Fibromyalgia is a chronic musculoskeletal pain condition affecting many people. If you suffer from this condition, or know someone who does, you won’t be surprised to hear fibromyalgia described as searing, tingling, shooting, stabbing, deep aching or sharp pain. Research suggests that it can help to think about fibromyalgia in terms of an increased sensitivity to pain ie, that pain sensations can be amplified, brought about by either a lowering of pain thresholds or an increased pain experience at our normal threshold for pain. The technical term is ‘sensitization’ - you might have heard the terms ‘peripheral and central sensitization’ used by pain physicians. From a psychological point of view, we can talk about ‘sensitization’ in terms of an enhanced state of awareness of pain sensations, driven by worrying. This can result in a reduction in the threshold of what constitutes pain for each of us. From an inter-personal point of view, we can talk about an enhanced state of awareness, by the people closest to us, of when we are in pain - a hyper-vigilance on their part that can lead to attempts to minimize the pain of someone they care about. This might be thought of as an example of an increased pain experience at our normal threshold for pain ie, pain brought to our attention by our loved ones that we might not otherwise have paid much attention to. There is hope here. If we can reduce our worries about what our pain might mean, and help our loved ones not to be so sensitive to the pain they think we are going through, then we may not not suffer as much.
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