Evidence of involvement of central neural mechanisms in generating fibromyalgia pain
- Cite this article as:
- Staud, R. Curr Rheumatol Rep (2002) 4: 299. doi:10.1007/s11926-002-0038-5
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, sleep abnormalities, and distress. Because FMS lacks consistent evidence of tissue abnormalities, recent investigations have focused on central nervous system mechanisms of pain. Abnormal temporal summation of second pain (wind-up) and central sensitization have been described recently in patients with FMS. Windup and central sensitization, which rely on central pain mechanisms, occur after prolonged C-nociceptor input and depend on activation of nociceptor-specific neurons and wide dynamic range neurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Other abnormal central pain mechanisms recently detected in patients with FMS include diffuse noxious inhibitory controls. These pain inhibitory mechanisms rely on spinal cord and supraspinal systems involving pain facilitatory and pain inhibitory pathways. Brain-imaging techniques that can detect neuronal activation after nociceptive stimuli have provided additional evidence for abnormal central pain mechanisms in FMS. Brain images have corroborated the augmented reported pain experience of patients with fibromyalgia during experimental pain stimuli. In addition, thalamic activity, which contributes significantly to pain processing, was decreased in fibromyalgia. However, central pain mechanisms of fibromyalgia may not depend exclusively on neuronal activation. Neuroglial activation has been found to play an important role in the induction and maintenance of chronic pain. These findings may have important implications for future research and the treatment of fibromyalgia pain.