A recent study explored the use of non-drug, non-invasive, alternative treatments for fibromyalgia through the application of a novel treatment to the hands.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease associated with high levels of pain and tenderness in the muscles. It greatly impacts the individual’s quality of life and can affect both their social and family relationships. While it also occurs in men, it occurs more frequently in women and affects approximately 3%-10% of the general population. The disease often leaves patients feeling fatigued.
The current treatments for fibromyalgia are pharmacological, and these work by anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-depressant modes of action. Exercise and nutritional advice are other methods used that aim to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Exercise is believed to help decrease fatigue and muscle weakness, whilst adopting a gluten-free diet may decrease inflammation.
Laser and ultrasound as alternative treatments for fibromyalgia
Due to the desired need of non-drug and non-invasive, alternative treatments for fibromyalgia, researchers from Brazil set out to evaluate the use of laser and ultrasound as possible methods of treatment. Laser has been shown to demonstrate anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties by affecting certain enzymes within the mitochondria which leads to an increase in ATP. Ultrasound has been shown to alleviate the effects of pain by producing a thermal action and altering the conduction within the nerve fibres which carry pain signals. In addition to this, physiologically, it is known that fibromyalgia patients have a greater number of neuroreceptors in the hands when compared to healthy individuals.
In a study published in The Journal of Novel Physiotherapies, the researchers at the Optics and Photonics Research Centre, one of the Research, Innovation, Dissemination Centers supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation, explain the use of low-intensity laser light and therapeutic ultrasound by their application to the palms of the hands of fibromyalgia patients for three minutes, ten times twice a week.
A total of 48 women between the ages of 40-65 years who had already received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia were enrolled in this pilot study. They were then divided into six groups of eight at the Clinical Research unit managed by IFSC-USP together with the Santa Casa de Misericórdia hospital in São Carlos, São Paulo, Brazil.
Of the six groups, three received laser or ultrasound separately or combined in an area of the trapezius muscle. The other three groups received these treatments through application to the palms of the hands only.
This pilot study has allowed the direct comparison of low-intensity laser light and therapeutic ultrasound used in isolation, and the use of both combined. The use of these two methods in combination suggests an ultrasonic field overlap and luminous, called ultra laser. In addition to this, this study has compared the application of these methods by applying them to the traditional therapy resource, the tender points of the trapezius muscle, and also to the new protocol proposal, that being the palms of the hands.
Laser-ultrasound combination provided the greatest improvement in patients’ conditions
These therapies that were applied to both regions were evaluated using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire and Visual Analogue Scale. The results of the study showed that application to the palms of the hands was most effective, and this was irrespective of the technique employed. However, the laser-ultrasound combination provided the greatest improvement for patients’ conditions.
The group receiving the ultrasound-laser treatment at the trapezius region demonstrated an improvement of 46.6% in terms of functionality and a 63.31% pain reduction in comparison to the ultrasound only group. No significant difference was observed between the laser groups. However, the ultrasound-laser group receiving treatment to the palms of the hands showed a 75.37% reduction in pain. Thus, demonstrating the greater effectiveness of the treatment when applied to the palms of the hands.
This recent pilot study suggests that the application of this novel non-drug, non-invasive, alternative treatments for fibromyalgia to the palms of the hands may be an effective method. This is a disease which currently has no cure and significantly affects the patient’s quality of life, thus this treatment warrants further investigation.
Written by Jade Marie Evans, MPharm, Medical Writer
1) Silva amaral bruno , J et al. 2018. Could Hands be a New Treatment to Fibromyalgia? A pilot study . [Online]. [7 October 2018]. Available from: https://www.omicsonline.org/peer-reviewed/could-hands-be-a-new-treatment-to-fibromyalgia-a-pilot-study-102098.html
2) Eurekalert . 2018. Ultralaser treatment for fibromyalgia yields 75 percent pain reduction when applied to the hands . [Online]. [7 October 2018]. Available from: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-08/fda-utf082918.php