New research findings offers hope to people with fibromyalgia

September 21, 2017, Wayne State University

A novel psychological therapy that encourages addressing emotional experiences related to trauma, conflict and relationship problems has been found helpful for people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia. A research team led by Mark A. Lumley, Ph.D., distinguished professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Wayne State University, in collaboration with a team from the University of Michigan Medical Center led by David A. Williams, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology, has released the results of its research in the prestigious journal, Pain.

In the , 230 adults with fibromyalgia received one of three treatments, each of which was presented for eight weekly sessions to small groups of . The new therapy, which Lumley and co-developer Howard Schubiner, M.D., director of the Mind Body Medicine Program at Providence Hospital, call Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET), helps patients view their pain and other symptoms as stemming from changeable neural pathways in the brain that are strongly influenced by emotions. EAET helps patients process , such as disclosing important struggles, learning how to adaptively express important feelings—especially anger and sadness but also gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness—and empowering people to be more honest and direct in relationships that have been conflicted or problematic.

The EAET intervention was compared to both an educational intervention as well as the gold standard psychological approach in the field, cognitive behavioral therapy. Six months after treatments ended, patients were evaluated for the severity and extent of their pain and other problems that people with fibromyalgia often experience.

Patients who received EAET had better outcomes—reduced widespread pain, physical impairment, attention and concentration problems, anxiety, and depression and more positive emotions and life satisfaction—than patients who received the education intervention. More than twice as many people in EAET (34.8 percent) reported that they were "much better" or "very much better" than before treatment, compared to 15.4 percent of education patients. An important additional finding was that the new emotion therapy also had greater benefits than cognitive behavior in reducing widespread pain and in the number of patients who achieved at least 50 percent pain reduction.

"Many people with fibromyalgia have experienced adversity in their lives, including victimization, family problems and internal conflicts, all of which create important emotions that are often suppressed or avoided. Emerging neuroscience research suggests that this can contribute strongly to and other physical symptoms," Lumley said. "We developed and tested an approach that tries to help people overcome these emotional and and reduce their symptoms, rather than just help people manage or accept their fibromyalgia. Although this treatment does not help all people with , many patients found it to be very helpful, and some had dramatic improvements in their lives and their health."

Explore further: Does widespread pain stem from the brain? MRI study investigates

More information: Mark A. Lumley et al, Emotional awareness and expression therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and education for fibromyalgia, PAIN (2017). DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001036

Related Stories

Does widespread pain stem from the brain? MRI study investigates

August 10, 2017
Pain is the most common reason people seek medical care, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Psychological intervention reduces disability and depression in adolescents with fibromyalgia

November 22, 2011
A recent trial shows cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) reduces functional disability and depressive symptoms in adolescents with juvenile fibromyalgia. The psychological intervention was found to be safe and effective, and ...

Fibromyalgia and the role of brain connectivity in pain inhibition

October 1, 2014
The cause of fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome is not known. However, the results of a new study that compares brain activity in individuals with and without fibromyalgia indicate that decreased connectivity between pain-related ...

Cold application decreases fibromyalgia pain

May 1, 2017
(HealthDay)—Local cold applications on the trapezius muscles significantly decreases the pain of patients with fibromyalgia, according to a study published online April 17 in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.

Cold weather hits fibromyalgia sufferers hard

January 31, 2014
Cold temperatures, such as those gripping the Midwest over the past week, are tough on everybody. But for individuals with fibromyalgia, whose symptoms include chronic, widespread pain, the big freeze is especially difficult ...

Yoga is an effective alternative to physical therapy for easing low back pain

June 19, 2017
A study of 320 predominantly low-income, racially diverse adults with chronic low back pain found that yoga was as safe and effective as physical therapy for restoring function and relieving pain. Compared to an education ...

Recommended for you

Human antibody discovery could save lives from fungal killer

December 11, 2018
A new way to diagnose, treat and protect against stealth fungal infections that claim more than 1.5 million lives per year worldwide has been moved a step closer, according to research published in Nature Communications.

Dialysis patients at risk of progressive brain injury

December 10, 2018
Kidney dialysis can cause short-term 'cerebral stunning' and may be associated with progressive brain injury in those who receive the treatment for many years. For many patients with kidney failure awaiting a kidney transplant ...

PET scans to optimize tuberculosis meningitis treatments and personalize care, study finds

December 6, 2018
Although relatively rare in the United States, and accounting for fewer than 5 percent of tuberculosis cases worldwide, TB of the brain—or tuberculosis meningitis (TBM)—is often deadly, always hard to treat, and a particular ...

Silicosis is on the rise, but is there a therapeutic target?

December 6, 2018
Researchers from the CNRS, the University of Orléans, and the company Artimmune, in collaboration with Turkish clinicians from Atatürk University, have identified a key mechanism of lung inflammation induced by silica exposure, ...

Infectivity of different HIV-1 strains may depend on which cell receptors they target

December 6, 2018
Distinct HIV-1 strains may differ in the nature of the CCR5 molecules to which they bind, affecting which cells they can infect and their ability to enter cells, according to a study published December 6 in the open-access ...

Protecting cell powerhouse paves way to better treatment of acute kidney injury

December 6, 2018
For the first time, scientists have described the body's natural mechanism for temporarily protecting the powerhouses of kidney cells when injury or disease means they aren't getting enough blood or oxygen.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.