According to estimation, fibromyalgia affects from 2% to 8% of the population. It was not recognised as a separate disease until the 1980s and was strictly classified only recently. In the mid-80s, the first study of medication for fibromyalgia was published but scientists still haven’t found a cure for this disease, and treatment is limited to symptom management. The latest developments in stem cell-based regenerative medicine have contributed significantly to the treatment with stem cells for fibromyalgia.
What Is Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome, characterised by widespread pain associated with a complex set of symptoms, mainly fatigue, sleep disturbance, impaired cognition and depression. Learn more about fibromyalgia in this educational video by the SciShow project:
The functional changes that underlie this syndrome are not clearly understood, although the following factors are identified as contributory:
- Abnormality in pain processing both on a peripheral level and in the central nervous system.
- Sleep disorders (reduced sleep quality, efficiency and duration and increased sleep disturbance).
- Abnormalities of the autonomic nervous system.
- Dysregulation of the major neuroendocrine systems, which regulate the body’s response to stress and play a key role in the maintenance of the metabolism and energy balance.
Fibromyalgia syndrome is diagnosed by excluding other neurological disorders and depression, as there are no objective diagnostic tests.
Management of Fibromyalgia
Patients usually start with standard protocols before considering stem cell treatment for fibromyalgia as an option. Current treatment guidance says that the first step in managing fibromyalgia is educational support for patients and a focus on non-pharmacological regimens, such as exercise and psychological therapies. Experts agree that regular physical activity should also be considered a cornerstone of treatment.
In non-responsive patients, pharmacological therapies should be added, especially to those with sleep or mood disturbances.
The following medications are usually recommended to reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep:
Over-the-counter pain relief, including paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, may be helpful but are not suitable in every case due to their weak impact, side effects and limited period of administration. Stronger painkillers (codeine or tramadol) are prescribed when over-the-counter drugs are not effective.
Among multiple antidepressants only duloxetine, milnacipran and amitriptyline have a certain effect in treating pain, fatigue, anxiety or sleep disorders associated with fibromyalgia. They mediate levels of chemicals in the body that help control pain and boost energy.
Gabapentin and pregabalin – drugs that are approved to treat seizures – prevent sensitive nerves from sending too many pain signals to the brain. They are prescribed to ease certain types of pain, including in patients with fibromyalgia. Pregabalin was the first drug approved in the USA to treat fibromyalgia, but it is not approved in the EU.
The effectiveness of certain pharmaceutical drugs in a patient with fibromyalgia raises doubt among experts. Evidence for a similar efficacy of drugs belonging to the same therapeutic class (i.e. antidepressants, anticonvulsants, NSAIDs), especially those used in the management of mental health disorders, is lacking for the treatment of fibromyalgia, or managing its symptoms (pain, sleep problems, fatigue) and is not supported by evidence. Often the risks of therapy outweigh the expected benefits due to intolerable adverse effects caused by these drugs. The most common, and not so common, but serious side effects are listed in Table 1.
|Common Side Effects
Serious Side Effects
|• Gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, diarrhoea, heartburn, etc.)
• Itching, rashes
• Weight gain
• Swelling (oedema)
• Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
• Flu-like symptoms
• Sensitivity to light
• Efficacy decreases over time
|• Gastrointestinal bleeding ulcers
• Cardiovascular complications (strokes,
heart attacks, and heart-related deaths)
• Severe rash or hives
• Bloody or cloudy urine
• Blurred vision
• Extreme fatigue
|• Nausea (feeling sick)
• Dry mouth
• Feeling agitated, shaky or anxious
• Blurred vision
• Increased appetite
• Weight gain
• Sexual problems
• Withdrawal effect
|• Suicidal thoughts
• Type 2 diabetes
• Hyponatraemia – low blood sodium
levels (serious cases may result in
disorientation, psychosis, confusion, seizures, coma)
• Serotonin syndrome (an exceptionally
high level of serotonin may cause
serious symptoms, including seizures,
irregular heartbeat –
• Swelling of hands and feet (oedema)
• Weight gain
|• Behavioural changes, including
• Suicidal thoughts or actions
Alternative Medicines for Fibromyalgia
There are some studies indicating that approaches such as traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, herbs and nutritional support may help patients with fibromyalgia, along with traditional medicine and physical activity.
