Fibromyalgia symptoms in auto injury patients
Many patients who have been in a car crash suffer from widespread pain and tenderness characteristic of fibromyalgia (FM) syndrome. In fact, the commonalities between the two conditions may result in "spuriously inflated rates" of fibromyalgia diagnoses among auto injury patients, suggests a 2011 study.
Researchers from the University of Washington sought to examine the presence of FM syndrome in 326 patients with chronic auto injury pain. They evaluated the patients for tender points at baseline and after three months of treatment. (Tender points are a major indicator of widespread chronic pain and FM syndrome). When it came to neck and shoulder pain, auto injury patients had marked similarities to FM patients: both groups had the same number of tender points in the neck and shoulder girdle regions. But the similarities disappeared when it came to other parts of the body. Auto injury patients had less distal tender points than FM patients.
At baseline, 14% of the injured patients met the criteria for fibromyalgia syndrome but that number fell after adjusting for neck and shoulder tenderness. And 63% of those patients who originally met the criteria for fibromyalgia no longer did six months after the initial injury.
The authors concluded that this transient nature of FM symptoms in car crash patients should be taken into consideration before making a final diagnosis.
Although not all auto injury patients develop fibromyalgia, sensitization of the central nervous system can cause widespread pain and hyperalgesia.
Robinson JP, et al. Determination of fibromyalgia syndrome after whiplash injuries: Methodologic issues. Pain 2011; 152(6): 1311-1316.