Another new cause of Fibro Found

Too Many Nerves: New Pathology Discovered in Fibromyalgia

By Adrienne Dellwo, GuideJuly 2, 2013

Research Brief

A new study that's getting a lot of attention may point to a major cause of widespread pain and other symptoms in fibromyalgia.

Researchers say that people with fibromyalgia may have a lot of extra sensory nerves to a particular part of the circulatory system, which could cause severe pain and tenderness, dysregulate blood flow, and make it hard for the body to regulate its internal temperature.

Arteriole-Venule Shunts & Why They're Important

Here's a quick anatomy lesson to help you understand this finding. In your circulatory system, you have several types of blood vessels, and the two types we're looking at for this study are called arterioles and venules. Think of plumming for a moment - arterioles and venules are different sizes of pipes, and they need valves to connect them. Those valves are called arteriole-venule shunts (AVS.)

AVS control whether your blood stays in the larger vessels or flows into smaller ones called capillaries. This is how your body controls heat, which is moved around your body by blood. The AVS are opened and closed by specialized nerves, which sense blood flow along with pain and temperature.

In this study, scientists discovered that participants with fibromyalgia had a bunch of extra nerves running to the AVS. More nerves means more sensory input - i.e., an extreme reaction to sensations such as pain and heat.

What Does it Mean?

In this study, researchers looked at the nerves and blood vessels in the hand. We still don't know if these extra nerves are all over our bodies, but if they are, it helps explain why we hurt everywhere. It could also explain why our internal thermostats are all over the place. (For a clarification on this point, see the comment below from Dr. Frank Rice, senior researcher on this study.)

On top of that is blood-flow issues. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, but if the body has trouble re-directing blood flow in response to exertion, the muscles become deprived, and therefore weak. Lactic acid builds up and causes that burning sensation we're all too familiar with.

Additionally, you know that painful pins-and-needles sensation you get when a foot or hand falls asleep? It's caused by inadequate blood flow, called ischemia, and some doctors have long believed that ischemia is responsible for some fibromyalgia pain.

The researchers behind this study also say this finding is a clear pathology that could lead to diagnostics tests as well as future treatments. All that seems promising, but then so do a lot of other studies. Time will tell.

Here's something to keep in mind about this study: it was funded by two companies that produce fibromyalgia medications - Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Savella (milnacipran.) A press release on the findings mentions that the excess nerves could be why those two drugs work for us, which makes me skeptical about new therapies. Drug companies aren't in the habit of pursuing new drugs when they can boost sales of the ones already on the market.

Also, this was a small study with just 24 women. We need a lot more research before we can say, without a doubt, that this is what's going on in our bodies.

Still, this is an interesting theory that I think deserves ongoing study. I hope other researchers will pick up on this as well, to reduce concerns about bias.

This study was a progression of one published back in 2009. Read more:Fibromyalgia & a Newly Discovered Sensory System.. (Please click on that phrase, it leads to another newly discovered cause of Fibro.)

Also read Serotonin & Blood Flow for an alternate theory of why we have blood-flow problems.

VERY interesting Sheila, I can definitely believe this. I know that I hurt in places that other people don't have any problems, for example the outside of my hand up to my pinkie -I tend to hit it often, and it will knock the wind out of me. Everyone I've asked about it have said they don't have any sensitivity there.

Thanks for finding this!


Thank you for including this article, Sheila. It helps to explain the research that Mike initially sent us. I found the scientific stuff in his article a bit hard to understand, so I'm glad that this article put it in layman's terms.

I sincerely hope that it's not just a study designed to sell more drugs, as the author wonders, and actually is a new discovery!!! I can't imagine spending many more years in pain of this caliber. So again, thanks for giving us a hope about fibro! Life lines are greatly appreciated.

Interesting article, Sheila. It's interesting that now they are starting to do some research on fibromyalgia. Formerly when the medical world just told us it was all in our heads nobody did any research so many of us who have lived with fibromyalgia for many years were just left with our pain and with very little if any help so we tried OTC painkillers, some of which could do damage to our liver and others that could do damage to...............................darn fibrofog, it just snatched word from my vocabulary. Sheila or Renie will probably be able to fill in my blank.

But now there are so many people struggling with this chronic illness that it is interesting that there is some research being done. But these are just some theories that they are testing so we mustn't read too much into these small studies. Some interesting theories.

Yes Renie, I have a lot of pain in my hands. I thought it was from my arthritis but maybe not entirely. The pain I have is on top of my hand across my knuckles. One time someone shook my hand firmly and I thought I would scream and it lasted for a long time. I've been thinking about alternatives to painful hand-shaking. I came up with this, but you have to train people. Cup your hands as if to pray, but ask the other person to do the same over my hands or vice versa. Then there is no pressure across the knuckles. Does this make sense to you? I have to find an alternative because I have enough pain in my hands all the time so I don't need a firm handshake that leaves me with acute pain for the rest of the day.

Hi Sheila,

Thanks for sharing and posting this article. This all sounds promising as it shows that there is more interest and research being done on Fibro! I do believe they are on to something here and it certainly made sense to me as I can say for sure nerves are definitely involved here! Hopefully, this will bring good results for us in the not too distant future and in the least they'll develop a medication strickly for Fibro!! The ultimate goal obviously being a cure! I think we all deserve a break from this suffering!!!



Thank you, Sheila for the article! Sure can relate to that burning sensation in the feet and the painful hands. I have arthritis in some fingers and knuckles and thought the pain was from that, but they are so sore and cold when I wake up in the morning and my feet are burning. I’ve been trying voltaren gel on the feet before I go to bed to lessen the pain so I can relax. Just yesterday tried it on my hands- bring careful not to rub my eyes. There’s no smell to it, which I like. Some creams just are so strong smelling. I got it for the pain into knees and shoulder, but called the pharmacy to see if it could be used on extremities and they said yes.

It’s sort of scary when they start talking about it bring related to the heart, but I guess it scares me when they talk about the brain too! As for a drug company with current drugs used for fibro doing the research - a bit fishy with little test subjects - but like Rachel says, at least more research is going on! Thanks again, Sheila!

Thanks to all for your appreciation and comments. This article is a bit different than the research I read last week on this site that talked about more nerves in the hands. This talks about more blood flow issues. I have been diagnosed with ischemia, ans the worst of it is ischemic heart damage.D-Ribose (a natural supplement of a substance that's already in our bodies but we use it up faster) helps each cell get oxygen, helping the ischemia (lack of oxygen) to cells, muscles, organs. When those things lack oxygen, they malfunction and hurt. D-Ribose has helped me and put my daughter into remission, so the natural medicine world already knew this fact, and now the medical world is catching up.

Rachel, maybe your lost thought was "drugs that damage your stomach"?