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Fibromyalgia & LDN

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a painful and mysterious condition. Symptoms include chronic pain throughout the body, sensitivity to physical pressure, drowsiness, numbness, depression, and memory problems. Around 5% of the population suffers from fibromyalgia, with twice as many women affected than men.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Genetics is thought to play a role, as are environmental factor such as stress, trauma, and PTSD. Certain kinds of infection may cause fibromyalgia.

There is no true diagnostic test for this condition – it is usually a "diagnosis of exclusion", meaning all other conditions with similar symptoms have been ruled out.

The available treatments for fibromyalgia leave a lot to be desired. Doctors regularly recommend that those with fibromyalgia try to improve their sleep habits, engage in a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. This does help some people, but for many more it doesn’t do much to relieve their symptoms. Antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are also commonly used to treat fibromyalgia, to varying degrees of success. Cognitive behavioral therapy is another fibromyalgia treatment, as it can be used to help patients deal with the pain, and it also addresses the underlying psychological disturbances that might be contributing to the condition.

What is LDN?

Naltrexone is a drug that was approved by the FDA in 1985 to treat opiate addiction and subsequently approved to treat alcoholism. Naltrexone is commonly used at a dose of 50 – 100 mg daily for treating opiate and alcohol dependency.

The term 'LDN' refers to the use of Naltrexone at low doses ­ less than 10 mg per day. LDN is a treatment discovered in 1980 by Drs. Ian Zagon and Patricia McLaughlin at Hershey Medical Center, Penn State University. Originally researched as a way to slow down the growth of cancer, LDN was found to work for certain autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis by Dr. Bernard Bihari.

LDN and Fibromyalgia

In 2009, Stanford University conducted a pilot-study to test how effective LDN is at treating musculoskeletal pain, sensitivity to mechanical stimulation, and other symptoms of fibromyalgia. The researchers found that LDN use led to a reduction of one third in the severity of symptoms  when compared to a placebo, and side effects were rare.

In 2013, another follow-up study at Stanford University tested LDN as a treatment for fibromyalgia. Again, LDN was shown to significantly reduce pain, and participants in this study also reported the secondary benefits of less fatigue, improved sleep, and a generally more positive, optimistic outlook on life.

In 2014, a SUNY Upstate Medical University retrospective study reported that LDN improved pain tolerance for fibromyalgia patients.

Stanford University performed yet another study on LDN in 2016 – this one funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – and focusing on chronic pain syndromes including fibromyalgia. In this study, fibromyalgia patients experienced significant relief with minimal adverse side effects. In addition to fibromyalgia, LDN proved to be a potent remedy for other pain conditions such as migraine headaches and interstitial cystitis (a painful bladder syndrome).

LDN shows signs of being a safe and promising candidate for treating fibromyalgia, and is already being prescribed by hundreds of physicians worldwide for this chronic and painful condition.