BEER SHEVA, ISRAEL. Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University have discovered that fibromyalgia is intimately connected with a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. Their clinical study involved 19 men (aged 33 to 60 years) with fibromyalgia and 19 age-matched controls. The researchers obtained high- resolution electrocardiograms in supine and standing postures and measured heart rate and heart rate variability. The fibromyalgia patients had significantly higher heart rates than the controls both while lying down and standing and their heart rate variability (a measure of autonomic balance) was consistently lower than that of the controls. The researchers also noted a diminished or absent response by the sympathetic (adrenergic) nervous system when the fibromyalgia patients moved from the supine to a standing position. They speculate that the over-activity of the autonomic system at rest could be related to the typical fibromyalgia symptoms of fatigue, sleep disturbances, tingling sensations ("pins and needles") and irritable bowel syndrome. They also noted that the fibromyalgia patients tended to be significantly more depressed and anxious than the controls. The researchers point out that an autonomic system dysfunction has also been implicated in panic disorder, anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. They also note that women with fibromyalgia have an even more severe autonomic dysfunction - excessive adrenergic (sympathetic) and inadequate vagal (parasympathetic) response – than do men.
Cohen, Hagit, et al. Abnormal sympathovagal balance in men with fibromyalgia. Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 28, March 2001, pp. 581-89 [60 references]