Stress, Inflammation and Pain: A Potential Role for Monocytes in Fibromyalgia-related Symptom Severity

Stress Health. 2016 Dec;32(5):503-513. doi: 10.1002/smi.2648. Epub 2015 Sep 29.


The possibility that immunological changes might contribute to symptom severity in fibromyalgia (FM) prompted this proof-of-concept study to determine whether differences in monocyte subpopulations might be present in persons with FM compared with healthy controls. Relationships were assessed by comparing specific symptoms in those with FM (n = 20) and patterns of monocyte subpopulations with healthy age-matched and gender-matched controls (n = 20). Within the same time frame, all participants provided a blood sample and completed measures related to pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, perceived stress, positive and negative affect and depressed mood (and the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire for those with FM). Monocyte subpopulations were assessed using flow cytometry. No differences were observed in total percentages of circulating monocytes between the groups; however, pain was inversely correlated with percentages of circulating classical (r = -0.568, p = 0.011) and intermediate (r = -0.511, p = 0.025) monocytes in the FM group. Stress and pain were highly correlated (r = 0.608, p = 0.004) in the FM group. The emerging pattern of changes in the percentages of circulating monocyte subpopulations concomitant with higher ratings of perceived pain and the correlation between stress and pain found in the FM group warrant further investigation. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: biological mechanisms of disease processes; biological mechanisms of stress; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / blood*
  • Fibromyalgia / epidemiology
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes*
  • Pain / blood*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / blood*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology