Could a Blood Pressure Test Help Diagnose Fibromyalgia?

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • There are two things I dread when I go to the doctor: stepping on the scale and having my blood pressure taken.  My issue with the scale is purely a vanity thing.  I don’t know many people who enjoy having their weight announced so that anyone who happens to be nearby can hear.  But my problem with having my blood pressure taken is a pain issue. 

    I cringe when the nurse picks up the blood pressure cuff because I know it’s going to be very painful.  One nurse actually called me a wimp when I complained about the pain.  Fortunately, another more compassionate nurse taught me to ask for the large cuff, which helps reduce the intensity of the pain. 

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    According to the results of a 2006 study, I’m not alone – 69 percent of fibromyalgia patients experienced pain from blood pressure testing.  The study entitled “Sphygmomanometry-Evoked Allodynia – A Simple Bedside Test Indicative of Fibromyalgia: A Multicenter Developmental Study” was published in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.

    Terminology:

    Sphygmomanometry – The standard blood pressure test everyone receives at the doctor’s office. 

    Allodynia – A condition in which pain results from a stimulus that does not normally evoke pain.

    Objective:

    The objective of the study was to determine whether a universally used clinical test – sphygmomanometry – would be helpful in identifying FM patients.

    Method:

    Researchers studied 20 fibromyalgia patients, 20 rheumatoid arthritis patients, 20 osteoarthritis patients and 20 healthy individuals in each of three public rheumatology outpatient services.  Each participant was asked to answer the question, “When I take your blood pressure, tell me if the cuff’s pressure brings forth pain.”

    Results:

    While 69 percent of FM patients experienced sphygmomanometry-evoked allodynia, only 10 percent of OA patients, five percent of RA patients and two percent of healthy individuals did.  The mean blood pressure value at which FM patients felt pain was lower than the other three groups.  FM patients showed a negative correlation between the blood pressure value at which the allodynia developed and their total score on the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, the number of tender points, and the FIQ visual analog scales for pain intensity and fatigue. 

    Conclusions:

    In this study there was a strong association between pain experienced during blood pressure testing and the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  Sphygmomanometry is a simple test and a universally standard clinical procedure that may be useful in recognizing FM patients.  Based on the results of this study, the researchers suggest looking for other FM features in anyone who has sphygmomanometry-evoked allodynia.

    Source:  Vargas, Alfonso MD, et al. “Sphygmomanometry-Evoked Allodynia – A Simple Bedside Test Indicative of Fibromyalgia: A Multicenter Developmental Study.”  Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. 2006 Dec; 12(6):272-4.

Published On: May 12, 2008