A paper based on the results of an online survey conducted by the University of Bath, suggests that people suffering Fibromyalgia (FM) and/or Complex Regional pain Syndrome (CRPS) report more pain triggers and intensifiers, somatic symptoms, depression, anxiety, and bodily changes than people suffering other pain conditions or those in the control group (ie people without pain).
The study involved 1,682 participants, of whom:
- 452 had been diagnosed with FM;
- 390 had been diagnosed with CRPS;
- 88 had been diagnosed with both FM and CRPS;
- 311 had been diagnosed with other pain conditions; and
- 441 were without pain.
The gender of participants reflected the general demographics of each condition, with the majority of participants being female.
Participants with FM reported more changes in vision and hearing, urinary and intestinal function, and issues relating to eating and drinking – weight gain/loss, stomach sensitivity etc.
Perhaps not surprisingly, those with CRPS reported more changes in hair, skin, and nails, and problems relating to infection and healing.
People diagnosed with FM, CRPS, or both conditions reported more issues relating to movement – walking, tremors, balance issues etc.
Those with either FM or FM/CRPS were more likely to report other pain conditions, including:
- back pain (52% of FM/CRPS patients and 41% of FM patients);
- migraine (30% of FM/CRPS patients and 32% of FM patients);
- osteoarthritis (32% of FM/CRPS patients and 28% of FM patients).
Also, interestingly, almost half of the respondents with FM, and one-third of those with FM/CRPS had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
The researchers were not surprised to see that bodily changes and sensory sensitivity were more common in those with CRPS and/or FM. What was surprising though was that such symptoms were not more common in people with other pain conditions compared to those without chronic pain.
Report co-author, Dr Antonia ten Brink said what was also unexpected was that “People with fibromyalgia in particular were more likely to report discomfort when exposed to triggers such as bright lights and loud sounds, but there were fewer differences between groups regarding the pain or distress triggered by the same environmental cues.”
Her colleague, Dr Janet Bultitude said “Our findings show that none of the bodily changes or sensory sensitivities were unique to CRPS or fibromyalgia … and not every person with CRPS or fibromyalgia reported bodily changes and enhanced sensory sensitivity.” Nevertheless, she said that “Clinicians should bear in mind that if someone has been diagnosed with CRPS or fibromyalgia, they have a higher likelihood of also being bothered by these symptoms.”
The study also highlighted that people suffering both CRPS and FM did not report any more suffering in terms of pain intensity, depression or anxiety than those suffering only one of those conditions. “So, although people with both conditions might have more complex clinical needs, our results give no reason to think that they are at a greater risk of mental health problems,” said Dr Bultitude.