Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Light: A Window to Pain in the Brain?

I have GOT to tell you guys about this new study seeking funding... with a little back story of course!

I grew up out in Eugene, Oregon, home of the Oregon Ducks. It's a great place - very progressive and full of actual, real hippies. Side note: I'm actually super stoked to try going out there for my ten year reunion in a few years.

ANYWAY, one of my friends from high school works in the healthcare industry. She knows Doctor Omar Halawa at the Oregon Health and Science University, who just happens to be working on this fascinating new study focused on chronic pain, specifically fibromyalgia.

You can read the details above, but basically here's the lowdown: fibromyalgia patients have been found to be a lot more sensitive to light than normal peeps. This study is going to utilize results from that study to see if changes in light can affect pain centers in the brain, and they'll measure this using a fMRI (functional MRI).

This is fantastic news for anyone dealing with chronic pain, as this could have HUGE implications for us. It's also super news for us fibro patients, because the medications used to treat fibro don't work for everyone and can have some funky side effects. I just found out the med I'm on can be a depressant - they gave a girl with a history of anxiety and depression a depressant!!!

Sigh. At least it's working okay for me. I digress.

My friend got me in touch with Dr. Halawa and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions on this study:
Briefly, chronic pain is a huge stigma in our medical system and society at large. If someone gets this diagnosis they're often labeled as "weak" "narcotic seeking" "whiney". What supports this erroneous view is that our current diagnoses aren't able to "find pain". For example, if you image a patient's lower back and find nothing pathological you imply to them that the pain is "in their head". This is harmful to the patient as they start to feel that their pain is a character flaw and often become isolated/hopeless. The reality, though, is that most chronic pain conditions are a malfunction in the neurocircuitry in the brain and spinal cord that we can't see with conventional imaging.
Our hope with this study is that we will be able to detect this abnormal/sick nervous system using functional MRI and light.
These doctors actually get it, so I figure we need to do what we can to help them help us, right? There are 24 days left for Dr. Halawa and his colleagues to raise the $12k needed to complete this study. If you're in the position to donate, please do so here. If you can't, please try to share this so that others can try to help.

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