Cough Remedy May Ease Fibromyalgia

SEPTEMBER 01, 2005

A study done by the University of Florida (UF) suggests that an OTC cough medicine, dextromethorphan, may help patients with fibromyalgia quiet the overreacting nerves that amplify ordinary touches into agony. The discovery was published in the May 2005 issue of The Journal of Pain. Researchers warn, however, that these are still early findings, and that patients should not take to medicating themselves with OTC cough medicine for pain. Dextromethorphan is popular in cold remedies because it elevates the threshold for the coughing reflex, yet is not addicting. Rheumatology expert Roland Staud, MD, the principal author of the study, stated that the drug may eventually be an option for treating fibromyalgia and other conditions involving heightened pain sensitivity. He said that one of the mechanisms behind specific features of fibromyalgia is central sensitization, a condition in which the central nervous system somehow magnifies pain signals to abnormally high levels. This is associated with "wind-up," a phenomenon in which repeated touches generate lingering pain that increases with each new contact. The researchers learned that dextromethorphan eased fibromyalgia patients' wind-up pain to the same degree it soothed secondary pain induced in healthy volunteers. Staud said that these findings "[have] refocused much of our research now," and that future UF studies will attempt to pinpoint the origins of the pain impulses.