Objective: To determine whether female fibromyalgia (FM) patients exhibit a normal growth hormone (GH) response to an acute exercise stressor, and to assess the importance of somatostatin tone in the generation of this GH response.
Methods: Twenty female FM patients were compared with 10 healthy female controls. All subjects exercised to volitional exhaustion on a treadmill. A standard metabolic cart was used to monitor pulse, blood pressure, electrocardiography, oxygen uptake, carbon dioxide output, anaerobic threshold, and maximal workload. Blood was drawn for GH and cortisol measurements 1 hour before exercise, immediately before exercise, immediately after exercise, and 1 hour after exercise. One month later, testing that was exactly similar was performed, except all subjects were given pyridostigmine bromide (Mestinon; 30 mg orally) 1 hour before exercise.
Results: Compared with controls, FM patients failed to exhibit a GH or cortisol response to acute exercise (P = 0.003). After administration of pyridostigmine, 1 hour before exercise, the GH levels of FM patients increased 8-fold (P = 0.001), to a value comparable with that of controls. Pyridostigmine did not increase the cortisol response to exercise in FM patients. Pyridostigmine alone did not stimulate GH secretion in FM patients, nor did it improve exercise-induced GH secretion in controls. FM patients with normal insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels had an impaired GH response to exercise.
Conclusion: Three new findings are reported: 1) FM patients have a reduced GH response to exercise, 2) pyridostigmine reverses this impaired response, and 3) defective GH secretion in FM can occur in patients with normal IGF-1 levels. Because pyridostigmine is known to reduce somatostatin tone, it is surmised that the defective GH response to exercise in FM patients probably results from increased levels of somatostatin, a hypothalamic hormone that inhibits GH secretion.