Mind Body Therapy For Fibromyalgia

A small clinical trial has found that one type of mind-body therapy can offer relief to sufferers of fibromyalgia. The research study included 45 female fibromyalgia patients who were taught a technique known as "affective self-awareness." The researchers discovered that the participants receiving this therapy experienced a significant reduction in pain over the course of a six month period.

A total of 46% of the study participants were found to have 30% or greater pain reduction when pain levels were measured according to a standard pain scale. The rest of the participants had been placed on a waiting list to have the therapy and these women served as a control group to the others. The control group experienced no such reduction in pain.

Unfruitful Search For Fibromyalgia Therapy

The search for effective therapies for fibromyalgia has been long and difficult and not very fruitful. The researchers of this latest study believe that this is due to the fact that the various treatments don't take into account pain triggers such as emotions and mental distress. Still, the study author, Dr. Howard Schubiner of Southfield, Michigan's St. John Health/ Providence Hospital and Medical Centers says it's important not to give the misimpression that fibromyalgia is all in the patient's head. Schubiner says that the pain is quite real but that there is a brain connection linking pain to emotions. Emotions can trigger "learned nerve pathways" that generate the pain response.

Expressive Writing

Affective self-awareness techniques involve educating the patient about the link between emotions and pain. The patients are taught to express their emotions in writing so that they might learn which emotions bring on the pain. They also learn mindfulness meditation. If the pain has prevented the patient from exercising, the patient will be given gentle encouragement to get back in the saddle. 

Schubiner's six-month study was the first clinical trial on affective self-awareness as a therapy for fibromyalgia. Schubiner and his colleagues have applied for funds to perform a larger trial so as to compare affective self-awareness with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is known to generate positive benefits for fibromyalgia patients through a similar mechanism of empowering the patient toward good health. The main difference between affective self-awareness and CBT is that the subjects are requested to "directly engage" their emotions while CBT involves the substitution of positive for negative thoughts. The other difference is more practical: most healthcare providers are not offering affective self-awareness to their patients for pain management.

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