New research indicates that moderate-to-severe fibromyalgia pain can dramatically impair health-related quality of life for people with the condition. The good news is that effective pain relief can greatly improve the situation.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition marked by widespread muscular and joint pain, as well as specific “tender” points that typically occur in the neck, spine, hips and shoulders. Pain is not the only symptom, as sleep disturbances and fatigue, depression and irritable bowel syndrome are often present.
The latest findings, which appear in the medical journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, are based on an analysis of data from a clinical trial comparing the combination painkiller tramadol-plus-acetaminophen (brand name, Ultracet) with inactive “placebo” treatment for relief of fibromyalgia pain.
The health-related quality of life of the 313 men and women who participated in the study was assessed with two standardized questionnaires and compared with the quality of life of a national sample of adults and of people with heart failure.
In all areas of quality of life the fibromyalgia patients scored lower than the national sample of adults, and lower in many aspects than heart failure patients as well, Dr. Robert M. Bennett, from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, and colleagues report.
As anticipated, the degree of fibromyalgia pain was directly related to the impairment in health-related quality of life seen, but improvement in pain severity with tramadol/acetaminophen treatment led to better quality of life.
“This study provides evidence that reducing pain can reduce the burden of fibromyalgia during a 3-month period,” the team says. Further studies are needed to see if addressing non-pain symptoms of fibromyalgia can provide additional improvements in health-related quality of life.