Fibromyalgia Studies, Clinical Trials and Research

Ongoing fibromyalgia research is focused in several different areas. Much of this research is sponsored by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other organizations.

The goals of some of these fibromyalgia studies and clinical trials include the following:

  • To determine the exact cause for fibromyalgia
  • To examine the roles of genetic factors (heredity), exercise, and sleep in the development and severity of fibromyalgia
  • To learn more about chronic pain and conditions associated with fibromyalgia
  • To develop improved methods of fibromyalgia diagnosis (e.g., using imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging [MRI scan]) and new fibromyalgia treatments (e.g., medications, cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • To discover new ways to prevent fibromyalgia

People with fibromyalgia experience pain in response to agents or factors that usually are not painful. Research is being conducted to help doctors learn more about this increased sensitivity, which may be due to differences in the way the nervous system processes painful stimuli.

Some researchers are investigating the potential relationship between heredity (genetics) and environmental factors and the development of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions. Researchers also are studying brain and spinal cord tissue to evaluate the relationship between fibromyalgia and nervous system and immune system activity, including the production of chemicals called cytokines, which cause inflammation and trigger pain.

The Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) is focused on improving methods of measuring pain, fatigue, and other symptoms in patients with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia. This program also is evaluating the impact of fibromyalgia on physical, emotional, social, and other issues that affect the quality of life for patients who have the condition.

New treatments for fibromyalgia that are that are being studied include the following:

  • Behavioral therapy to help prevent sleep disorders and help fibromyalgia patients maintain a long-term exercise program
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy (involves using breathing device during sleep; often used to treat sleep apnea)
  • Lifestyle exercise (e.g., walking short distances instead of driving, climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator)
  • Movement therapy (e.g., tai chi)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS; treatment in which a mild electrical current is applied to the brain to reduce pain and improve symptoms of depression)
  • Vagus nerve stimulation (treatment in which an implanted device is used to deliver regular electrical impulses to stimulate the vagus nerve [cranial nerve that controls involuntary functions such as heart rate])

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 17 Sep 2009

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015