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A Systematic Review Into the Influence of Temperature on Fibromyalgia Pain: Meteorological Studies and Quantitative Sensory Testing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Richard J. Berwick, Sara Siew, David A. Andersson, Andrew Marshall, Andreas Goebel

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-486
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Accepted/In press2021
PublishedMay 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 United States Association for the Study of Pain, Inc. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a chronic widespread pain condition of unknown aetiology. The role of temperature in FMS pain has not been reviewed systematically. The goal of this study was to review the influences of temperature on pain in FMS, from meteorological and quantitative sensory testing (QST) studies. The review was registered with Prospero: ID-CRD42020167687, and followed PRISMA guidance. Databases interrogated were: MEDLINE (via OVID), EMBASE, PubMed, Web of Science, ScienceDirect, CINAHL, and ProQuest (Feb’20). Exclusion criteria were: age <18, animal studies, non-English, and noncontrolled articles. Thirteen studies pertaining to ambient temperature and FMS pain were identified; 9 of these found no uniform relationship. Thirty-five QST studies were identified, 17 of which assessed cold pain thresholds (CPTs). All studies showed numerically reduced CPTs in patients, ranging from 10.9°C to 26.3°C versus 5.9°C to 13.5°C in controls; this was statistically significant in 14/17. Other thermal thresholds were often abnormal. We conclude that the literature provides consistent evidence for an abnormal sensitization of FMS patients’ temperature-sensation systems. Additional work is required to elucidate the factors that determine why a subgroup of patients perceive low ambient temperatures as painful, and to characterize that group. Perspective: Patients often report increased pain with changes in ambient temperature; even disabling, extreme temperature sensitivity in winter. Understanding this phenomenon may help clinicians provide reassurance and advice to patients and may guide research into the everyday impact of such hypersensitivity, whilst directing future work into the pathophysiology of FMS.

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