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Pain Management: Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia
Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment in Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Regarding this uncertainty, treatment remains a challenge and most of the improvements gained after treatments are often short-lived. The multidimensional nature of the disease calls for a wide variety of treatment approaches. Pharmacological therapy remains the primary treatment choice for FM. Tricyclic antidepressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, simple analgesics and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most often prescribed medications [5, 6], but there is no long term efficacy of these medications.
The uncertain pathophysiology of FM and the lack of long term effectiveness of pharmacological treatments require other therapeutic modalities since biomedical model solely may be insufficient to explain the complexity of FM. In the recent years biopsychosocial model is suggested as a useful model to understand and to treat chronic pain [7, 8]. In the biopsychosocial model the perception of pain is an integration of biological and psychological properties and successful treatment includes this integration . Thus, besides pharmacotherapy other modalities such as; multi- disciplinary rehabilitation, physical interventions, educational programs, cognitive-behavioral strategies, coping skills training, complementary and alternative medicine therapies are used.
Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment in Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Cognitive behavioral treatment has three components :
2) A skills training phase; patients are emphasized on cognitive and behavioral strategies for coping pain. Various cognitive strategies help to ameliorate pain. Coping skills training is a set of techniques that a person may use to modulate pain. Cognitive behavioral techniques and skills practice include; relaxation strategies (deep breathing, meditation, biofeedback, visual imagery), coping strategies (self task, problem solving, distraction reinterpreting) and cognitive restructuring. In this phase the patients are encouraged to modify maladaptive pain behaviors and to apply the behaviors and cognitions effectively in their environments.
3) An application phase; patients learn to apply cognitive and behavioral skills to real life situations. In this phase relapse prevention is aimed. Relapse prevention education includes: a) to identify high risk situations b) to identify signs of relapse c) rehearsal for coping with early relapse signs . Behavior modification focuses on changing the behavior itself whereas cognitive restructuring focuses on altering the psychosocial attitudes or cognitions of patients. For behavioral changes reminders or boosters should be included in the treatment plan so that the patients maintain the use of the skills they have learned .
Clinicians should keep in mind some important clinical and research issues about the CBT protocols when applying them into clinical practice. These issues are:
2) The timing of the CBT is an important issue. Although CBT has been shown to be effective in long standing disease with arthritis , further research for early or late intervention with CBT in FM is needed.
3) Format of the CBT sessions (group or individual therapy, duration and the number of the session) and by whom it would be conducted (trained psychologist, rheumatologist, nurse educators, etc.) and different outcomes to evaluate the efficacy of treatment are noteworthy issues. Many of the CBT protocols for pain management are flexible. Prior to CBT the patients’ psychological evaluation (to assess patients’ cognitive, behavioral and affective adaptation to their pain condition) are important.
Turk [91, 92] examined whether patients with FM could be classified into subgroups based upon their pretreatment responses on the Multidimensional Pain Inventory (MPI). According to their MPI profiles patients with FM were classified as Dysfunctional (DYS); high levels of pain, functional limitations and affective distress, Interpersonally Distressed (ID); this group characteristics are similar to DYS but they have low levels of support from their significant the others and Adaptive Copers (AC); low level of pain, distress and disability. Turk hypothesized that the MPI subgroups would response differently to a standard rehabilitation program [93, 94].
When The MPI subgroups were examined separately, patients in DYS group improved in pain, depression, fatigue, but ID patients with FM failed to respond to the treatment. This study’s results support the need for different treatments targeting the characteristics of subgroups.
Seven girls were treated using CBT (relaxation, guided imagery). The results indicated that CBT was effective in reducing pain and improving functioning but the study sample was so small and the study did not include any control group. In another study, the authors assessed the behavioral and educational therapy . At the end of the study there was improvement in both groups but no differential effects between the two groups occurred over the course of trial. Potential efficacy of behavioral and educational approaches in reducing depression, myalgia scores and pain behaviors was observed in this study. The authors thought that participants had a high degree of educational attainment and these findings could not limit their generalizability to other FM populations. In a good controlled study Vlayen compared the three groups (group1: education + exercise + cognitive skills, 12 session in 6 weeks, group 2: education + exercise, group 3: wait listed control group). Assessments were done at baseline and 12 month follow up period. The authors concluded that treatment groups showed improvements on pain coping and controlling of the pain but there was no difference between the treatment groups. In another study CBT supported stress management was compared to aerobic exercise . Pain and tender point count improved in both groups. Exercise group was better than the stress management group in improving measures of fatigue and work capacity whereas stress management group was better than the exercise for depression. There are some studies supporting the benefits of combined exercise and CBT [38, 47, 66, 80]. The studies of Burckhardt  and Buckelew  are important in suggesting that the combined exercise and CBT have significant long term benefits. In a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of non-pharmacological interventions for FM, the authors thought that studies that used a combination approach showed greater improvement than those including single intervention only and FM is better managed by a multimodal approach including aerobic exercise and education to address physical, functional and psychological aspects of FM . A meta-analysis of 49 FM treatment outcome studies compared the efficacy of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments (CBT and physical therapy) with respect to physical status, FM symptoms, psychological status and functional ability. Antidepressive treatment showed significant improvements in all criteria as compared to physical therapy. In this metaanalysis, CBT was found more effective with respect to improvement in FM symptoms and functional ability. The authors concluded that an optimal treatment of FM includes CBT . Williams summarized that clinical studies of CBT in FM reported moderate improvement and CBT and exercise combination has synergistic benefits on course of FM . In summary, existing studies demonstrate the beneficial effect of CBT, but there is a need for larger, more systematic and randomized controlled trials to evaluate the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral methods of managing FM.
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