Specialists also believe that a deficit of specific vitamins, microelements and some molecules that participate in stress and pain regulation may contribute to the development of fibromyalgia symptoms. The following supplements are usually recommended as complementary treatments for fibromyalgia:
- 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)
- SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)
- St John’s wort
Due to a lack of strict studies into supplements, prescriptions must be issued by a qualified specialist who can weigh up all the possible risks and benefits to the patient.
Simple remedies, such as massage and warmth can reduce muscle pain and stiffness, plus provide relaxation and rest.
Using Stem Cells in Fibromyalgia Management
The latest studies of a stem cell-based approach in patients with neurological, autoimmune and musculoskeletal disorders allow for the use of stem cell therapy for fibromyalgia.
Inflammation contributes to the development of musculoskeletal pain and other neurological symptoms. In fibromyalgia, stem cell may provide a treatment. The ability of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are present in many organs of the adult body, to modulate the immune system and therefore manage inflammation has been widely studied.
Some researchers consider fibromyalgia to be an auto-immune disease. In this context, MSCs demonstrate a benefit in accelerating recovery from acute conditions exacerbated by central inflammation, such as stroke and relapsing multiple sclerosis.
In an animal model of major depressive disorder and anxiety, MSCs modulated the central inflammatory process in the nervous system and changed abnormal behavioural patterns. This is another evidence that stem cells for fibromyalgia may be beneficial.
Contact our medical advisor to discover the results you can get from stem cell therapy for fibromyalgia.
Clinical Results: How Does Stem Cell Therapy Alleviate Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
The cell-based treatment programmes for fibromyalgia provide a positive impact on both central and peripheral nervous systems. Stem cell treatment for fibromyalgia may result in such clinical effects as:
- A decrease in fatigue and pain.
- An increase in the overall patient’s energy level.
- Improvement in sleep.
- Lower stress and anxiety levels.
- An increase in the general quality of life.
Testimonial of a Patient Treated at Swiss Medica
When it comes to stem cell, fibromyalgia is one of health conditions that benefit from the therapy. Here is the review of the treatment of our patient.
Patient: Jeanne, 40 years-of-age.
Complaints and symptoms:
- Accumulated fatigue due to work overload
- Sleep disorder, feeling drowsy in the morning
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Morning stiffness
- Swelling of the limbs
- Low mood and anxiety
- Difficulty swallowing food
- Nausea and vision deterioration after a working day
- Impaired concentration
Cell-based treatment procedure:
- Adipose (fat)-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) were obtained from the abdominal area (standard liposuction under local anaesthesia).
- MSCs were separated from the fat tissue and activated.
- The cell product was administered, via Intravenous (IV) drip, into the patient’s body.
The following improvements were observed eight months after the treatment with stem cells for fibromyalgia:
- Pain relief
- Stiffness and tenderness in muscles was decreased or completely eliminated
- Sleep improvement
- A drastic increase in efficiency at work
- General health improvement
Additional Treatment Procedures
Due to the complexity of fibromyalgia syndrome, additional therapies may be required to obtain the best outcome in stem cell treatment for fibromyalgia. For each patient, an individual therapy plan is developed based on the general health status, age, concomitant diseases and other aspects. In fibromyalgia, stem cell therapy can be supported with the following procedures:
- Electrical myostimulation
- Interval hypoxic-hyperoxic treatment
- Mesodiencephalic modulation (MDM) – transcranial electrostimulation of the brain
- Shockwave therapy
- Xenon gas inhalation therapy
Also, Swiss Medica provides supplemental consultations with interdisciplinary specialists. You can contact our medical advisor to discover the results you can get from stem cell therapy for fibromyalgia.
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List of References
Hess DC et al. A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical evaluation of MultiStem for the treatment of ischemic stroke. International journal of stroke: official journal of the International Stroke Society. 2014; 9:381–386.
Rosado-de-Castro PH, Pimentel-Coelho PM, da Fonseca LM, de Freitas GR, Mendez-Otero R. The rise of cell therapy trials for stroke: review of published and registered studies. Stem cells and development. 2013; 22:2095–2111.
Gallagher D et al. Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Modulate Peripheral Stress-Induced Innate Immune Activation Indirectly Limiting the Emergence of Neuroinflammation-Driven Depressive and Anxiety-like Behaviors. Biol Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 1;86(9):712-724.