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Pain Manag Nurs. 2014 Jun;15(2):530-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2012.07.009. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

Neural and psychosocial mechanisms of pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia.

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Transform Your Pain, Melbourne, Australia. Electronic address:


Fibromyalgia is a chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder that affects an estimated 5 million adults in the U.S. The hallmark is burning, searing, tingling, shooting, stabbing, deep aching, or sharp pain. Fibromyalgia is generally considered to be a "central sensitivity syndrome" where central sensitization is regarded as the cause of pain in its own right. Nonetheless, the case continues to be made that all central and spatially distributed peripheral components of fibromyalgia pain would fade if the peripheral generators could be silenced. Although neural mechanisms are clearly important in pain sensitivity, cognitive and social mechanisms also need to be considered. The aim of this review is to examine four mechanisms responsible for heightened pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia: peripheral sensitization, central sensitization, cognitive-emotional sensitization, and interpersonal sensitization. The purpose of framing the review in terms of pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia is to highlight that different mechanisms of sensitization are appropriately regarded as intervening variables when it comes to understanding individual differences in the experience of pain. The paper concludes by considering the implications of the findings of the review for explanations of fibromyalgia pain by nurses working in multidisciplinary teams. The trend appears to be able to explain the cause of fibromyalgia pain in terms of sensitization per se. The recommended alternative is to explain fibromyalgia pain in terms of changes in pain sensitivity and the role of underlying neural and psychosocial mechanisms.

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