Behavioral Counseling and Exercise Therapy; a Potential Winning Combo to Fight Fibromyalgia

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

—by Cate Stevenson, BA

There are a number of alternative treatments available that could help in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Massage and acupuncture, as well as Pilates, tai chi, chiropractic treatment, and various dietary supplements, may provide relief. All of these treatments may not work for any one individual. Some may provide relief, while others may seem to have no effect at all.

The most common symptom in those who suffer from fibromyalgia is chronic pain. Researchers estimate that there are 18 specific points on the body where fibromyalgia can cause reoccurring pain. Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, sleep, and memory and concentration problems. You might also experience restless legs syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, dry eyes, anxiety, or headaches.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, and the condition has proven difficult to treat.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you may want to consider the results of a recent clinical trial. According to researchers at the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, a combination of behavioral counseling and exercise therapy may bring symptom relief.

The study focused on high-risk fibromyalgia patients — those whose symptoms were causing a lot of distress, based on screening questionnaires that looked at anxiety and depression symptoms. The research team separated the patients into two groups based on their usual method of dealing with their pain. Those who avoided any activities they feared would worsen their pain made up one group, while those who kept up various activities in spite of their pain made up the other. Patients in
both groups were randomly assigned to either undergo 16 sessions of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) plus exercise therapy or go on a wait-list for treatment.

CBT tries to help people recognize thought patterns and emotional responses that contribute to their symptoms, and give them practical ways to change their behavior. For this study, patients who typically tried to avoid pain were given CBT sessions that were designed to help them deal with their fear of pain and also to set goals for boosting their daily activities. For patients who tried to push through their pain, the CBT encouraged them to set more realistic goals and pace their daily activities to avoid overdoing it. All patients had an exercise session with a physical therapist following each CBT session.

Overall, the researchers found that, immediately after the treatment period, and six months later, both therapy groups were doing better than those on the wait list. After six months, two-thirds of treated patients had “clinically significant” improvements in at least some measure of physical well-being — whether it was pain, fatigue or disability — versus one-third of wait-list patients.

And when it came to mental well-being, 62% had improvements in anxiety or depression symptoms, compared with only 33% of the wait-list group.