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Group treatment of fibromyalgia (FM): a 6 month outpatient program

  [ 37 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Bennett RM, Burckhardt CS, Clark SR, O'Reilly CA, Wiens AN, Campbell SM • • March 10, 1996

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact of a 6 month group therapy
program on the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia (FM).
Since FM is a common problem in rheumatology practice, a
program was designed to treat patients in a group setting
using allied health professionals.

METHODS: The FM group (15
to 25 patients) met once a week for 6 months. The average
session lasted 90 min and consisted of formal lectures, group
sessions emphasizing behavior modification, stress reduction
techniques, strategies to improve fitness and flexibility and
support sessions for spouses/significant others. The 2 major
outcome measures were the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire
(FIQ) and the total tender point score. Secondary outcome
measures were the quality of life scale, questionnaires to
assess coping strategies and attitudes to illness, an index of
aerobic conditioning, flexibility, distance walked in 6 min.,
Beck depression and Beck anxiety questionnaires. Patients
were followed 2 years and compared to a group of patients
outside the program.

RESULTS: Between 1989 and 1993 170
patients were evaluated and 104 patients completed the
program. At the end of the 6 months 73 (70%) of patients had
<11 tender points and FIQ improved 25%. Having a pain profile
on MMPI or having major depression, did not predict poorer
outcome. Thirty-three patients followed for 2 years after the
program continue to show improvement. A control group of 29
patients who never entered the program showed no significant

CONCLUSION: The group treatment of patients with
FM in an outpatient setting shows promise; a more formal
controlled study is needed to confirm this impression.

MCM: Utilized a program of formal lectures, group sessions
emphasizing behavioral modification, stress reduction,
strategies to improve fitness and flexibility, and support
sessions for spouses/sign. others. Measured outcomes with
Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, total tender points, and
others. Of 107 pts completing the program over 6 months,
significant improvment seen in number of tender points and

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