Fibromyalgia: Self-Awareness Exercises Decrease Pain

Group sessions helped decrease fibromyalgia pain.

Posted Dec 19, 2011

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.

Copyright 2011 Sarkis Media LLC


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.