Fibromyalgia Patients Have Blunted Touch Perception, Study Finds

Fibromyalgia Patients Have Blunted Touch Perception, Study Finds
Fibromyalgia patients perceive touch differently compared to healthy individuals, suggesting that there is abnormal processing of signals in C-type skin nerve fibers in fibromyalgia. A research team from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in Bethesda, Maryland, investigated whether patients with fibromyalgia rated the perception of touch differently than healthy individuals. They also wanted to explore if opioid signaling was involved in any potential findings. Earlier studies have suggested that patients with fibromyalgia have less available opioid receptors in their brain. In addition to their involvement in pain signaling, opioid receptors mediate feelings of reward to natural behaviors. Enrolling 24 fibromyalgia patients and 28 healthy controls, the study, "Touch Perception Altered by Chronic Pain and by Opioid Blockade," explored the effects of touch by slow or fast brushing of the participant’s forearm. The participants were asked to rate both pleasure and intensity of the strokes. Healthy individuals rated the slow brushing as more pleasant but less intense – a non-surprising finding given that the C-type nerves involved in the perception of touch are more strongly activated by slow touch. In contrast, people with fibromyalgia rated the slow and fast movements as equally pleasurable and intense. The level of pleasure and intensity did, however, not differ from the ratings of healthy individuals. Study participants then received either the opioid receptor-blocking drug naloxone or a placebo. The results, published in the journal
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