Early Menopause Associated with Greater Fibromyalgia Pain and Sensitivity
A study published in the February 2013 Clinical Rheumatology journal examined whether an estrogen deficit caused by early-onset menopause contributes to pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia.
Study Design and Results
In this study, pain sensitivity was assessed in 74 FM and 32 pain-free control women. All participants were postmenopausal and underwent a detailed semi-structured clinical interview, including data about menopause transition, previous history of hysterectomy or ovariectomy, and menses time.
Participants were divided into two groups depending on age-of-onset of menopause: early menopause (49 or younger) vs. late menopause (over 49). Pain and non-pain thresholds were assessed by using cold, heat, mechanical, and electrical stimulation.
FM women showed higher overall pain sensitivity as compared with healthy subjects.
FM women with early age-of-onset of menopause displayed greater pain and non-pain sensitivity than FM women with late age-of-onset of menopause.
No differences were observed in healthy women due to age-of-onset of menopause.
The researchers concluded, "These results suggest that an early transition to menopause (shortening the time of exposure to estrogens) may influence pain hypersensitivity and could be related to aggravation of FM symptoms."
I personally found this study interesting because I did experience very early-onset menopause (at the age of 30) and I am also hypersensitive to anything that touches me, such as clothing. It’s a real challenge to find clothes that don’t hurt.
Since fibromyalgia seems to be far more prevalent in women, I’ve often wondered whether there could be some kind of connection between female hormones like estrogen and FM. But it never occurred to me that early-onset menopause might have an impact on the level of pain and sensitivity we experience. This is just one study so I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions without more research, but it does raise some interesting questions.
What do those of you who are postmenopausal think of this? Did you experience early-onset menopause? If so, do you feel like you have more pain hypersensitivity than the average FM patient?
Martinez-Jauand M, et al. Age-of-onset of menopause is associated with enhanced painful and non-painful sensitivity in fibromyalgia. Clinical Rheumatology. 2013 February 16.
Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.