Overcoming Pain

Why people experience chronic pain, and the power they have to de-intensify it

Chasing Creatine

Bodybuilders have used it for years. Does it do anything for fibromyalgia?

Bodybuilders have used it for years. But does it do anything for the fibromyalgia patient? According to Brazilian researchers, it appears to have provided a bit of a boost to muscle strength. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia patients need a boost to their energy and a reduction in pain, an improvement in memory and a little less depression, a little more sleep and a farewell to brain fog.

It certainly appears that the supplement creatine is not the answer to these symptoms of fibromyalgia.

This study of creatine in fibromyalgia patients, which will be published in an upcoming edition of “Arthritis Care & Research,” appears to have had its roots in earlier work showing reduced creatine levels in the brain and muscle of fibromyalgia patients. So, researchers assumed that the fatigue and cognitive complaints seen in many fibromyalgia patients may be due to a creatine deficit. After all, creatine is a substance needed by the body’s cells in order to generate energy.

The study performed in Brazil was a four-month comparison of creatine users to subjects given a placebo. It was at the end of that period that a 10% improvement in strength was noted in those subjects on creatine when they engaged in leg press exercises; the improvement was 8% when subjects were compared on the chest press test. And of course subjects were asked about their levels of pain, the state of their mood, and the quality of their sleep. Creatine did not seem to help pain, mood, and sleep hygiene; alas, fibromyalgia patients have more problems with these issues than how well they perform on the machines at the local gym.

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Still, any sort of study, even with a so-called “negative” result as seen in this study, is important to a fibromyalgia patient. For while there are drugs on the market that are indeed indicated for the treatment of fibromyalgia (i.e., Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella), these are not universally efficacious, and often have troubling side effects, including those which impact cognition—something the fibromyalgia patient does not need more of.

Despite the less than promising results with creatine, the researchers feel that perhaps there is a place for creatine when therapy for fibromyalgia is prescribed: It very well may be the case that the combination of creatine and exercise, or creatine and one of the aforementioned approved fibromyalgia drugs, may be the key to fibromyalgia improvement.

The answers will only come with more study.

In the meantime, fibromyalgia patients should continue with what has been shown to be helpful:

• A graded exercise program.

• An effort to maximize quality of sleep.

• Appropriate prescription medications under a doctor’s supervision.

Mark Borigini, M.D., is a board-certified rheumatologist who has devoted his career to treating illnesses that cause chronic pain and disability.

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