Teaching teens to cope with the chronic pain of fibromyalgia through behavioral therapy may provide some relief from their symptoms, a new study reveals.
“This is the first major breakthrough in understanding how best to treat fibromyalgia in teenagers,” said Dr. Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, co-author of the study and pediatric psychologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Because of their pain, these teens have trouble going to school, going out with friends, participating in social activities — things important to teenagers.”
Approximately 850,000 children and teenagers in the U.S. between the ages of 10 and 19 have symptoms of widespread chronic pain, says Kashikar-Zuck.
Researchers studied 114 teens suffering from juvenile fibromyalgia, a painful musculoskeletal disorder. The teenagers were divided into two groups — one that received cognitive behavioral therapy and another group that only received fibromyalgia education.
At the study’s start, all participants had trouble performing some daily activities, such as playing physical sports, performing routine chores, and waking due to fatigue. The teens who received cognitive behavioral therapy were taught how to use various pain distraction techniques, including how to calm themselves during periods when they felt anxious.
“These teens were getting individualized treatment, learning active skills where we’re teaching them to include behavioral changes in their life,” said Kashikar-Zuck.
The group educated about fibromyalgia only received information about the disorder and possible treatments, but wasn’t schooled on actual techniques.
While both groups showed improvements in daily functioning at the end of the six-month study, the group that received cognitive behavioral therapy had fewer symptoms of depression and disability. The findings were reported in the online edition of Arthritis and Rheumatism.
People who have fibromyalgia suffer from intense and chronic pain throughout their bodies. They may feel fatigued, have difficulty sleeping, or become depressed and anxious. The cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown, but it’s thought to be linked to how the brain processes chronic pain.
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