Study Finds Behavioral Therapy Helps Teens Cope With Fibromyalgia

Using behavioral therapy to teach children and adolescents how to cope with juvenile fibromyalgia (JFM) could make it easier to cope with the chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder, both mentally and physically, according to a new study.
A team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati, Vanderbilt University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of Louisville, the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation studied 114 subjects between the ages of 11 and 18, all of whom had been diagnosed with JFM.
“The objective of this multi-site single-blind randomized clinical trial was to test whether cognitivebehavioral therapy (CBT) was superior to fibromyalgia education (FE) in reducing functional disability, pain and depressive symptoms in JFM,” the authors wrote in their study, which was published online the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism on November 22.
“After being stabilized on usual medical care for 8 weeks, patients were randomized to either CBT or FE and received 8 weekly individual sessions with a therapist and 2 booster sessions. Assessments were conducted at baseline, immediately following the 8-week treatment phase and at 6-months follow up,” they added, noting that “patients in both groups showed significant reduction in functional disability, pain and depressive symptoms at the end of the study” but that behavioral therapy had proven to be “significantly superior” to education alone when it came to overcoming those symptoms.
According to Linda Thrasybule of Reuters Health, sixth months later, the CBT teens achieved an average disability score of 13 out of 30, compared to 17 out of 30 for those who only received lessons.
“This is the first major breakthrough in understanding how best to treat fibromyalgia in teenagers,” co-author Dr. Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, a pediatric psychologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told Thrasybule on Friday. “Because of their pain, these teens have trouble going to school, going out with friends, participating in social activities — things important to teenagers.”
Thrasybule says that individuals who have fibromyalgia tend to have intense feelings of pain throughout their bodies, as well as chronic fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and/or depression, and can also come down with other conditions, including arthritis or irritable bowel syndrome.
An estimated 850,000 American kids between the ages of 10 and 19 could have symptoms of the disorder, the cause of which is currently unknown but potentially linked to the way a person’s brain processes sensations of pain, Reuters Health reported.

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