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How Does a Functional Restoration Program Affect Fibromyalgia?

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Editor's comment: Functional Restoration Programs are designed to help people with chronic pain increase their physical functioning ability, improve their pain coping skills and facilitate their return to a productive lifestyle at home and/or at work. FRPs address all aspects of life – physical, mental, emotional and behavioral. Interestingly, this study found that while 41% of fibromyalgia patients who also had another disabling chronic musculoskeletal disorder and participated in an FRP no longer met the diagnostic criteria for FM, they still had a lower success rate for returning to work than patients who only suffered from lumbar pain.

Do Comorbid Fibromyalgia Diagnoses Change After a Functional Restoration Program in Patients With Chronic Disabling Occupational Musculoskeletal Disorders?


Study Design: A retrospective study of prospectively collected data.

Objective: To determine whether comorbid fibromyalgia, identified in patients with chronic disabling occupational musculoskeletal disorders (CDOMDs), resolves with a functional restoration program (FRP).

Summary of Background Data: Fibromyalgia involves widespread bodily pain and tenderness to palpation. In recent studies, 23% to 41% of patients with CDOMDs entering an FRP had comorbid fibromyalgia, compared with population averages of 2% to 5%. Few studies have examined whether fibromyalgia diagnoses resolve with any treatment, and none have investigated diagnosis responsiveness to an FRP.

Methods: A consecutive cohort of patients with CDOMDs (82% with spinal disorders and all reporting chronic spinal pain) and comorbid fibromyalgia (N = 117) completed an FRP, which included quantitatively directed exercise progression and multimodal disability management. Diagnosis responsiveness, evaluated at discharge, created 2 groups: those who retained fibromyalgia and those who did not. These groups were compared with chronic regional lumbar pain only patients (LO group, n = 87), lacking widespread pain and fibromyalgia.

Results: Of the patients with comorbid fibromyalgia, 59% (n = 69) retained the fibromyalgia diagnosis (RFM group) and 41% (n = 48) lost the fibromyalgia diagnosis (LFM group) at discharge. Although all 3 groups reported decreased pain intensity, disability, and depressive symptoms from admission to discharge, RFM patients reported higher symptom levels than the LFM and LO groups at discharge. The LFM and LO groups were statistically similar. At 1-year follow-up, LO patients demonstrated higher work retention than both fibromyalgia groups (P < 0.03).

Conclusion: Despite a significant comorbid fibromyalgia prevalence in a cohort of patients with CDOMDs entering an FRP, 41% of patients with an initial fibromyalgia diagnosis no longer met diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia at discharge and were indistinguishable from LO patients on pain, disability, and depression symptoms. However, both fibromyalgia groups (LFM and RFM) had lower work retention than LO patients 1 year later, suggesting that an FRP may suppress symptoms of fibromyalgia in a subset of patients, but prolonged fibromyalgia-related disability may be more difficult to overcome.

Source: Spine, August 1, 2014. By Hartzell, Meredith M. MS; Neblett, Randy MA, LPC, BCB; Perez, Yoheli PT, DPT; Brede, Emily PhD, RN; Mayer, Tom G. MD; Gatchel, Robert J. PhD, ABPP.

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One thought on “How Does a Functional Restoration Program Affect Fibromyalgia?”

  1. IanH says:

    What is sadly lacking in studies like this is an poor understanding of FM. While pain is a significant symptom of FM it is often not the most disabling. Some of the most disabling symptoms are:

    muscular and tendon stiffness; decreasing range of motion, strength, balance and an inability to sustain fixed posture.

    attention and memory deficits causing difficulty in cognition.

    sensory hypersensitivities causing difficulty in being in common working environments for very long.

    unpredictable increases in vertigo, tinnitus, migraine and nausea causing malaise requiring lengthy rest or removal from a work environment.

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