July 18, 2024

New Study Reveals Equally Effective Treatments for Fibromyalgia

A recent study conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet has found that there are no significant differences between two types of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) commonly used in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Both exposure-based CBT and traditional CBT were found to be equally effective in reducing symptoms and functional impairment in patients with the disease.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that affects approximately 200,000 people in Sweden. It is characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and stiffness in the body, and currently has no cure. Existing medication options often provide insufficient relief, highlighting the need for more effective treatment methods.

CBT has shown promise in managing fibromyalgia symptoms, but there is a shortage of trained practitioners and limited knowledge about which form of CBT is most effective. This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of two different forms of internet-delivered CBT in reducing symptoms and functional impact.

Traditional CBT, on the other hand, offers a range of strategies to address various aspects of the condition, such as relaxation techniques, activity planning, physical exercise, and managing negative thoughts and improving sleep.

Surprisingly, the study found that traditional CBT was largely equivalent to exposure-based CBT in its effectiveness. This result contrasts with the researchers’ initial hypothesis, which was based on previous research suggesting that the newer exposure-based form would be more effective.

“We were expecting the new exposure-based form to be more effective, but our study shows that the traditional form can provide equally good results,” says Maria Hedman-Lagerlöf, a licensed psychologist and researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Center for Psychiatry Research.

The randomized study involved 274 participants with fibromyalgia who were assigned to receive either traditional or exposure-based CBT, both delivered entirely online. Throughout the 10-week treatment period, all participants had regular contact with their therapists and provided feedback on their mood and symptoms. After treatment, 60% of those who received exposure-based CBT and 59% of those who received traditional CBT reported that their symptoms had significantly improved.

Furthermore, the study found that both treatments led to sustained reductions in symptoms and functional impairment for up to 12 months after the completion of treatment. This suggests that internet-based CBT could be highly beneficial for individuals with fibromyalgia, as it allows for greater accessibility to treatment.

According to Hedman-Lagerlöf, this study is one of the largest to compare different treatment options for fibromyalgia and is among the first to compare two active and established psychological treatments. The research collaboration between Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University contributes to the growing body of evidence for effective treatments for fibromyalgia.

The findings of this study bring hope to individuals living with fibromyalgia, as they demonstrate that CBT, delivered through online platforms, can significantly reduce symptoms and improve daily functioning. With the growing accessibility of internet-based treatments, more people can receive the support they need to manage their fibromyalgia effectively.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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