A recent study has found that a self-awareness intervention significantly reduced levels of fibromyalgia-related pain.
The study by Hsu et al. (2010) studied 45 women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder whose symptoms include chronic full-body pain, excessive tenderness in at least 11 out of 18 "tender points", headaches and fatigue. The study subjects were either placed into an "affective self-awareness" group or a wait-listed control group (no treatment). The treatment group and control group did not differ on demographics or medical history.
The treatment group received a one-time 90-minute consultation with a physician, and then completed weekly group sessions, two hours each, for three weeks total. The group sessions consisted of 8 to 12 participants, and the group was led by the physician.
The group session consisted of four components:
- Education about a psychophysiological model of physical pain in fibromyalgia, including case studies and research
- Participants having "homework" of writing 30 minutes a day about their experience of emotions and stress
- Affective awareness techniques, including guided exercises on mindfulness; non-judgmental awareness of emotions; and affirmations
- Reintroduction to activities previously avoided
A pain inventory scale, a tender-point threshold scale, and a physical function scale was given to each study subject at the beginning of the study, immediately after treatment, and then six months after treatment.
At six months post-treatment, the treatment group had significantly lower scores of pain severity, higher physical function, and a higher tender-point threshold than the control group. Within the treatment group, 45.8% had a 30% or greater reduction in pain severity, compared to none of the controls.
This study shows a promising intervention for those that suffer from chronic pain due to fibromyalgia. It would be interesting to see how this treatment helps other chronic pain sufferers as well.
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Hsu, M.C., Schubiner, H., Lumley, M.A., Stracks, J.S., Clauw, D.J., & Williams, D.A. (2010). Sustained pain reduction through affective self-awareness in fibromyalgia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of General Internal Medicine 25(10):1064-1070.