Widespread pain may stem from the brain, scientists report
Widespread pain may actually originate from the brain, according to a study of MRI scans that is published in Pain.
A team looked at data from 1,079 people who had urological chronic pelvic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia or no pain. Some of the people were then asked to have MRI scans.
“Surprisingly, many of the individuals, in addition to having pain located in the pelvic region, had pain also widely distributed throughout their body,” explains Dr Richard Harris, who led the work. “Interestingly, when we put these individuals into the brain imaging scanner, we found that those who had widespread pain had increased gray matter and brain connectivity within sensory and motor cortical areas, when compared to pain-free controls.
“What was surprising was these individuals with widespread pain, although they had the diagnosis of urological chronic pelvic pain, were actually identical to another chronic pain disorder: fibromyalgia.”
The changes in brain grey matter volume and functional connectivity were identical to outcomes in people with fibromyalgia, but were not seen in the pain-free control group.
“This study represents the fact that pelvic pain patients, a subset of them, have characteristics of fibromyalgia,” says Dr Harris. “Not only do they have widespread pain, but also they have brain markers indistinguishable from fibromyalgia patients.
“We think that this type of study will help treat these patients because if they have a central nerve biological component to their disorder, they’re much more likely to benefit from targets that affect the central nervous system rather than from treatments that are aimed at the pelvic region.”
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