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Adrienne Dellwo

Fibromyalgia - Sensitivity to More than Pain

By March 13, 2008

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Do loud noises bug you? I mean REALLY bug you, a lot more than they did before you had fibromyalgia (FMS) of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS)? According to a new FMS study published in the February issue of the Journal of Pain, the more sensitive you are to pressure on your body, the more sensitive you likely are to sound.

Why is that important? It supports the theory of central sensitization, which is believed present in both FMS and ME/CFS - meaning that we have major differences in how our central nervous systems process not just pain, but all kinds of things. That helps us understand the condition better and may help broaden the view of our doctors. Of course, a huge part of our treatment has to be pain management - if we can't get on top of that, it's hard to make any progress at all - but doctors need to look beyond pain to the other array of symptoms we have so they can help us manage this more effectively. Also, if we're more aware of it, we can use that information to make better choices about our environment.

If you look at our symptoms, central sensitivity explains a lot. We tend to be sensitive to medications, changes in diet, temperature fluctuations, chemicals just about everything to which the human body can be sensitive.

Personally, this study doesn't surprise me one bit. When I was still able to work full time, I had to drop my kids off at daycare a few days a week. Some mornings, especially during flare-ups, I'd open that door and the noise would hit me in the face like a physical blow. My pain would instantly escalate, and sometimes I'd just about panic and want to run away. By the time the kids were both settled in and I was back in the car, I'd be shaking, aching and sick to my stomach.

Does noise do this to you? What other stimuli sends your symptoms through the roof? What have you found that helps you deal with it better? I'd love to see your comments here or in About.com's Fibromyalgia & ME/CFS Forum.

March 13, 2008 at 6:00 pm
(1) Shawna says:

My husband speaks in a loud voice quite often and I flinch and put my hands over my ears on those “sensitive ear days”. He would look at me like I was crazy but I keep explaining over and over, loud sounds hurt my ears! I think he finally gets it. The sad thing is now I avoid my nephews, night clubs, and movies at the theater. I wear ear plugs if I have to.

March 14, 2008 at 1:08 am
(2) Lynda says:

Yes, Yes, Yes…..this is a real problem for me. If I am in a lot of noise I get disoriented and sick to my stomach. When I am real bad I can listen to the TV at such a low level no one else can understand it. I have the same issue with bright light and strong smells. Isn’t it grand?

March 14, 2008 at 12:04 pm
(3) SilvrHairDevil says:

When I read the description of the daycare noise, I cringed in sympathy. As a result (I suspect) of advancing age, most children’s voices are above my range of hearing and all I get is high-pitched noise.

A group of kids at the pool when I’m exercising, all yelling, will clear me out of the pool immediately.

And, on the topic of pools, I’m also extra sensitive if the chlorine level is just a bit high.

March 14, 2008 at 4:48 pm
(4) Anne C. says:

Way before I had ever heard the term Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I decided to finish off a Masters degrees In Library Science, while a taking a break from the Corporate World. A private school convinced e to work for them part-time while I was getting my Masters degree. Well, I thought I was going out of my mind at lunch time in the cafeteria. The noise of those children – I thought I was loosing my mind! I decided then and there to go back to corporate work. I still had no idea that what the problem was or that I had a problem. Maybe sub-consonciously I did. But I was very gald to go back to guiet work. It is so sad that these type of symptoms continue to be unrecognized. Doctors today are so out of touch. They continue medicate people, “non CFS/FM even after the consistently profess an allergy to the prescribed. The pharacuetical industry has caused untold harm and deaths and the doctors continue to be the frontline in that army. It is much more than a cary shame. It is a deathly game they play. And the worst of the worse is that they are clueless. Memorization, getting straight A’s, and having an M.D. behind your name doesn’t mean a damn thing, and it never has. Perception is not reality.

March 14, 2008 at 5:49 pm
(5) Anne C. says:

Please excuse so many typos with my last comment above. Which I could spell check it. Oh well.

March 14, 2008 at 9:17 pm
(6) VaBreeze says:

Good Lord yes! I’ve had fibro since I was a teen and don’t recall any issues with this then, but with age and declining health i’ve found the sensitivity problems to be a large part of the ‘fibro load’. I wear sunglasses whenever i’m outdoors…always. Bright, indoor lighting causes headaches and loud sounds of any kind leave me feeling confused in thought and nauseaous. I have a horrible time if there are several loud or various pitched sounds (i.e. two people carrying on a conversation where they are talking quickly or the tv on while someone is talking). It results in my being overwhelmed, disoriented and wanting to scream “PLEASE BE QUIET” because I can’t think. I feel ultra-sensitive to just about everything in my life…pain, sound, lights, touch, weather changes, odors, food, medications…the list goes on and on and on and on……..

