Improve Fibromyalgia Symptoms with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.” — Rita Schiano
Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disorder whose causes are unknown. It is very common affecting over 5 million people in the U.S., about 2% of the population with about 7 times more women affected than men. It is characterized by widespread pain, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbance, and fatigue that lead to psychological distress. Fibromyalgia may also have morning stiffness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, headaches, including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, thinking and memory problems, and painful menstrual periods. The symptoms are so severe and debilitating that about half the patients are unable to perform routine daily functions and about a third have to stop work. Although it is not itself fatal, suicide rates are higher in fibromyalgia sufferers. Clearly, fibromyalgia greatly reduces the quality of life of its’ sufferers.
There are no completely effective treatments for fibromyalgia. Symptoms are generally treated with pain relievers, antidepressant drugs and exercise. But these only reduce the severity of the symptoms and do not treat the disease directly. Mindfulness practices have also been shown to be effective in reducing pain from fibromyalgia. The research has been accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned about the effects of mindfulness on the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
In today’s Research News article “Research in Mindfulness Interventions for Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Critical Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9368585/ ) Leca and colleagues review and summarize, the published controlled research trials on the effects of mindfulness on the symptoms of fibromyalgia. They identified 7 published controlled trials.
They report that mindfulness interventions produced significant reductions in fibromyalgia symptoms and pain, functional impairment, anxiety, depression, distress, and stress, and significant improvements in mental health, quality of life, resilience, emotions, sleep quality, and cognition. Hence, the research found that mindfulness training improves the psychological, and physical symptoms of fibromyalgia.
“I’ve seen better days, but I’ve also seen worse. I don’t have everything that I want, but I do have all I need. I woke up with some aches and pains, but I woke up. My life may not be perfect, but I am blessed.” — Unknown
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Leça S, Tavares I. Research in Mindfulness Interventions for Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Critical Review. Front Integr Neurosci. 2022 Jul 28;16:920271. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2022.920271. PMID: 35965601; PMCID: PMC9368585.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common causes of widespread chronic pain. It has a huge impact on the quality of life, namely because it appears earlier in life than most of the chronic pain conditions. Furthermore, emotional-cognitive distress factors, such as depression and anxiety, are a common feature in patients with fibromyalgia. The neurobiological mechanisms underlying fibromyalgia remain mostly unknown. Among non-pharmacological treatments, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been used during the last decade, namely with the enrolment of patients in programs of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and in mindfulness-based interventions (MBI). We critically analyzed the literature to search for scientific evidence for the use of MBI in fibromyalgia. The studies were evaluated as to several outcomes of fibromyalgia improvement along with aspects of the study design which are currently considered relevant for research in mindfulness. We conclude that despite the sparsity of well-structured longitudinal studies, there are some promising results showing that the MBI are effective in reducing the negative aspects of the disease. Future design of studies using MBI in fibromyalgia management should be critically discussed. The importance of active controls, evaluation of sustained effects along with investigation of the subserving neurobiological mechanisms and detailed reports of possible adverse effects should be considered.