Helping Children With Fibromyalgia

Cognitive behavioral therapy as treatment for juvenile fibromyalgia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Most people are familiar with fibromyalgia as an adult condition. However, the chronic pain syndrome affects the younger generation as well. A new study looks at how a treatment used for adults could help children.

While progress has been made in treatments for adult fibromyalgia, juvenile fibromyalgia is not well studied. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to help adults cope with their pain symptoms and relieve the burden of the disease. A new study applied the technique to juvenile fibromyalgia patients and found it to be a safe and effective treatment for younger sufferers.

"Ask your doctor about CBT as treatment for juvenile fibromyalgia."

Juvenile fibromyalgia syndrome is experienced by 2 to 7 percent of school age children. Just as adult fibromyalgia affects primarily women, juvenile fibromyalgia is more common in adolescent girls. The syndrome is characterized by widespread pain. For children, it has a devastating impact on physical, emotional, educational and social function.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a broad term for therapies that focus on how what we think influences how we feel. Previous studies have found that CBT helps adult patient cope with the disease, and in some cases, can actually alleviate pain. This had not yet been tested in pediatric patients.

A research team led by Dr. Susmita Kashikar-Zuck of the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center compared CBT to a fibromyalgia education program. Study participants included 114 patients between the ages of 11 and 18 with juvenile fibromyalgia. Each received either eight-week sessions of CBT or fibromyalgia education.

At the end of eight weeks, both groups showed reductions in functional disability, pain, and depression. However, patients in the CBT group reported a significantly greater reduction in functional disability than the fibromyalgia education group – 37 percent compared to 12 percent, respectively.

At a six month follow-up, CBT patients had continued to show improvement, even after the sessions had ended. However, the reduction of pain severity was not as impressive as had been shown in trials with adults. The main effect was that children were able to engage in normal activities like going to school and spending time with friends that often had been previously avoided.

The study authors concluded that CBT is a safe and effective therapy that can improve overall well-being for adolescents with fibromyalgia.

The study was published in November 2011 in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 25, 2011
Last Updated:
November 29, 2011