March 14, 2008 at 9:22 pm
(7) Rachelmarie says:

In my case noises such as loud music, children crying and the sound of some musical instruments will drive me insane and these things will trigger any kind of pain possible. Also, some smells…will trigger pain..especially headaches.

March 15, 2008 at 1:08 am
(8) Patricia Viamontes says:

I am thankful to come across this website!
My husband can really project his voice and if he shouts something out of the blue, I panic! I feel like a shock goes through my whole body and then I am shaken up and cannot
do anything for a good while. I have warned him about this often. His dr has warned him.
Even when my daughter called me on her cell from her car…her 8 year old let out an incredible shout, like his grandfather, and it made me a mess! I was in pain and felt weak and ill. It took me the weekend to recover. Then the other day, my husband was right behind me in the office and let out a shout that I cannot even explain how loud it felt. I started shaking immediately and then I got very angry. I was having a decent day and then I felt robbed of this time as I knew I would be ill for at least a few hours. People cannot understand this. Now, I panic to be near my grandson, but I intend to tell him that he is never to do this again. Besides that, it is not necessary to be that loud. Thank you all for commenting and making me feel that I am not abnormal!

March 15, 2008 at 4:43 am
(9) Judy says:

I thought I was just a cranky bitch, but now that I live alone in peace and quiet, its great. I cannot stand competing noises but I don’t think I ever have. I call it an audio figure ground problem at times too. Just can’t tell where the sound is I am trying to focus on. The Paradox is that I am also now deaf to some higher frequencies (even consonants) but now I can take out my hearing aids when things are too noisy and I sleep better too because I cannot hear the bumps of the night. So that is one solution. The other solution to noise sensitivity is to go deaf…and I bet a research study into some forms of deafness will find that it is a self protection mechanism for people who have scrambled yet super audio processing.

March 15, 2008 at 11:29 am
(10) Margaret says:

Yes, I have fibromyalgia and am very sensitive to noise (and pressure.) But the noise sensitiity came before the rest of the fibromyalgia symptoms. Next the pressure sensitivity: my clothes hurt, especially tags and labels on clothing. The increased pain came later.

March 15, 2008 at 12:06 pm
(11) Barbara says:

I find that my autonomic nervous system is hyper-alert. Sometimes even the phone ringing causes an adrenalin surge. Also any type of flickering lights such as T.V., car headlights, or even the fireplace causes discomfort at times.
If you haven’t read the book “The Highly Sensitive Person”, I’d highly recommend it! I haven’t found an person with FM who doesn’t fit into this.
Many people without FM are also describing super sentivity. We are all being bombarded by stimulation sources that we’re having trouble adjusting to.

March 16, 2008 at 11:11 am
(12) Joan says:

I have suffered from fibromyalgia symptoms since I was in the 3rd grade…. That’s 46 years so I never knew it could be different. One of the most annoying things I encounter are many flourescent lights in the big box stores. Upon entering, I will become nauseous, dizzy, even faint. The lights seem to flicker. Strobe lights or flashing lights are intolerable. Does anyone else sense this?

March 17, 2008 at 1:09 pm
(13) Shel : ) says:

I am absolutely amazed at the things that I find out because of this site! I just thought I was a bit overly sensitive, maybe a bit nutty, because I have a real problem with noise! Not all noise, I can handle a cafeteria full of kids. What I CAN’T handle is the flourescent light buzzing away in our bathroom, the beeping noise of a backing forklift in Home Depot, the engines, machinery, and whatever else is making noise if I visit my husband at work. I know that noise can be annoying to anybody, but I didn’t figure most people would get that panicky, nauseous, confused feeling that I get–so I never said anything. All this time…I really LOVE this site! I’m not nuts! I’m not nuts! I’m not nuts!

