Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that causes widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body, brings many clients to massage therapy. Research by the Touch Research Institutes shows that massage diminishes pain, among other benefits, in fibromyalgia patients. New research shows that fibromyalgia is associated with central nervous system abnormalities evidenced by patients’ elevated sensitivity to auditory and pressure sensations.

Researchers at the University of Michigan studied 31 subjects to determine if there is a global central nervous system problem underlying sensory processing in fibromyalgia patients. In this study, fibromyalgia patients and normal subjects were exposed to random auditory and pressure stimuli.

Consistent with prior research, the fibromyalgia subjects in the study showed greater sensitivity to auditory tones and reported higher sensitivity to daily sounds. Further, significant associations were observed between the auditory and pressure responses and support the claim that such abnormalities maybe related to a common pathophysiological mechanism. They also noted that fibromyalgia subjects perceived auditory stimuli to be of the same intensity as felt by control subjects, even though their actual intensity levels were lower.

The authors concluded their findings, which were published in The Journal of Pain, show that fibromyalgia is associated with a central nervous deficit in sensory processing. Further research is needed to examine mechanisms governing these perceptual abnormalities.