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Lidocaine Injection May Help Treat Fibromyalgia

But experts wonder how much of the benefit is due to placebo effect


"The best way to treat chronic pain conditions is . . . [by] looking at emotional, sensory and tissue damage," Michael Robinson, director of the University of Florida Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health, said in a university news release. "We know there are central and peripheral and social and behavioral components to someone saying, 'Ow, it hurts.'"

Cancer survivors who experience pain, for example, may associate it with their disease and fears about their prognosis -- even if it's been treated and in remission.

"That sensation may well feel more painful than if they just thought it was a tweaked muscle," Robinson explained.

Two experts in fibromyalgia were unsure about the significance of the findings, however.

"There was no significant difference between the pain reduction in the placebo versus the treatment group -- this signifies that it does not matter what the injection product is, but the act of injection itself might be the cause of pain reduction," said Dr. Waseem Mir, a rheumatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"One can then argue that the pain reduction was placebo," he said. "To examine the placebo point, another arm in the experiment might need to be introduced where patients are not getting injected but taking a placebo pill."

Dr. Houman Danesh is director of integrative pain management at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He said that "fibromyalgia is a complex disorder where patients are more sensitive to pain. It is mainly diagnosed by a rheumatologist by touching 18 diagnostic pressure points, and if 11 of them are sensitive, then the diagnosis is made," he explained.

"This study offers insight as to a potential contributor to fibromyalgia and a possible treatment," Danesh said. "It is interesting to note that the points which were used were acupuncture points, therefore suggesting acupuncture as a possible treatment to help patients with fibromyalgia."

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