Fibromyalgia sufferers see chronic pain symptoms reduced in new meditation therapy study

February 27, 2018 by Gemma Bradley, University of Derby

A team of academics has conducted the first study into the effectiveness of compassion meditation for treating fibromyalgia, a debilitating pain condition, which recently hit the headlines for causing Lady Gaga to cancel her world tour.

The study, which compared Attachment-based Compassion Therapy (ABCT) with relaxation techniques for treating fibromyalgia, was assessed by researchers from the University of Derby, the Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness Research in Italy, and the Primary Care Prevention and Health Promotion Research Network, University of Zaragoza and Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu in Spain.

As the chronic pain disorder affects approximately three percent of adults in the UK and Europe with more women diagnosed than men, the team ran the study trial among 42 diagnosed women, split into two groups.

Compared to the relaxation control group, participants in the compassion therapy group demonstrated significant improvements across a range of psychological outcomes and reduced fibromyalgia symptoms by 36 percent overall.

Dr. William Van Gordon, Lecturer in Psychology at University of Derby Online Learning, said: "The effectiveness of pharmacological treatments for fibromyalgia, such as anti-depressants, has long been questioned and can lead to unwanted side effects. The aim of this study was to investigate the use of as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia.

"Following the study, most participants in the ABCT group showed significant improvements and some no longer met the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia.

"As fibromyalgia is linked with sickness-related absence from work, incapacity to work, reduced work productivity and high usage of health-care resources, these results are not only meaningful for the sufferers but could help to address the problem of absence from work and the cost implications of this."

The compassion therapy involved group sessions and daily homework assignments. Compassion meditation exercises were used to focus on cultivating a recognition and understanding of the universality of suffering, an emotional connection with others' suffering, and motivation to act to alleviate suffering.

Fibromyalgia symptoms were measured before and after the trial using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), an instrument developed to assess the current health status of women with fibromyalgia syndrome in clinical and research settings.

Before the start of trial, both the compassion therapy group and control group had an FIQ average score of over 60. A score of 59 or more corresponds to a severe level of fibromyalgia symptoms. After the trial, the average score for the mediation group fell to 44, but the average score for the control group remained above 60.

While some symptoms were still likely to be present for participants in the ABCT group, they no were longer deemed to be severe. A reduction of at least 14 percent is deemed to be clinically important, but in this study the reduction in symptoms was in the order of 36 percent for , 30 percent for psychological flexibility, 45 percent for anxiety, 54 percent for depression, and 38 percent for quality of life.

Explore further: Weight loss among obese tied to improvements in chronic pain

Related Stories

Weight loss among obese tied to improvements in chronic pain

January 29, 2018
(HealthDay)—For obese individuals with chronic pain, a weight loss intervention is associated with improvements in the spatial distribution of pain and comorbid somatic symptoms, according to a study published in the December ...

New research findings offers hope to people with fibromyalgia

September 21, 2017
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 ...

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 ...

IV lidocaine has no meaningful impact in fibromyalgia

June 20, 2016
(HealthDay)—For patients with fibromyalgia, use of intravenous lidocaine has no meaningful impact, according to a study published online June 16 in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.

Men with fibromyalgia often go undiagnosed, Mayo Clinic study suggests

December 19, 2012
Fibromyalgia is a complex illness to diagnose and to treat. There is not yet a diagnostic test to establish that someone has it, there is no cure and many fibromyalgia symptoms—pain, fatigue, problems sleeping and memory ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Does Netflix's '13 Reasons Why' influence teen suicide? Survey asks at-risk youths

November 20, 2018
A significant proportion of suicidal teens treated in a psychiatric emergency department said that watching the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" had increased their suicide risk, a University of Michigan study finds.

MDMA makes people cooperative, but not gullible

November 19, 2018
New research from King's College London has found that MDMA, the main ingredient in ecstasy, causes people to cooperate better—but only with trustworthy people. In the first study to look in detail at how MDMA impacts cooperative ...

Study measures effectiveness of online communication tools in combatting depression among socially isolated seniors

November 19, 2018
Imagine your family has moved across the state or across country. You're retired, and your spouse has passed away. Lacking the social connections previous generations once found in church or fraternal organizations, it doesn't ...

Response to daily stressors could affect brain health in older adults

November 19, 2018
Taking typical daily annoyances such as a long wait at the doctor's office or a traffic jam on the freeway in stride may help preserve brain health in older adults, while emotional reactions could contribute to declines in ...

In-person, but not online, social contact may protect against psychiatric disorders

November 19, 2018
In-person social contact seems to offer some protection against depression and PTSD symptoms, but the same is not true of contact on Facebook, suggests a study by Veterans Affairs Portland Health Care System and Oregon Health ...

Exploring the genetic contribution to suicide risk

November 19, 2018
Researchers at University of Utah Health identified four gene changes that occur more frequently in people who died by suicide that may point to increased risk in vulnerable individuals.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gryfalcon
not rated yet Feb 28, 2018
I have lost faith in the medical community, because snake oil is all that they have to offer for a child who is suffering from fibromyalgia -- or medications that are addictive, have horrible side effects and don't work. Yes, meditation makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but would you really tell a person who walks in with a broken leg or the flu, that what they need is meditation? Fibromyalgia patients have very serious disease that affects every part of their body, including their oxygenation of tissues, circulation, temperature control, gait, cognitive abilities, ability to swallow and more. Telling fibro patients to try meditation is like suggesting someone slap a bandaid on a severed limb. This is a very serious illness. Publishing articles about meditation, CBT and exercise every few weeks does not distract us from noticing that doctors doing their jobs. They aren't digging into the illness, finding the real cause, and finding effective treatments.

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.