New Therapy Targets Fibromyalgia Pain-induced Fear of Exercise

New Therapy Targets Fibromyalgia Pain-induced Fear of Exercise
Use of a novel virtual reality therapy program led to physiological changes in the brains of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) patients that may help in the management and alteration of pain catastrophization related to exercise. The study, titled “Targeting pain catastrophization in patients with fibromyalgia using virtual reality exposure therapy: a proof-of-concept study,” was published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. Clinical evidence from several studies supports exercise therapy as a key aspect in the management of chronic pain conditions like FMS, essential to the physical and psychological well-being of patients. Poor exercise compliance is seen as a main obstacle to these benefits. One of the predictors of poor compliance is pain catastrophization, generally defined as “an exaggerated negative orientation towards actual or anticipated pain experiences,” and believed to be more pronounced and damaging in FMS patients than in individuals with other rheumatologic chronic pain conditions. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been suggested to alter pain catastrophization in FMS patients. CBT relies on either in vivo exposure therapy, where real situations are experienced by the patient, or imagined exposure therapy. A recent development, however, has pointed to the potential of virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET), especially in situations where it is difficult or costly to expose patients to real-life situations or where imagined scenarios are ineffective. VRET has been previously used successfully to treat phobias, but never against the fear of exercise in chronic pain conditions.
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