UTMB doctor discovers promising pain relief for fibromyalgia patients

A UTMB doctor thinks he's made a discovery that could help treat the disease, which causes chronic pain.

HOUSTON – 10 million Americans, mostly women, are suffering from fibromyalgia. Patients often endure years of surgeries and medications like opioids without much relief to their full-body pain symptoms. Therefore, there’s been a big push to help identify and cure the illness.

Ohio State University is working on a blood test to verify this is a cause of chronic 

Meanwhile, a UTMB doctor thinks he's made a discovery that could also treat it.

UTMB Dr. Miguel Pappolla, professor of Neurology, said fibromyalgia pain is often associated with some neuropathy pain. Neuropathy pain is also commonly found in patients with a high Hemoglobin A1c.

Hemoglobin A1c is how pre-diabetes and diabetes are determined. It is treated with insulin resistant drugs like Metformin. Pappolla noticed his patients with fibromyalgia had improvements with pain when taking that same drug!

“People with insulin resistance can develop a form of neuropathy called small fiber neuropathy. Small fiber neuropathy independent of our finding has also been related to fibromyalgia and some research teams think that this form of neuropathy may contribute to the pain that people with fibromyalgia have,” Pappolla said.

He said when his patients with a high Hemoglobin A1c are given metformin, they have decreased pain.

He said this doesn't mean people with fibromyalgia also have insulin resistance, but there are some correlations that need more investigation.

“Even if it turns out to be that a subgroup of patients with fibromyalgia is caused by insulin resistance, that is a significant stride forward to finding a treatment that could be more efficacious and have less side effects,” Pappolla said.

Channelview mom Maria Pena was not part of the study, but said she's hopeful something this simple could one day be the cure she desperately wants for her condition. She said she’s endured years of surgeries, injections, medications and muscle relaxers and nothing takes her chronic pain away caused by fibromyalgia.

“To alleviate some of the pain on a daily basis would really help. At this point it's just, you know, I take it a day at a time,” Pena said.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Here are the symptoms that may indicate you have fibromyalgia:

-pain and stiffness all over the body
-fatigue
-depression
-anxiety
-sleep problems
-headaches
-problems with thinking, memory and concentration.