(Not) Just Kidding!

Medical evidence reports that juvenile FM affects 2% to 7% of school age children. Similar to adult cases, the juvenile form of the disorder primarily strikes females. Previous studies have shown that juvenile fibromyalgia patients are burdened with substantial physical, school, social and emotional impairments. However, studies for the treatment of the juvenile form have been limited.

A recent trial shows cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) reduces functional disability and depressive symptoms in adolescents with FM. The psychological intervention was found to be safe and effective, and proved to be superior to disease management education.

CBT is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts and behaviours. CBT says that individuals — not outside situations and events — create their own experiences, pain included. And by changing their negative thoughts and behaviours, people can change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills, even if the actual level of pain stays the same.

This trial, led by Dr. Susmita Kashikar-Zuck from the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, investigators recruited 114 adolescents between 11 – 18 years of age who were diagnosed with juvenile FM. The trial was conducted at four paediatric rheumatology centres, with participants randomized to cognitive-behavioral therapy or fibromyalgia education, receiving eight weekly individual therapy sessions and two additional sessions in the six months following the end of active therapy.

Both groups displayed significant reduction in functional disability, pain, and depressive symptoms at the end of the trial; however, participants in the cognitive-behavioural therapy group reported a significantly greater reduction in functional disability compared to those receiving fibromyalgia education.

“Our trial confirms that cognitive-behavioural therapy is a safe and effective treatment for reducing functional disability and depression in patients with juvenile fibromyalgia,” concludes Dr. Kashikar-Zuck. “When added to standard medical care, cognitive-behavioural therapy helps to improve daily functioning and overall wellbeing for adolescents with fibromyalgia.”


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