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Two Kinds of Talk Therapy Work Equally Well Against Fibromyalgia

THURSDAY, Dec. 28, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Two types of mental health treatment are equally effective in treating fibromyalgia patients, Swedish researchers report.

They compared traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to what is known as exposure-based CBT.

In traditional CBT, patients receive several treatment strategies, such as relaxation, exercise or ways to manage negative thoughts.

Patients in exposure-based CBT are repeatedly exposed to situations and activities that they prefer to avoid because they are associated with pain, anxiety or symptoms such as fatigue.

Evaluating results from more than 270 people with fibromyalgia who were randomly assigned to be treated online with traditional or exposure-based CBT, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm were surprised by their findings. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain and throughout the body, as well as fatigue.

Traditional CBT was pretty much as effective as the newer, exposure-based treatment.

"This result was surprising because our hypothesis, based on previous research, was that the new exposure-based form would be more effective," said psychologist Maria Hedman-Lagerlöf, of the Center for Psychiatry Research. "Our study shows that the traditional form can provide an equally good result and thus contributes to the discussion in the field."

Participants in the study answered questions about their mood and symptoms before, during and after treatment. After 10 weeks, 60% of those who received exposure-based CBT and 59% of those who had traditional CBT said that their treatment had helped.

"The fact that both treatments were associated with a significant reduction in the participants' symptoms and functional impairment, and that the effects were sustained for 12 months after completion of the treatment, indicates that the internet as a treatment format can be of great clinical benefit for people with fibromyalgia," Hedman-Lagerlöf said in an institute news release. "This is good news because it enables more people to access treatment."

Researchers said their study was the second-largest to compare the therapies for fibromyalgia.

The findings were recently published online in Pain, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

More information

There's more about cognitive behavioral therapy at the Cleveland Clinic.

SOURCE: Karolinska Institute, news release, Dec. 22, 2023

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