What is involved in psychological and behavioral therapy for the treatment of fibromyalgia?

Updated: Apr 23, 2020
  • Author: Chad S Boomershine, MD, PhD, CPI, CPT; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Depression, anxiety, stress, sleep disturbance, pain beliefs and coping strategies, and self-efficacy all are central to the pain experience in many patients and frequently determine the outcome of chronic pain. Depression must be treated aggressively.

Unless psychosocial and behavioral variables are recognized and approached, strictly pharmacologic interventions are of limited benefit. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and operant-behavioral therapy (OBT) both effect clinically meaningful improvements in pain intensity and physical impairment in approximately one third to one half of patients with fibromyalgia. [119]

Pretreatment patient characteristics are important predictors of response to nonpharmacologic therapies. [120] High levels of affective distress, poor coping skills, few pain behaviors, and unsolicitous spouse behavior predict response to CBT. Prominent pain behaviors, high levels of physical impairment, catastrophizing, and solicitous spouse behavior predict response to OBT.

Other useful strategies include the following:

  • Relaxation training
  • Activity pacing
  • Guided imagery
  • Written emotional disclosure
  • Distraction strategies
  • Instruction in proper sleep hygiene

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