It is not currently understood why patients with arthritis have such variability in how much pain they experience, despite the widespread use of potentially damaging anti-inflammatory drugs. A study published last month in the European Journal of Neuroscience examined whether the spreading and intensification of pain in arthritis may be similar to that experienced by sufferers of fibromyalgia. Earlier research had suggested that patients with fibromyalgia have abnormalities in the way in which the brain deals with pain. This study sought to identify a similar mechanism at work in sufferers of arthritis.
Researchers measured brain waves in response to short painful laser pulses to the skin in patients with osteoarthritic or fibromyalgia pain and those with no pain. They found that while anticipating the painful pulse, the insula cortex area of the brain increased its activity and this predicted the extent and intensity of the patients’ own chronic pain. These findings may provide both a target for development of new therapies and validation of the effectiveness of simple interventions, such as talking therapies, to improve the brain’s control of chronic pain.
Read a news story about the study here.
The article abstract may be read here.