Electroshock Therapy and Fibromyalgia

electroconvulsive therapy

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Electroshock therapy scares a lot of people. That makes sense given that we usually think of it as someone being strapped to a table and electrocuted. But in the past few decades, we’ve re-examined the procedure and discovered it’s one of the most effective ways to treat depression. And we’ve also made it much more humane. Here’s how it works and why you should consider it.

What Is Electroshock Therapy?

Electroshock therapy is actually pretty simple. Essentially, a patient is placed under general anesthesia and electrodes are attached to their head. While they are unconscious, electricity is run through the electrodes which causes a small seizure. Afterward, the patient wakes up with no memory of being shocked and no lingering physical effects.

Typically, this procedure is repeated a few times over a period of weeks for a full treatment course. But the procedure itself is a lot gentler than you’re probably imagining. It’s hardly the popular image of electroshock therapy from pop-culture works like One Flew Over The Coocoo’s Nest. There’s no forcible restraint and you don’t end up a mindless zombie afterward.

But there are a few minor side-effects.

Is It Safe?

Electroshock therapy is a generally painless and simple procedure. Afterward, some of the most common complications that patients experience are also straightforward. Right after a round of electroshock therapy, the patient usually feels a bit confused. This is normal and should subside within a few hours.

In addition, they might also experience a bit of memory loss. This is called retrograde amnesia and is a fairly common complication. Basically, the seizure can wipe out the past few days or even up to a week of memory. Generally, this is a short term condition and isn’t really serious enough to be a problem.

And finally, there are occasional physical symptoms like pain in the jaw or muscles. This is caused by the muscles seizing up during the treatment and doesn’t cause any permanent damage.

In fact, electroshock therapy is actually perfectly safe. The electric current used isn’t enough to do any damage. The only real danger, and the reason that electroshock therapy has such a bad reputation, is when it is performed by people who don’t know what they are doing.

This was a much more significant problem in the older days of medicine when the treatment was still new and most doctors didn’t understand how to administer the treatment safely. Today, electroshock therapy is a well-understood and safe treatment that is actually very effective for treating a number of conditions.

Is It Effective For Fibromyalgia?

So, can electroshock therapy treat your fibromyalgia? It’s a question that science is just beginning to look at, but the results have been promising so far. Electroshock therapy is usually used to treat depression, and it’s one of the most effective treatments out there for that.

That makes it an interesting option when it comes to treating fibromyalgia, since of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia is depression. And in addition to being extremely common among fibromyalgia patients, depression is one of the most dangerous aspects of the condition.

See, fibromyalgia by itself isn’t fatal. But that doesn’t mean that people never die from it. Chronic pain and fatigue, with no obvious cure in sight, leave a lot of people with fibromyalgia feeling helpless and depressed. And that high rate of depression among people with fibromyalgia means that people with fibromyalgia are at serious risk of committing suicide.

So something that could help deal with their depression would literally help save lives. And electroshock therapy has a great track record when it comes to treating depression. Many different studies have shown that the treatment leads to a remission in major depression syndromes in the majority of patients. In fact, when other treatments such as therapy and antidepressants fail, Electroshock therapy is able to help people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression.

However, when we ask whether this treatment is effective for treating the other symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as a pain and fatigue, the results are a bit murkier. Some studies have shown that fibromyalgia patients receiving electroshock therapy reported a significant improvement. But others have concluded that while electroshock was able to treat the depression from fibromyalgia, but that their pain was largely unaffected.

Whether or not we could expect electroshock to treat fibromyalgia depends on what is actually causing fibromyalgia. Growing evidence suggests that the root of fibromyalgia may lie in the nervous system. Doctors who study the condition have speculated that it might be caused by a failure of neurotransmitters to send dopamine through the brain. This is also what lies behind clinical depression, interestingly enough.

And if that is the case, then it makes sense that a treatment targeting the central nervous system like electroshock therapy would be an effective treatment. So there’s hope that electroshock therapy may offer relief to fibromyalgia patients once we know more about the condition.

So what about you? Would you consider getting electroshock therapy for your fibromyalgia? Have you had it already? Let us know in the comments.