NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There is new hope for people with fibromyalgia – and it comes from magnets.
A new study found a device that pulses magnetic waves into the brain may offer relief.
As CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez reported, the process is non-invasive and has almost no side effects.
Fibromyalgia is the most common cause of chronic, widespread pain in the U.S., affecting between six and 12 million people nationwide.
Treatments aren’t that effective because traditional narcotic painkillers don’t work with fibromyalgia. But, as Gomez reported, electromagnets just might work.
“There’s a sensitization in the brain actual that makes you feel pain more strongly and lowers the pain threshold,” Dr. Alan Manevitz of Lenox Hill Hospital said.
A device called transcranial magnetic stimulation – or TMS – has brought relief to some fibromyalgia sufferers.
It works by pulsing electromagnetic waves into specific regions of the sufferer’s brain.
A new study in the Journal Neurology finds that magnetic stimulation can actually improve the non-pain symptoms of fibromyalgia, like depression, mood and overall quality of life.
Other studies have found that TMS also alleviates the pain symptoms. The difference is where and how the magnetic pulses are used.
“As you use the magnet in different areas of the brain, sometimes simultaneously in two areas, we’re able to both reduce pain as well as improve quality of life symptoms,” Dr. Manevitz said.
TMS seems to work by altering some of the pain circuits in the brain. “The brain is an electrical device and we know that when we add an electrical impulse to that device, the device will change,” Dr. James Halper of Lenox Hill added.
The TMS device has been FDA approved to treat depression, so its use for fibromyalgia is still off-label and experimental, Gomez noted.
Those who have undergone the treatment said there’s no real side effects other than a light tapping sensation in their head.