Research reveals that a biological link between pain and fatigue may help explain why more women than men are diagnosed with conditions like fibromyalgia.

According to the Society for Women’s Health Research1, fibromyalgia affects women more often than men. The cause of fibromyalgia is still a mystery, but researchers hypothesize that the symptoms arise from sufferers having a heightened sensitivity in the brain to pain signals. This “central sensitization” results in a lower pain threshold and as time passes brain receptors become conditioned to remember the pain and could be overreacting to the signals. Though fibromyalgia affects as much as 3-6 percent of the US population, it is unclear why more women are reported afflicted than men. Researchers are examining hormones, immune system differences, brain chemistry and genetics, and other areas, to discover the factors that may affect one gender more than another.

A recent University of Iowa study reveals that a biological link between pain and fatigue and may help explain why more women than men are diagnosed with chronic pain and fatigue conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.2 The study, which was published in the February 28th issue of the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, indicates that muscle pain and fatigue are not independent conditions and may share a common pathway that is disrupted in chronic muscle pain conditions. The team plans to continue their studies and investigate whether pain enhances fatigue more in females than males.

1 Jennifer Wider, M.D. Society for Women’s Health Research (2008, April 24). “Fibromyalgia Affects Women More Often Than Men.”
2 University of Iowa (2008, April 9). “Biological Link Between Pain And Fatigue Discovered.”

May 12th is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, a national health observance to raise awareness about the condition. Learn about how you can contribute…

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