March 17, 2008 at 5:41 pm
(14) heidi says:

i have become ultrasensitive to noise over the last 3 years and live in an apartment. it is hell sometimes, because most of my neighbors have no consideration of me as a person or (want to) understand my illness. they just consider me a bossy, cranky old bitch when i ask for less noise.

i’m only 52 so i don’t qualify for senior housing (age 55 for disabled people). i am also a low income person, which means moving on a yearly basis because landlords don’t care either. they always raise the rent to a level i can’t afford. so i end up having to loook for a new home. i will have to move again before this christmas. i’m STILL recovering from the last move, last christmas!

March 18, 2008 at 12:38 am
(15) Pat says:

I fogot to mention the sensitivity of the clothing tags that the other person wrote about. In the beginning, I had to rip out the clothing tags on every piece as I felt it was stabbing me! In the beginning, headlights at night seemed to always be on bright and I couldn’t see. Yes, I too, am annoyed when the phone rings out of the blue.
Also, I do smell things that no one else does.
Anything repetitive, like my husband talking silly to our dogs and repeating their names over and over or repeating sentences to them, while I am trying to do something…I cannot stand it. It is dreadful. Thank you to all who have posted your experiences!

September 14, 2008 at 5:41 am
(16) Charlotte says:

Thank you – I have had ME for nearly 2 years and have always found this to be one of my most troubling symptoms – and get to the point where I don’t actually have the energy to ask people to be quiet, please turn the TV down/radio down/shut your child up – as I am just concentrating so hard on not collapsing or going into total meltdown or something – so normally I just cry! People have been trying to convince me that it is just a ‘panic attack’ but it so is not.
I avoid noisy places, and seeing friends with ‘noisy’ children.
Last night I had to go to a restaurant with my family, as my sister would be disappointed if I didn’t – it was her birthday yesterday and she’s going to university tomorrow.
I went and just tried to sit there and ignore the noise – eventually I went deaf, and am still mostly deaf this morning – whether it is physical damage, or my brain has sent me deaf to protect me – who knows – but I hope it comes back – and glad to know I am not just being ‘over sensitive’ or having ‘panic attacks’
I am sensitive to light too, btw, certain phone screens, computer screens TVs etc – and looking at any sort of fast movement really disorientates me too.
Just glad to know its really real and I’m not imagining it all.
take care all of you :o ) xx

January 4, 2010 at 2:10 am
(17) Marilyn says:

It’s a relief to know that I’m not going crazy…that when I go to a grocery store and I feel like I’m in some kind of circus tent with a full crowd and even have to cover my ears at times. It’s good to know it’s something that goes with FM and that I’m not the only one who has this problem with hearing and pain. I knew some of this before, but had never seen so many people make statements about it on one site. Does it ever get better?

Guide Response: Yes, it does — as my pain levels have fallen, my other symptoms have dropped off too. I still get aggravated in those environments, but not like I used to. Noise bothers me far less than it used to. ~Adrienne

February 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm
(18) Barbara says:

It takes me along time to recover from the pain of loud
noises. They rattle my body, even when I am not having
a bad flare up. It is worse that the pain of fibro. My sensitivity to sound, was the first indication that something was not right.

July 29, 2010 at 5:48 am
(19) Clare says:

I hunted for something to let me know I was not so totally alone…and here it is!
After an hour or so in an environment with more than 2 or 3 people, I find I do not sleep well and that, within hours, my muscles, especially in my legs, and my hand and knee joints hurt quite significantly and no drug I have lessens the pain.
If I stay alone, in a quiet space, for a few days the pain does decrease to manageable levels.
I want to run away, be alone, not interact with anyone.
It’s as if all noises around me are all at the same level, demanding the same amount of attention and this is incredibly tiring. Public places in general are awful.
I am happy to know that other people have noticed the noise/pain connection.
It’s no fun at all is it?

November 8, 2010 at 5:43 am
(20) Heather Hammett says:

If someone shouts loudly near me it can feel as bad as a physical slap around my head. The sensation seems to resonate in my head long after the source of the noise has finished.

December 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm
(21) Janey says:

Oh boy can I relate to this article & many of the comments left by all. I too have suffered fibromyalgia for as long as I can remember.

I cannot tolerate many, many sounds… eating, licking, sipping, slurping, chewing, lip smacking .. you name it. Also smells make me feel ill, nauseous & so does bright lights. I find that during PMT these sensitivities get even worse.

