Heterogeneity of psychophysiological stress responses in fibromyalgia syndrome patients

Arthritis Res Ther. 2006;8(1):R9. doi: 10.1186/ar1863.


Dysregulated psychophysiological responses have been observed in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), although the results are inconsistent. Surface electromyographic (EMG), systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate (HR), and skin conductance levels (SCLs) were continuously recorded at baseline, and during a series of stress and relaxation tasks in 90 FMS patients and 30 age and sex matched healthy controls (HCs). The patient sample demonstrated lower baseline EMG levels compared to the HCs on all tasks. In contrast, the patients displayed elevated HR and SCL (sympathetic vasomotor and sudomotor indices, respectively) during both stress tasks. A cluster analysis identified four psychophysiological response patterns: 63.3% of HCs showed increased muscle tension and stable cardiovascular responses; 34.8% of FMS patients showed a pattern of increased sympathetic vasomotor reactivity with stable sudomotor and reduced muscular response; 12.2% of FMS patients showed a pattern of increased sympathetic sudomotor reactivity connected with increased sympathetic vasomotor response and reduced muscular response; and, in contrast, 46.7% of FMS patients showed a pattern of parasympathetic vasomotor reactivity and reduced sudomotor as well as muscular response. The identification of low baseline muscle tension in FMS is discrepant with other chronic pain syndromes and suggests that unique psychophysiological features may be associated with FMS. The different psychophysiological response patterns within the patient sample support the heterogeneity of FMS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology*
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Reference Values
  • Skin / innervation
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*