Fibromyalgia is a notoriously difficult disease to treat. Standard treatments include painkillers, antidepressants, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and exercise therapy. Recent studies suggest that the most effective combination of therapies is exercise paired with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Study participants were separated into two groups based on how they dealt with their pain: those who curbed activities due to fear of pain and those who continued their activities in spite of pain. The goal of CBT is to help people recognize thought patterns and emotional responses that contribute to their symptoms, and give them practical ways to change their behavior. For patients who habitually tried to avoid pain, the CBT sessions were geared toward helping them deal with their fear of pain and set goals for increasing their daily activities; those who typically attempted to push through pain, the CBT was designed to set more realistic goals and pace their daily activities and avoid overexertion.
Six months later, almost two thirds of participants showed “clinically significant” improvements, meaning that they had an increased ability to perform daily activities like walking, climbing stairs and doing household chores.