“We’re going to use heat to induce pain on you”-My adventures in being a research study subject!

Since I am constantly complaining about the lack of (known) research for fibromyalgia, you know I was super excited when I had the opportunity to actually be a subject in a research study!

The study is being conducted at Indiana State University. With the permission of Carolina Valencia, PT, PhD and Robert Vallandingham, LAT, ATC, who are conducting the study, I get to share the details of the study and my personal experience with each aspect of it…yay!

This research study focuses on “Effects of Light Brushing on Clinical Pain Intensity and Experimental Pain Sensitivity in Fibromyalgia Patients.” What a mouthful, right?

According to my consent paperwork, “The Purpose of the research study is to determine the effect of light brushing Graston technique on your pain caused by Fibromyalgia. The study will address whether this treatment option is able to decrease pain.” For those who are unfamiliar to Graston technique, you can find more about HERE, but here is a summary (Taken from GrastonTechnique.com:


                                              graston tools

 “The Graston Technique, originally developed by athletes, is changing the way clinicians — including physical and occupational therapists, hand therapists, chiropractors and athletic trainers — and patients view treatment of acute and chronic soft tissue injuries. Graston Technique® is an innovative, patented form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that enables clinicians to effectively break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions. The technique utilizes specially designed stainless steel instruments to specifically detect and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation.”

*On a side note, I have personally had the Graston Technique done in physical therapy and my opinion of it is as follows: Every time I get it done I wonder why the hell I asked for it. I’m not going to lie, it hurts but when it’s done I want more. In fact, I’m pretty sure the first time I got it done I wondered if the person who performed the procedure was mad at me. It’s definitely a “hurts so good” treatment. Because I’ve had Graston done, this study perked my interest even more, but I worried the potential pain of the procedure would make other subjects run for the door, but when the study states “light brushing”, that’s exactly what they meant. I’ll get to more of that later. The procedures for the study were the following:

1. I completed a series of questionnaires that included questions on how my pain affected my ability to do daily activities such as walk up stairs and work as well as questions involving how fibromyalgia affects me psychologically.

2. They tested my pain perception by on my forearms and the palm of my hand by inducing pain with a heat device that was placed on my arm (don’t worry; it’s set to automatically turn off before it would get to a “burning Point”). They started the heat until I very first felt pain, asking me to rate the pain each time, then they did pulses of heat/pain and asked me to rate the pain of each wave of heat, then they tested how high the heat could go before I asked them to stop and I would rate that pain.

3. I then had small, hair-like, filaments applied to three different spots on my back (all trigger points for fibro) and I was asked to tell them when I could or could not feel the filaments.

4. 45 second of VERY light Graston was done on those same spots (to be honest, I was disappointed it was so light…I wanted the “dig” of my previous Graston experiences.)

5. They then repeated the Filaments in the same spots, asking me when I could feel them.

6. And finally, all the heat pain perceptions tests were repeated as well as repeating some psychological questions. While the heat was uncomfortable, this study definitely didn’t leave me sore or unable to move my arms or hands. I had slight tingling through the afternoon, but nothing beyond that. Since this study is still active, I won’t know any results now, but I look forward to anything that is potentially published! I like to feel like I contributed something to the fibromyalgia community today in my own little way. It’s not as easy to be “involved” in fibro awareness as it is for other conditions. We don’t have “walks,” we rarely have fundraisers and our “month” is hardly recognized…this, in turn, makes it hard for us to have a “voice.” I feel like I raised my voice just a little bit today. If you’d like to get involved with a research study, check with your local universities, you never know what you may find!

If you are around the Indiana State University campus/area, you can also look into a future project that is currently planned to be rolled out in the fall. You may contact ISU in regards to fibromyalgia studies by contacting: Carolina Valencia, PT, PhD at rvallanding@sycamores.indstate.edu You can mention you were referred by my blog!


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