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A Systematic Review Into the Influence of Temperature on Fibromyalgia Pain: Meteorological Studies and Quantitative Sensory Testing

Published:January 06, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2020.12.005

      Highlights

      • Quantitative sensory testing studies show strongly abnormal cold pain thresholds.
      • Many observational meteorological studies are methodologically flawed.
      • The influence of temperature on spontaneous pain intensity in FMS remains unclear.
      • Temperature-sensitive subgroups are emerging in fibromyalgia syndrome.
      • Future research should focus on phenotyping these temperature-sensitive subgroups.

      Abstract

      Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a chronic widespread pain condition of unknown aetiology. The role of temperature in FMS pain has not been reviewed systematically. The goal of this study was to review the influences of temperature on pain in FMS, from meteorological and quantitative sensory testing (QST) studies.
      The review was registered with Prospero: ID-CRD42020167687, and followed PRISMA guidance. Databases interrogated were: MEDLINE (via OVID), EMBASE, PubMed, Web of Science, ScienceDirect, CINAHL, and ProQuest (Feb’20). Exclusion criteria were: age <18, animal studies, non-English, and noncontrolled articles.
      Thirteen studies pertaining to ambient temperature and FMS pain were identified; 9 of these found no uniform relationship. Thirty-five QST studies were identified, 17 of which assessed cold pain thresholds (CPTs). All studies showed numerically reduced CPTs in patients, ranging from 10.9°C to 26.3°C versus 5.9°C to 13.5°C in controls; this was statistically significant in 14/17. Other thermal thresholds were often abnormal.
      We conclude that the literature provides consistent evidence for an abnormal sensitization of FMS patients’ temperature-sensation systems. Additional work is required to elucidate the factors that determine why a subgroup of patients perceive low ambient temperatures as painful, and to characterize that group.

      Perspective

      Patients often report increased pain with changes in ambient temperature; even disabling, extreme temperature sensitivity in winter. Understanding this phenomenon may help clinicians provide reassurance and advice to patients and may guide research into the everyday impact of such hypersensitivity, whilst directing future work into the pathophysiology of FMS.

      Key words

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