Another “definition” of fibromyalgia that I’ve run across is “a disorder of perceptual organization” (see Dohrenbusch et al in library) from 1997. In other words, as the theory goes, fibromyalgia patients’ hypersensitivity is not restricted to pain. Furthermore, this study suggests that fibromyalgia pain (which they call “generalized pain”) makes people with fibromyalgia more acutely aware of noise (and other outside stimuli) than “normal” people.
Fibromyalgia aside, if two people are put in the exact same environment with the exact same stimuli (noise, temperature, etc), they will not have the exact same experience. Sensation is subjective. However, the connection between the perception of pain sensitizing people to outside stimuli, while commonsensical, is significant for understanding the downward spiral people with fibromyalgia can find themselves in. I would be willing to hypothesize that the correlation goes both ways. While pain can increase sensitivity to outside stimuli, outside stimuli can increase sensitivity to pain.
On a personal level, I’ve noticed over the last few years my own sensitivity to outside stimuli, in particular noise and smells, has taken a free fall into hypersensitivity. While I’m certain that the hypersensitivity has increased my “generalized pain” simply because I can go from comfortable to significant pain within minutes of being in a noxious environment, I wonder why there has been such an increase lately, and if this is a shared experience for people with fibromyalgia. The questions I have are:
- Does sensitivity increase with the amount of time you are affected by fibromyalgia? In other words will a person who has had fibromyalgia for 5 years be less affected by outside influences than a person who has had fibro for 25 years?
- Does sensitivity increase with age? If the person who has had fibromyalgia for 5 years is 75 years old and the person who has had fibro for 25 years is 50 years old, will their sensitivity be about the same?
- Does sensitivity increase with extended exposure to noxious stimuli? According to another study, Bell et al (see library), this may be the case, not just for increasing pain but for actually developing a pain disorder.
So many questions, so many studies, so many articles, so few answers………..