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Talk Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a debilitating pain condition for which the treatment effects are typically only modest. The most evaluated psychological treatment to date in this disease state is traditional cognitive behavior therapy (T-CBT), but promising outcomes have been seen of late in what’s called exposure-based cognitive behavior therapy (Exp-CBT).

Two types of mental health treatment are equally effective in treating fibromyalgia patients, Swedish researchers reported, from a study cohort of 270 people with fibromyalgia who were randomly assigned to be treated online with traditional or exposure-based CBT.  The work was completed at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm

They compared traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to what is known as exposure-based CBT, and the results were published in the December 2023 issue of The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, titled Effect of exposure-based vs traditional cognitive behavior therapy for fibromyalgia: a two-site single-blind randomized controlled trial.

“This well-powered randomized trial indicated that Exp-CBT was not superior to T-CBT for fibromyalgia. Both treatments were associated with a marked reduction in fibromyalgia severity, and the online treatment format might be of high clinical utility. T-CBT can still be regarded a reference standard treatment that remains clinically relevant when compared to novel treatment approaches,” said the authors.

Participants in the study responded to questions about their mood and symptoms before, during and after treatment. After 10 weeks, 60% of those who received exposure-based CBT and 59% of those who had traditional CBT said that their treatment had helped.