Fibromyalgia Patients Have Longer 'Pain Memories'

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Health) Nov 1, 2000 - Fibromyalgia patients experience more pain than other people because their bodies "remember" the pain longer, according to Dr. Roland Staud, from the University of Florida, in Gainesville, and colleagues.

"In normal patients, we cannot elicit pain with [minor] stimuli," Dr. Staud said. But fibromyalgia patients retain the memory of pain very well. And they "sum-up" the pain, "so each successive stimuli increases the sensation and it lingers...much longer."

Dr. Staud and colleagues looked at 59 fibromyalgia patients and 65 matched controls without fibromyalgia. The subjects' average age was 44 years and most were female. The researchers applied intense heat to different parts of the subjects' hands for 2- to 5-second intervals and studied their response.
The findings were presented here at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

The researchers found that fibromyalgia patients had stronger responses to the heat stimuli than control subjects, regardless of the interval between heat applications. This suggests a problem with the central pain processing function in fibromyalgia patients, according to Dr. Staud.

Fibromyalgia patients also felt pain in a more widespread area compared with the controls, he added. This is probably related to genetic or individualized mechanisms, and results in a greater sensation of pain.

Dr. Staud is hopeful that the study findings will make physicians take
fibromyalgia patients' complaints more seriously. "It's completely unclear to me why other pain problems, such as chronic back pain, are accepted in the medical community, while fibromyalgia is not," he said. "Now we are able to provide evidence for central nervous system abnormalities in chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia."

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