Previous research indicates that emotional stress increases pain in women with fibromyalgia (FM). But is this effect of negative emotion as prevalent in healthy women?
To find out, researchers studied 62 women with FM and 59 women without FM. The participants were asked to recall a neutral situation, followed by recalling both an anger-inducing and a sadness-inducing situation, in counterbalanced order. The effect of these emotions on pain responses (non-induced clinical pain and experimentally-induced sensory threshold, pain threshold, and pain tolerance) was analyzed.
Both women with and women without FM manifested increased pain in response to the induction of both anger and sadness, and greater emotional reactivity was associated with a greater pain response.
“We found no convincing evidence for a larger pain response to anger or sadness in either study group (women with, or without FM),” said study leader Henriët van Middendorp, PhD. “In women with FM, sensitivity was roughly the same for anger and sadness.”
Dr. van Middendorp concludes that “Emotional sensitization of pain may be especially detrimental in people who already have high pain levels. Research should test techniques to facilitate better emotion regulation, emotional awareness, experiencing, and processing.”
Arthritis Care & Research – October 2010;Epub.