Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Helps Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain

Cognitive-behavioral therapy exerts benefits by altering the connectivity of specific regions of the brain
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FRIDAY, Sept. 22, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is superior to a matched education treatment in reducing the interfering effects of pain and other aspects of fibromyalgia, according to a study published online Sept. 20 in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

Jeungchan Lee, Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues assessed the effects of CBT on pain catastrophizing and its underlying brain circuitry. The analysis included 98 participants with fibromyalgia who underwent a baseline neuroimaging assessment and were randomly assigned to eight weeks of individual CBT or a matched fibromyalgia education control condition.

The researchers found that CBT produced larger decreases in pain catastrophizing at posttreatment and larger reductions in pain interference and symptom impact. These functional improvements were mediated by decreases in pain catastrophizing in the CBT group. During catastrophizing thoughts at baseline, brain functional connectivity between ventral posterior cingulate cortex (vPCC), a key node of the default mode network, and somatomotor and salience network regions was increased. vPCC connectivity to somatomotor and salience network areas was reduced following CBT.

"These findings contribute to a growing literature highlighting the benefits of nonpharmacologic treatments -- including CBT -- for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia," Lee said in a statement. "Identifying the multiple biopsychosocial mechanisms by which these treatments help to alleviate pain may help to facilitate the practice of precision pain medicine and improve treatment outcomes for the many patients suffering from chronic pain."

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