We’ve heard about everything from the gut microbiome’s role in inflammation to its impact on the development of certain diseases, and most recently, a potential new link to chronic pain.
A new study published in the journal Pain found that patients with fibromyalgia, a condition often characterized by chronic pain, had similar gut microbiome compositions—an abundance or absence of 19 species of bacteria—compared to those who did not have the disease.
Fibromyalgia is a disease that currently does not have a cure and includes symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. The researchers found that these symptoms, in particular, were most closely connected to patterned changes they saw in the microbiome of fibromyalgia patients.
In the sample size, which included patients with and without fibromyalgia, they found a correlation between the level of intensity of the symptoms of the disease and the number of bacteria present or absent in the gut. The study noted this connection has not been previously reported.
More research is needed to see whether these changes in gut bacteria are merely characteristic of the disease or they could be contributing to the development of it.
At the moment, it is difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia as the symptoms are typical of many other conditions. The possibility that gut bacteria is a marker of the disease may mean earlier diagnosis and better treatment outcomes.
“As pain physicians, we are frustrated by our inability to help, and this frustration is a good fuel for research. This is the first evidence, at least in humans, that the microbiome could have an effect on diffuse pain, and we really need new ways to look at chronic pain,” said Yoram Shir, senior author on the paper and director of the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the McGill University Health Centre, in a statement.
This makes it essential for more understanding of ways to prevent, diagnose, and cure chronic pain. We’re looking forward to further research on the connection between the gut microbiome and chronic pain and hope this is an indication of more good research to come.