This article, fresh off the press, looks at associations between fibromyalgia pain and some other stuff, notably sleep patterns. If you have fibro, you know that it sucks pretty bad. Widespread pain, typically in muscles, with accompanying symptoms ranging from fatigue to headaches to everything else. Most people with fibro have sleep problems, with 75% reporting disturbed sleep.
Sleep is crucial for pain. It serves to increase hormones that help repair the body, decrease pain sensitivity, and make you less depressed. So logically, less sleep in fibromyalgia patients would be associated with worse pain, right? Wrong! The patients in this study wore an actigraph when they sleep, which is a little device that measures movement in a much more sophisticated fashion than pedometer. The authors question was essentially “Which factors are responsible for differences between fibro patients”. They only looked at a few factors though. None of the sleep measurements (such as total sleep time, time they woke up, etc) were big factors. On the other hand, three factors were a big deal: how widespread their pain was, how negative their mood was, and how sensitive they were to painful stimuli.
So what does this study mean for you, fibro patient? Nothing much, when it comes to sleep. The authors pointed out several limitations to the study. For example, the study did not measure the effects of sleep, like daytime fatigue. These could be more predictive of pain than the sleep itself. Also, they measured pain at night, which might not make sense if there is increased pain in the morning from being super tired and grumpy.
But this study re-affirms some important stuff–like I wrote yesterday, mood may factor into pain. Also, how many tender points you have is important for fibro patients. That means work extra hard to completely eliminate individual areas, if possible! Whatever helps, consider doing more of it. Trigger point massage. Physical therapy. Whatever. If you can eliminate painful areas, your brain might not go into catastrophe mode as often. But as always, try to keep truckin’, until that magic fibro pill comes out