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Tuesday 18th June 2019

Therapy helps fibromyalgia teens

6th December 2011

Teenagers who are crippled by fibromyalgia may get some relief from behavioural therapy, according to a recent US study.


The researchers found that sufferers of chronic pain could benefit from individual treatment which addressed sleep and behaviour problems that arose from fibromyalgia.

Adults coping with fibromyalgia are often able to rely on painkillers and antidepressants, but there are no medications which are considered safe for children.

Study co-author Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, a paediatrician at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre, said that the recent study was the first major breakthrough in treating fibromyalgia in teenagers.

She said that teens who had fibromyalgia had trouble going to school, going out with friends, and participating in social activities, all of which were important parts of teenage life.

For the study, the researchers divided the 114 teen study subjects into two groups.

Each group was given some form of mentoring, but while one group was simply given information, the other group was given behavioural therapy.

The behavioural therapy group learned how to distract themselves from pain, how to pace activities to avoid feeling overwhelmed, and how to calm themselves during times of anxiety.

In addition to anxiety, chronic pain, and difficulty organising their lives, people who have fibromyalgia often feel tired all the time, have trouble sleeping, feel depressed, and may have irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis.

The researchers wrote that as many as 850,000 children in the US may have chronic widespread pain.

Jeffrey Dvergsten, a paediatric rheumatologist at Duke University School of Medicine, who did not take part in the study, said that doctors were only now coming to understand how fibromyalgia worked.

He said researchers were once under the impression that people were imagining the pain they felt, a belief which had been largely overwritten in the past 20 years.

All of the children demonstrated some form of impairment due to chronic pain, and the researchers used a scale measuring functional disability in order to score each child on a scale of 1 to 30, 30 being the most disabled.

Both groups of children scored 20 on average, but teens who learned behavioural therapy techniques scored 17 on average, after six months of treatment.

Both groups of children also showed slight improvements in mood, although their levels of pain did not change.

Dvergsten said that enough treatments existed so that children who grew up with chronic pain should be able to learn to deal with their disorder by adulthood.

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