Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FM) are both complex conditions that are challenging to treat. This may be related to an incomplete understanding of their pathophysiology, itself obfuscated by their heterogeneity. The symptomatic overlap between them and their common comorbidity suggests a shared vulnerability, which might be explained by central sensitisation.
19 CFS cases, 19 FM cases and 20 age and sex matched healthy controls (HC) were recruited primarily from secondary care clinics in London. Those with other pain disorders, psychiatric diagnoses and those taking centrally acting or opiate medications were excluded. Participants were asked to abstain from alcohol and over the counter analgaesia 48 h prior to assessment by static and dynamic quantitative sensory tests, including measures of temporal summation (TS) and conditioned pain modulation (CPM).
CS, as defined by the presence of both enhanced TS and inefficient CPM, was present in 16 (84%) CFS cases, 18 (95%) FM cases, and none of the HC (p < 0.001). Pressure pain thresholds were lower in CFS (Median222kPaIQR 146-311; p = 0.04) and FM cases (Median 189 kPa; IQR 129-272; p = 0.003) compared to HC (Median 311 kPa; IQR 245-377). FM cases differed from HC in cold-induced (FM = 22.6 °C (15.3-27.7) vs HC = 14.2 °C (9.0-20.5); p = 0.01) and heat-induced (FM = 38.0 °C (35.2-44.0) vs HC = 45.3 °C (40.1-46.8); p = 0.03) pain thresholds, where CFS cases did not.
Central sensitisation may be a common endophenotype in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Further research should address whether central sensitisation is a cause or effect of these disorders.

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