Why Fibromyalgia Pain Loves Shoulder Blades

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I ran across a post on Health Rising that described findings indicating some possible causes of the intense shoulder blade pain many with fibromyalgia experience.   Research was being conducted on a possible sister disorder; Trapezius Myalgia (TM), which pointed to the autonomic nervous system dysfunction as being the prime suspect.

Shoulder StretchShoulder, neck and head pain are common in both fibromyalgia (FM) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS); in fact, the pain in FM often first shows up in the shoulder, neck and head areas. Dr. Lapp has found that ‘pain, spasms and shortening of the muscles’ in these areas often leads to poor posture, rounded shoulder and shallow breathing in chronic fatigue syndrome and tension headaches may occur in as many 80% of ME/CFS patients. Myofascial trigger points which trigger local and referred pain are most common in the back, shoulder and neck areas of people with fibromyalgia.

The theory was that a dysregulated autonomic nervous system would, in a stressful situation, trigger painful muscle activity in fibromyalgia (no exercise or trauma required..). There’s no reason it should; a mental stress test after all shouldn’t involve that muscle at all – but there is all this upper body pain in both FM and chronic fatigue syndrome to account for. Just looking at that muscle with its ability to tighten the screws everywhere from the spine to the shoulder to the neck set me, with my history of pain in that area, a little a quiver. Interestingly this muscle, of all the muscles of the body, is one of the most responsive to stress in FM. Results Electromyograph readings indicated the FM patients had significantly more trapezius muscle activity during mental stress tests, breath holding and even during eating (two SNS activators) and instructed rest’ than health controls. Pain levels that rose during the mental stress exercises in the shoulder/neck area but not in the lower back indicated the upper body was particularly susceptible to stress induced pain.

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