Figure by Dan Clauw, MD, Professor, Anesthesiology, Medicine (Rheumatology), & Psychiatry, University of Michigan

Figure by Dan Clauw, MD, Professor, Anesthesiology, Medicine (Rheumatology), & Psychiatry, University of Michigan

People with Fibromyalgia (FM) tend to suffer with difficult-to-manage multiple symptoms and yet it’s believed that 3 out of 4 of those with it are as yet undiagnosed

Not every brain processes pain the same. Those with FM actually experience pain much more intensely. In fact, we now know that brain chemical imbalances in the central nervous system are associated with the cardinal symptom of FM – widespread pain.  PET scans of people with FM indicate a reduced ability to dampen pain signals.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help. I’ve worked with hundreds of people with FM, particularly as a faculty member of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center (directed by Dr. Clauw), when the Center was at Georgetown University. 

According to a study1 in which I conducted 6-session groups, people with FM were 3 times more likely to gain significant physical function (over controls) – even for a year beyond their treatment. We also piloted telehealth-based CBT groups2 with FM patients, to determine their satisfaction with ‘remote’ treatment. Those patients (who met together in a group at a remote location but interacted with a therapist over a television screen) found tele health to be an acceptable alternative, especially if they were too disabled to come into our office or there was no CBT therapist in their locale. 

If CBT is not available to you, Drs. Clauw & Williams (at the University of Michigan) have created an online version of this type of treatment. I highly recommend their FibroGuide. It includes the basics of CBT.

See more about Fibromyalgia and its treatment in these 2 short videos by Cleveland Clinic:


1Improving Physical Functional Status in Patients with Fibromyalgia: A Brief Cognitive Behavioral Intervention; Journal of Rheumatology 2002; 29:1280-6

2 Smith, S., Cary, M., Rodriguez, A., Pando, J., Clauw, D., Williams, D. (2003, March). Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy via Telemedicine for Fibromyalgia: A Pilot Study of Satisfaction for this Treatment Option. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Pain Society, Chicago, IL. 

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