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Treating Fibromyalgia with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


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Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body, fatigue and sleeping difficulties. Scientists do not fully understand what causes it. In a randomized, controlled study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology involving 114 women, researchers found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was superior to educational materials alone in reducing catastrophic negative thinking associated with fibromyalgia.  

CBT is a form of psychological treatment that usually involves efforts to change thinking and behavioral patterns. Strategies include facing fears instead of avoiding them, using role play to prepare for potentially problematic interactions and learning to calm the mind and relax the body.

To measure the participants’ responses to CBT, researchers used various assessment tools alongside functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures the small changes in blood flow that occur with brain activity. The participants that received eight weeks of CBT experienced a reduction on the Pain Catastrophizing Scale, compared to a smaller drop in the group that received only educational materials. Furthermore, fMRI scans indicated changes in brain patterns following CBT, suggesting its effectiveness in addressing catastrophic thoughts. By providing evidence of tangible brain changes, this research can help validate the reality of chronic pain, which is often dismissed as being “all in one's head.” 

5 Top Tips to Finding Your Next Doctor

1 Keep an Open Mind! Healthcare has come a long way. Today, you have access to practitioners that branch outside of traditional medicine and aim to identify the root causes of conditions while using alternative treatments that may help you get the relief you need. Just because it’s not a pill, doesn’t make it pseudoscience.

2 Build Your Health Care Team. There is no one doctor that can be the be-all-end-all for your health needs. Be sure to have a team of practitioners with different “lenses” and areas of expertise who will treat the root cause and not just the symptom(s).

3   Environment Influences Healing. Health is multi-factorial. Your mental and emotional environment plays a pivotal role in your healing potential. Your doctors and their staff should create an office atmosphere filled with positivity so you can get the most out of your care.

4 Your Story Matters.  Before you begin any treatment, be sure to have a comprehensive consultation to discuss your health concerns. Find practitioners who welcome questions and will take the time to listen and treat you with respect.

5 Report of Findings. When it comes to our health, we often make decisions without understanding the risk versus benefits. Knowledge is an important part of the healing process and is essential to make conscious, informed health decisions. Find practitioners who take the time to explain their exam findings and the recommendations for treatment in ways that make sense to you.

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