjecting these patients to painful pressure. During the test, they saw a series of patterns in brain activity connected to the patient’s hypersensitivity to pain.

These same brain patterns are not seen in people who do not have fibromyalgia. It’s unlikely that you’ll need an MRI for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome unless your particular set of symptoms is similar to that of a neurological illness that can only be eliminated by MRI.

You may also need an MRI at some point to diagnose an injury or a different illness. Before that time, there are some things you need to know that may help you get through it with less of a symptom flare.

MRI uses radio waves

An MRI uses magnetism and radio waves to send images of structures inside your body to a computer. In most machines, you lie on a bed that slides into and out of a tube around which there’s a big doughnut-like structure that holds the magnets.


During the test, the magnets spin around you and loud sounds send radio waves through the body part being scanned. It’s not a quick test it can last anywhere from 10 minutes to more than two hours, depending on what the scan is for and how much of your body they need to examine.

During a brain MRI, your head will be immobilized in a cage-like contraption with an opening over your face so you can see and breathe. The sides of the opening are padded and designed to hold you snugly in place.


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More research is still needed

While more research is still needed, this discovery is exciting news for fibromyalgia sufferers. It means that an MRI may help both with diagnosing fibromyalgia, as well as the identification of the individual patient’s unique subtype of the syndrome. This level of detail will potentially help doctors create more customized treatment plans for their fibromyalgia patients.

Important thing that must be kept in mind

The first thing you should do is let your doctor know that the test could be a serious problem for you. Some facilities have MRI machines with different designs that are quieter and less confining. Your doctor may know of one or, with a few phone calls, you may be able to find out if there’s one in your area. (Be sure to check on whether your insurance will cover it.)

Talk to your doctor if you have claustrophobia

f you have anxiety issues or claustrophobia, talk to your doctor when he/she orders an MRI about medication options. Some doctors may give you an anti-anxiety drug like Xanax (alprazolam) or Valium (diazepam). Managing your anxiety should also help minimize problems related to noise sensitivity. (They’ll give you earplugs, but the noise can still be aggravating.)

Research teams are working

Several research teams are working to develop new tests to diagnose the condition, including genetic tests, ophthalmic tests and medical imaging. The aim is to improve fibromyalgia treatment by developing a more personalized therapeutic approach in response to the disease’s highly diverse manifestations.

Potential analysis

Previous studies have identified hypersensitivity and an altered brain response in people suffering from fibromyalgia. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, in the USA, have explored the potential analysis of these brain responses as a means of diagnosis.

Scientists studied the brain activity of 37 people with fibromyalgia and 35 control patients using fMRI scans (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). They also used “multisensory” machine-learning techniques to identify brain-based fibromyalgia signs and non-painful sensory stimulation. Both groups were exposed to various non-painful visual, auditory and tactile cues as well as painful pressure.

Novelty of this study

“The novelty of this study is that it provides potential neuroimaging-based tools that can be used with new patients to inform about the degree of certain neural pathology underlying their pain symptoms,” said Marina López-Solà, the study’s lead author. “The set of tools may be helpful to identify patient subtypes, which may be important for adjusting treatment selection on an individualized basis.”

Hyperalgesia and allodynia

Lying on a hard surface, pressure against your arms and abdomen, and being still for so long may be a problem for those with hyperalgesia and allodynia. Pain medication before the MRI may make it more comfortable for you. (If you’re also being sedated or taking something for anxiety, make sure to check that your pain meds will be safe.) Take a few seconds to mentally calm yourself before going into the tube.

For support and Discussion join the group “Living with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illness”

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Reference: An MRI May Help Diagnose Fibromyalgia via Crozerkey Stone

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