(Dec 19, 2008) - Edmonton- The chronic pain from Fibromyalgia is devastating, but the suffering doesn't end there. According to a new study by the University of Alberta's Bruce Dick, people with the disease may have disruption in their memory because of the pain.
Dick, a professor in anesthesiology and pain medicine, compared 30 women with Fibromyalgia with 30 healthy women. In the first test, Dick and his colleagues had his subjects perform simple tasks such as reading a map or using a phone book. They got the bulk of their results in the second test when researchers looked at how much information the subjects could handle and whether multi-tasking was particularly difficult.
"We found that the Fibromyalgia sufferers had difficulty focusing on specific bits of information," said Dick. "The working memory was impaired and [as tasks] became more difficult mentally, people's performance dropped off quite dramatically if they had pain related to Fibromyalgia."
There are other factors that can cause cognitive disruption, including sleep problems and depression. Even with taking those factors into consideration, Dick found in his study that the subjects still had a slip in their working memory.
Dick believes his findings contribute to what Fibromyalgia sufferers call "fibro fog." They describe it as having trouble concentrating, suffering short-term memory loss and having general cognitive slowing.
The U of A researcher says he made another interesting and surprising discovery. Those
patients that were on narcotics or opiates had much better memories.
"The drugs that are really controversial actually seemed to help them be much more
functional," said Dick, who adds he wants medical professionals to consider his findings when they are prescribing something for pain.
Wow. Most people with FMS will read this laugh so hard they will cry. That a study should show something so blatently obvious, and also, was never looked into before. That being in constant pain could affect consentration and memory. Really? Us FMSers know all about cognitive slowing and short term memory problems. And yeah some of it has to do with the profound insomnia, that can certainly dull the edge on thinking. But a lot is just that tolerating pain, as in being in pain but being forced to ignore it and try and function, takes a great deal out of a person. It seriously stresses the system, which causes other problems and snow balls into even other problems, but most definately affects consentration. Sometimes that effect can have devestating results on an attempt at a career. Certainly it stunted my academic career and made me waffle on finding a replacement. Even on the Lyrica and sleeping pills I still have a poor short term memory... which is endlessly embarrassing, forgetting things moments after. Forgetting things you know very well, or people you know very well, or how to do things that should be pretty automatic. It is difficult to work around. You learn tricks to get around it, but in some occupations it could be hazardous. I expect impossible under some work conditions.
Sometimes it is not just about the pain, but what constant pain does to you. Funny how pain killers actually improve memory functioning... so very funny the one thing doctors really do not want to give to someone with chronic pain might not only help with pain but also with tolerance of it and mental functioning through it. I would have thought that would have been obvious. I have always thought it particularly cruel how doctors do not adequately treat FMS pain, just expecting the patient to just deal with it, when they hand them out in fistfulls to people with moderate to severe but very temporary pain (why not tell them to suck it up as well? It is only temporary after all). The result is the patient downplaying their suffering, decreasing all aspects of their lifestyle to what is absolutely necessary, losing their level of income or their jobs all together, all the while knowing for a fact their doctor will not help them and their pain will be endless. Is it so surprising depression is one of the many FMS symptoms? Hardly. It gets me riled up; because it is so fustrating and disgusting, and it reminds me of how much I was forced to give up in order to 'cope'. Thankfully, my memory is so poor I usually forget about it soon enough. Not that this small study will change the ingrained bias in doctors treatments mind you. I am just glad someone had the guts to actually point it out. Every bit of awareness on FMS in the news is also a perk. Someday, twenty years from now, patients with FMS will have a well rounded and functioning treatment plan.