January 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm
(22) sylvia says:

I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I have suspected that I suffered from fibromyalgia for a while now, but when I brought it up to my dr. she said that I don’t have pain frequently enough to be diagnosed with it. I have been keeping a pain diary and have found that I have pain almost everyday. I have had debilitating pain only seven times last year, where I couldn’t get up from the pain. I cannot stand any humming sounds, ceiling fans, computers, bright lights, give me instant headaches. Even the fans in the bathroom, sometimes i have a headache and I’ll start roaming through the house to find the source and sure enough someone left a fan on. Thank you all for sharing. I relate to all, but i am amazed that you all can relate to me.

April 8, 2011 at 11:52 am
(23) Violet says:

I have been dealing with Fibro most of my life but, severly since 1987 after my 5th car accident, that I had to have doner bones put in my neck, plus spers, & OA degeneration of the spine & neck, plus RA, I Pray all the time, & do my Best to stay Positive.
Since last summer I have been having trouble with light, sound, & smells, It has progressed terribly!!!! I took a walk up the street with my sunglasses on but, forgot my earplugs, & a bird singing was so horribly loud to me It set off another migraine, I went right home, then to the DR. He gave me four shots in the top of my neck/bottom of my head, two on each side, and a shot in the arm to knock me out, He also did this the week before, He said: the next step is the steroids again. That’s the last thing I want to do. I have my shades down, sunglasses, & ear plugs in constantly!!!! I can’t even go to church because I get a migraine even with the ear plugs in, & sunglasses on. Please Pray this eases up for my family reunion, Otherwise I’ll have to get loaded, & hear nothing hee hee.
If it is bad I’ll have to leave Knoebels but, I’ll be sure to take some Tirolian food with me.
I may be acting strange, by Not hearing you, or staying out of the light. I know I’m a vampire!!!! So beware!!!
I do my best to keep my humor, & improvise as much as I can. Thank You for listening, and Keep Praying for a cure!!!!
Peace, Love, & God Bless,

August 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm
(24) michelle says:

airports are the worst for me followed by loud music and bright lights…I get disorientated and very weak very quickly in airports..and loud music gives me bad migraines…bright lights just hurt my eyes and I hate to drive at night because of this but I get on and do what I have to to survive…glad I found the reasoning behind all of this…my ex husband thought I was a little crazy.

September 8, 2011 at 9:52 am
(25) rosario wilson says:

I have suffered from the pain of noises since I was 8, now I’m 64. Chewing gum, eating noises especially crunchy foods, flip flops, clicking of pens, slurping, and sometimes even breathing noises all bothered me to the point of being enraged. Other noises bother me too, like sniffling or the rustling of a newspaper. It’s worse when I’m tired. I guess I have misophonia.

August 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm
(26) Dave says:

After a minor heart attack 7 years ago I have become hypersensitive to many things, particularly sound, heat vibration and muscle ache/pain at bottom of sternum. I recently had a hip replacement, and had morphine based pain relief. The best 2 days in 7 years- no pains at all. Then when morphine was stopped, back to usual pains.Taking 8 Tramadol, 8 Paracetamol and Naproxin per day just to keep pain to bearable level.
I think a Traumatic event can trigger hypersensitivity which in turn starts a panic attack every time I have a slight pain in ribs.
These symptoms could be Fibromyalgia but my Dr. has not diagnosed this. Been tested for just about everything else.

September 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm
(27) Jill says:

What’s really fun is when you are sensitive to sound, but also hard of hearing. So, I have to turn up the volume on the TV to hear the dialogue (because not all channels/shows have captioning) and sometimes that’s just loud enough to set my teeth on edge. And don’t get me started on commercials and the constant loop Time Warner runs on it’s on-demand channels. Yeesh!

November 3, 2012 at 9:52 pm
(28) E.G. says:

I’m glad I found this page.
I’ve had CFS/CFIDS/FMS (whatever they’re calling it now) for 18 years, following a bout of mononeucleosis. In addition to the weird pains, multiple allergies, fatigue, and other fun, I also have a hypersensitivity to sound (which my hard-of-hearing husband calls my “superpower”). I thought it was just due to my profession as an ESL/foreign-language/dialect teacher/tutor/coach. I recently began to suspect, though, that my “old-lady crankiness” in this regard had something to do with this condition I try so desperately to ignore.
Yeah very interesting living with a hard-of-hearing husband who cranks up the volume on everything, speaks loudly, insists that I repeat what I say more loudly, and slams/bangs/clanks things around (though now I think that what I perceive as slamming/banging/clanking is just normal household sound).
Yeah, I’m a weirdo… ;D

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