The common link between functional somatic syndromes may be central sensitisation

J Psychosom Res. 2015 Mar;78(3):228-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.01.003. Epub 2015 Jan 9.


Objectives: Functional somatic syndromes are common and disabling conditions that all include chronic pain, and which may be related to central nervous system sensitisation. Here, we address the concept of central sensitisation as a physiological basis for the functional somatic syndromes.

Methods: A narrative review of the current literature on central sensitisation and physiological studies in the functional somatic syndromes.

Results: Central sensitisation may be a common neurophysiological process that is able to explain non-painful as well as painful symptoms in these disorders. Furthermore, central sensitisation may represent an endophenotypic vulnerability to the development of these syndromes that potentially explains why they cluster together.

Conclusions: Further research is needed to verify these findings, including prospective studies and the standardisation of combined methods of investigation in the study of central sensitisation in functional somatic syndromes. In turn, this may lead to new explanatory mechanisms and treatments being evaluated. Our conclusions add to the debate over the nomenclature of these syndromes but importantly also provide an explanation for our patients.

Keywords: Central sensitisation; Chronic pain; Functional somatic syndromes; Neurophysiology; Pathophysiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Sensitization*
  • Humans
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Syndrome*