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Depression Doesn't Increase Physical Pain

No direct association between blues and pain sensitivity

SUNDAY, Oct. 26, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- An American study found no association between depression, extreme sensitivity to pain stimulus, and how pain is processed in the brain in people with fibromyalgia with and without clinical depression.

The study, presented Oct. 24 at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Orlando, Fla., suggests that pain and depression are separate processes. It also suggests that people with depression who suffer from chronic pain don't process pain differently than people with chronic pain who aren't depressed.

The study included 30 people with fibromyalgia. Researchers used calibrated pressure stimuli to inflict slightly intense pain in the left thumbs of the study volunteers. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans recorded the volunteers' brain activity as they experienced the pain.

The study found no significant association between depression and intensity of activity in areas of the brain involved in pain processing. But the researchers did identify a link between the severity of depressive symptoms and brain activity in two brain areas not believed to be involved in pain processing.

"This study challenges the notion that psychiatric symptoms such as depression cause or influence the pain seen in fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions and instead suggests that depression is a separate and somewhat independent process," lead investigator Dr. Thorsten Giesecke of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Program at the University of Michigan, says in a prepared statement.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about fibromyalgia.

SOURCE: American College of Rheumatology, news release, Oct. 24, 2003
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