Table of Contents
Pain Research and Treatment
Volume 2012, Article ID 140832, 15 pages
Review Article

Early Life Adversity as a Risk Factor for Fibromyalgia in Later Life

Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, McGill University, 3640 University Street, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 2B2

Received 27 April 2011; Accepted 25 July 2011

Academic Editor: Charles Vierck

Copyright © 2012 Lucie A. Low and Petra Schweinhardt. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The impact of early life events is increasingly becoming apparent, as studies investigate how early childhood can shape long-term physiology and behaviour. Fibromyalgia (FM), which is characterised by increased pain sensitivity and a number of affective co-morbidities, has an unclear etiology. This paper discusses risk factors from early life that may increase the occurrence or severity of FM in later life: pain experience during neonatal life causes long-lasting changes in nociceptive circuitry and increases pain sensitivity in the older organism; premature birth and related stressor exposure cause lasting changes in stress responsivity; maternal deprivation affects anxiety-like behaviours that may be partially mediated by epigenetic modulation of the genome—all these adult phenotypes are strikingly similar to symptoms displayed by FM sufferers. In addition, childhood trauma and exposure to substances of abuse may cause lasting changes in developing neurotransmitter and endocrine circuits that are linked to anxiety and stress responses.