Chronic pain that is left unmanaged can affect an individual’s social interactions and life and often disrupts the correct functioning of the Autonomic Nervous System.
By Adéle Pudney
Chronic widespread pain (CWP) with reference to Fibromyalgia is indicated by pain lasting more than 3 months, above and below the waist, on the right and left sides of the body and in the middle skeleton. CWP is one of the most common reasons for referral to a rheumatologist or physiotherapist.
There are many treatment options available which include pharmacologic and physiotherapy interventions. What is important is to understand that prevention is often better than cure. Identifying contributing risk factors helps to facilitate a healthier lifestyle and a more personalised treatment programme.
One of the risk factors of CWP is impairment of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). A disruption of the ANS includes increased sympathetic and/or decreased parasympathetic tone. This plays a crucial role in initiating and perpetuating central sensitization. Basically, central sensitisation predisposes individuals to the development of chronic pain in response to a trigger or traumatic event. The lower parasympathetic activity was found to be associated with higher pain intensity in subjects with CWP. This pattern of results suggests that intense pain is a chronic stressor that interferes with parasympathetic activities.