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UNLABELLED - Despite evidence of autonomic disturbances in chronic multisymptom illnesses such as temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and fibromyalgia, additional work is needed to characterize the role of parasympathetic reactivity in these disorders. Given the high levels of comorbidity with psychiatric disorders characterized by stronger parasympathetic decline than controls in safe contexts (leading to higher arousal), it was hypothesized that individuals with TMD and fibromyalgia would respond similarly. In this preliminary investigation, 43 women with TMD (n = 17), TMD + fibromyalgia (n = 11), or neither (controls; n = 15) completed a baseline assessment of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (a measure of parasympathetic activity) followed by ongoing parasympathetic assessment during a questionnaire period. As predicted, patients showed greater parasympathetic decline during psychosocial assessment, suggesting an autonomic stance that supports defensive rather than engagement behaviors. Individual differences in parasympathetic reduction during the questionnaire period were related to a variety of physical and psychosocial variables. Although this study has a number of key limitations, including a convenience sampling approach and small group sizes, if replicated in larger samples, the findings would have important implications for the treatment of patients with these disorders.
PERSPECTIVE - Compared to controls, individuals with TMD or TMD and fibromyalgia demonstrated greater parasympathetic decline during psychosocial assessment, and individual differences in parasympathetic decline predicted negative patient outcomes. Such parasympathetic decline may demonstrate a tendency to readily perceive danger in safe environments.
Copyright © 2015 American Pain Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia (FM) and temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are accompanied by complex interactions of cognitive, emotional, and physiological disturbances. Such conditions are complicated and draining to live with, and successful adaptation may depend on ability to self-regulate. Self-regulation involves capacity to exercise control and guide or alter reactions and behavior, abilities essential for human adjustment. Research indicates that self-regulatory strength is a limited source that can be depleted or fatigued, however, and the current study aimed to show that patients with FM and TMD are vulnerable to self-regulatory fatigue as a consequence of their condition. Patients (N=50) and pain-free matched controls (N=50) were exposed to an experimental self-regulation task followed by a persistence task. Patients displayed significantly less capacity to persist on the subsequent task compared with controls. In fact, patients exposed to low self-regulatory effort displayed similar low persistence to patients and controls exposed to high self-regulatory effort, indicating that patients with chronic pain conditions may be suffering from chronic self-regulatory fatigue. Baseline heart rate variability, blood glucose, and cortisol predicted persistence, more so for controls than for patients, and more so in the low vs. high self-regulation condition. Impact of chronic pain conditions on self-regulatory effort was mediated by pain, but not by any other factors. The current study suggests that patients with chronic pain conditions likely suffer from chronic self-regulatory fatigue, and underlines the importance of taking self-regulatory capacity into account when aiming to understand and treat these complex conditions.
Copyright © 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Syndromes characterized by pain, fatigue, mood disorder, cognitive dysfunction, and sleep disturbance have been referred to as stress-related somatic disorders by virtue of the observation that onset and exacerbation of symptoms occur with stress. These syndromes include but are not limited to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, temporomandibular disorder, and irritable bowel syndrome. As with most chronic illnesses, genetic susceptibility and lifetime environmental exposures play a role in creating vulnerability to disease. Cumulative lifetime stress has been associated with a number of physiologic changes in the brain and body that reflect dysregulated hormonal and autonomic activity. Exposure to the stressor of violence is likely to create a state of vulnerability for the stress-related somatic syndromes and also to contribute to symptom expression and severity. Understanding the relationship between violence, stress, and somatic syndromes will help in clarifying the consequences of violence exposure to long-term health and health-related quality of life.