This is a difficult article to write because I also have chronic migraine, which as one imagines comes with a lot of overload of the senses. Migraines are actually pretty comorbid with fibromyalgia. Anyway, that means I have to limit this piece to fibromyalgia over sensitivity symptoms. And there is, naturally, overlap. Much like a migraine fibromyalgia can make all the senses get heightened and wonky.

According to a study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitationthat compared and analyzed reports from women with rheumatoid arthritis, women with fibromyalgia, and women without a pain syndrome, those with fibromyalgia were much more likely to report intense, unpleasant responses to sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations. Everyday Health

Fibromyalgia and sensory sensitivity


Now I know this one is fact because I had fibromyalgia as a teen long before my first migraine hit when I was 20 and photosensitivity became an increasing problem. And it is something mentioned.

One study showed that bright light caused pain for patients with fibromyalgia at an astonishing rate of 70%, more than any other reported neurological symptom; this compared to only 6% for people without a chronic pain syndrome.(1) A primary reason for increasing levels of photophobia is likely due to the ongoing external sensitivities and lower pain threshold associated with the fibromyalgia; this has been previously described as “sensory overload.” Theraspecs

Touch/ feeling


Allodynia is a type of pain often experienced with fibromyalgia and other conditions. It makes the skin extremely sensitive to touch. Like a light or severe sunburn. Clothing hurts to wear.

I have had this in various places on the body. One time my entire back. And it burned like hell. All I had for it was my tramadol and it took a lot to make it tolerable.

  • Antidepressants
  • Tramadol
  • Anti-seizure drugs such as Lyrica (pregabalin) and Neurontin (gabapentin)
  • Topical Lidocaine

Researchers have also tested tissue samples and found elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the skin of people with fibromyalgia — which may be linked to hypersensitivity to touch. Touch sensitivity is real for people like Pringle, who says that there are times when even holding hands with her partner is too painful to bear. Clothes that are too tight, massages, and even light touches all ratchet up her pain and stress. To make matters worse, Pringle says she occasionally even flinches involuntarily when touched by others, which can be hurtful to those around her. EveryDay Health


Paresthesia which ranges from mild tingling, intense tingling, to numbness can be insanely frustrating. Also a source of a nerve itch. I once had this severely below the waist with intense tingling and numbness. It led to three back MRI’s but nothing was out of sorts. And it slowly appeared… and very slowly over a couple of years disappeared. The nerve itch is severe for me on my calves and drives me bonkers at night.

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Crawling itch
  • Can cause pain
  • Can cause skin sensitivity.

Sound/smell sensitivity

Another study, published in the journal Pain Research and Treatment,suggests that changes in brain chemistry among people with fibromyalgia may be linked to sensitivity to stimuli such as sound and smell. Imaging studies have provided visual depictions of this altered response to sensations. In some respects, the brains of people with fibromyalgia may be hyper-responsive to even the possibility of pain or discomfort, Dr. Natelson says. Everyday health

Sound and scent sensitivity isn’t mentioned a whole lot. But we know we are very sensitive to odours. I have migraines, so hard to say with sound sensitivity since those two go together for sure. Certainly, some sounds on some days can just Get to me. Like the sound of two plates touching. Ouch! I feel it in my ears sharply. I have always been odour sensitive and as a result, most hygiene products I use are odourless or for sensitive skin. You have to be careful with cleaning products as well.

We are just extremely hypersensitive to stimulus from the senses as well, of course, to pressure and pain. I personally think my nervous system is on Fire.

The FM group reported significantly increased sensory sensitivities to both somatic (tactile) and nonsomatic (eg, auditory and olfactory) sensory stimuli compared with the RA and control groups. The RA and control groups did not differ in reported hypersensitivities.

Women with fibromyalgia reported increased sensitivities to stimuli in the environment and could experience more stress related to sensory conditions in daily life.

Multisensory Hypersensitivity in Women With Fibromyalgia: Implications for Well Being and Intervention

So while some of these are rarely mentioned you are definitely not imagining it. Some suggest it is due to hypervigilance in fibromyalgia because our flight or fight response is skewed.

Additional research

Fibromyalgia and sound/heat sensitivity

See also

Allodynia in fibromyalgia

Paresthesia and fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is more than pain
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6 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia and sensory sensitivity

  1. I’ve been increasingly sensitive to sounds and it makes my life hell to be blunt. All noise and even normal everyday sounds drive me crazy. I need to use ear protectors to at home almost all the time. And it’s not enough to keep all the noise out. And I haven’t got any idea about how to help this. I’m desperate for help and neither my therapist or doctor seems to be able to help me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi my fibromyalgia was diagnosed about 10 years although noise and smell sensitivity has been the hardest to live with people eating breathing talking have driven me to all sorts of extreme measures over the years.
    Most recently a burning sensation has became unbearable my whole bony burns red.
    I found your article truly helpfully to think there are diagnosed name for my symptoms

    Liked by 1 person

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