The study of 98 female patients with Fibromyalgia who were matched with 35 healthy female controls found that higher levels of stress were associated with higher levels of fibromyalgia symptoms.
Perceived stress was significantly associated with the characteristics of fibromyalgia including pain, sleep changes, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction, authors Katrina Malin and Geoff Littlejohn from Monash Medical Centre reported.
Interestingly, higher levels of stress was associated with higher levels of fibromyalgia symptoms in the healthy controls and the fibromyalgia group.
“This fits with the concept of fibromyalgianess, where the different components of the condition may be present may be present at different levels in different persons and only when they reach a certain threshold do they reach criteria for FM fibromyalgia, as seen in the ACR 2010 clinical diagnostic criteria for the disorder,” they wrote in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology.
“Stress appears to have a central role in modulating key “up-stream” processes in fibromyalgia,” they said.
Speaking to Rheumatology Update, Dr Littlejohn said their findings suggested that better management of stress in general was likely to lessen FM symptoms of pain, sleep, fatigue and poor cognition.
“Whether stress is a cause or effect it should be appropriately managed in patients with FM e.g using techniques to gain better control, less catastrophization, more exercise, and other stress management strategies,” he said.
Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology 2013; online