Clinical Rheumatology

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 775–783 | Cite as

Pain characteristics in fibromyalgia: understanding the multiple dimensions of pain

  • Mark PlazierEmail author
  • Jan Ost
  • Gaëtane Stassijns
  • Dirk De Ridder
  • Sven Vanneste
Original Article


Fibromyalgia is a common disease with a high economic burden. The etiology of this disease remains unclear, as there are no specific abnormalities on clinical or technical examinations. Evidence suggests that central pain sensitization at the brain pain matrix might be involved. Understanding the pain characteristics of this disease is of importance both for diagnosis and treatment. The authors present their findings of pain characteristics in a Belgium population of fibromyalgia patients. Data of 65 patients (57 male and 8 female patients) were analyzed in this study (mean age 46.86, SD = +8.79). Patients filled out the following questionnaires: visual analogue scale, fibromyalgia impact questionnaire, pain-catastrophizing scale, pain vigilance and awareness questionnaire, modified fatigue impact scale, the Beck depression inventory, the short form 36 and the Dutch shortened profile of mood states. Statistical analysis was performed making use of a factor analysis and a hierarchical cluster analysis. We were able to define pain characteristics in this group of patients. The reciprocal effects of mood and fatigue on pain experience could be identified within the data, catastrophizing scores show a high correlation with overall life quality and pain experience. We have performed a cluster analysis on the fibromyalgia patients, based on the four main principal components defining the overall disease burden. Mood explained most of the variance in symptoms, followed by mental health state, fatigue, and catastrophizing. Three clusters of patients could be revealed by these components. Clusters: 1 high scores on mood disorders, pain, and decreased mental health, 2 high scores on fatigue and physical health, and 3 a mixture of these two groups. This data suggest that different subgroups of fibromyalgia patients could be identified and based on that, treatment strategies and results might be adapted.


Affective state Awareness Catastrophizing Fibromyalgia Mood disorders Pain Pain characteristics Vigilance 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© International League of Associations for Rheumatology(ILAR) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Plazier
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jan Ost
    • 2
  • Gaëtane Stassijns
    • 3
  • Dirk De Ridder
    • 4
  • Sven Vanneste
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryAntwerp University HospitalEdegemBelgium
  2. 2.BRAI2NSt. Augustinus HospitalAntwerpBelgium
  3. 3.Physical Medicine & RehabilitationAntwerp University HospitalEdegemBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Surgical Sciences, Dunedin School of MedicineUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  5. 5.School of Behavioral and Brain SciencesThe University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

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