A study recently published in the journal PLoS One showed that a group intervention program called PASSAGE was effective in helping patients with fibromyalgia cope with the disease. The study is entitled “Multicomponent Interdisciplinary Group Intervention for Self-Management of Fibromyalgia: A Mixed-Methods Randomized Controlled Trial” and was conducted by researchers at different Canadian universities and research centers.
Fibromyalgia or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a medical disorder characterized by a set of symptoms that includes widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain, incapacitating fatigue, stiffness and numbness in certain parts of the body, painful response to pressure, headaches, unrefreshing sleep (poor sleep quality), anxiety or depression and mood alterations. Fibromyalgia can affect people’s ability to conduct simple daily tasks, compromising their quality of life. It is estimated that 5 to 15 million Americans are affected by this disorder, especially women. The causes of fibromyalgia are unclear, but it is thought that genetic, neurophysiological and psychosocial mechanisms are involved.
A study was previously established in 2007 that combined educational/psychological tools and exercise therapy for self-management of fibromyalgia. Now, researchers have developed a more structured, multicomponent, interdisciplinary group intervention program for the self-management of fibromyalgia based on the ISF – the PASSAGE Program (Programme d’Apprentissage de StratégieS d’Auto-Gestion Efficaces – Training Program of Efficient Self-Management Strategies; Trial Number Register ISRCTN14526380).
The research team assessed the efficacy of the PASSAGE Program. They conducted a randomized controlled trial with fibromyalgia patients divided into two groups: the intervention group and the control wait-list group. Data from 43 patients was collected at baseline, at the end of the intervention (eight group therapy sessions), and after three months. The trial’s primary outcome was a modification in pain intensity, and the secondary outcomes were disease severity, pain coping strategies, patient global impression of change (PGIC), perceived pain relief, sleep quality, depression and health-related quality of life. Qualitative group interviews were also performed.
At the end of the program, researchers found that fibromyalgia patients in the intervention PASSAGE Program had a significant improvement in their pain levels (73%), overall functioning (55%) and quality of life (77%) in comparison to patients in the control group (8%, 12% and 20%, respectively). The overall improvement was still observed three months after the intervention. The qualitative analysis performed through group interviews was consistent with the quantitative results obtained, supporting the efficacy of the PASSAGE Program. This improvement, however, was not found to be reflected in terms of primary and other secondary outcome measures.
The research team concluded that the PASSAGE Program was effective in helping fibromyalgia patients to obtain some control regarding their symptoms, and suggest that long-term efficacy studies should be performed. The team proposes that PGICs such as pain, functioning and quality of life should be included in future fibromyalgia clinical trials as they reflect important aspects experienced by the patients.