International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 961–965 | Cite as

Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia: a Marker of Resilience to Pain Induction

  • John A. SturgeonEmail author
  • Ellen WanHeung Yeung
  • Alex J. Zautra



There may be significant individual differences in physiological regulatory responses to the experience of pain and stress. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia is a physiological indicator that may have implications for efficient physiological responses to pain and stress.


Fatigue is an indicator of inefficient self-regulation under stressful conditions. The current study examined processes that impact changes in fatigue in response to pain.


Fifty-nine women (33 with fibromyalgia and 26 healthy controls) were exposed to repeated thermal pain stimuli and were asked to rate their feelings of fatigue after each block of thermal pain exposures.


Self-reported fatigue affect increased during pain induction, but greater respiratory sinus arrhythmia predicted less-pronounced increases in fatigue affect across induction trials.


Respiratory sinus arrhythmia appears to be a promising indicator of physiological resilience to pain, predicting an attenuated effect of repeated pain exposure on self-reported fatigue. Implications of efficient regulation of pain, fatigue, and long-term physical health are discussed.


Stress adaptation Respiratory sinus arrhythmia Fatigue 



The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose. They thank The Arizona Institute for Mental Health Research for their research grant (Arthur (Bud) Craig, PI) that provided the funding for this study, and thank the Arthritis Foundation and National Institute on Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases grants R01 AR 046034 and R01 AR 041687 for supporting the FOCUS Project.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • John A. Sturgeon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ellen WanHeung Yeung
    • 2
  • Alex J. Zautra
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnesthesiologyStanford UniversityPalo AltoUSA
  2. 2.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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