People with fibromyalgia and those with neuropathic pain often use similar coping strategies against pain, according to a study conducted by Danish scientists. They suggest that, for this reason, the same psychological treatment approach could be applied to both groups of patients.
The study, “A comparison of coping strategies in patients with fibromyalgia, chronic neuropathic pain, and pain-free controls,” published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, also found that fibromyalgia patients felt more in control of their pain compared to neuropathic pain patients, especially those using active coping strategies.
Researchers, led by Dr. Lise Gormsen from the Danish Pain Research Center at Aarhus University Hospital, examined the strategies used for coping with pain by fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain patients. They asked 28 fibromyalgia patients, 30 neuropathic pain patients, and 26 pain-free volunteers to complete the Coping Strategy Questionnaire (CSQ) and rate their daily pain.
CSQ is a self-rating scale with 48 questions. It is the most widely used measure of coping with pain among clinicians and researchers. It was first validated in a group of patients with chronic low back pain, followed by other patient groups, including fibromyalgia.
Researchers found that both fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain patients used maladaptive/passive coping strategies against pain, and, surprisingly, also more adaptive/active coping strategies compared to healthy controls.
Active coping strategies include diverting attention, reinterpreting pain, coping self-statements, ignoring pain sensations, and increasing activity level. Passive coping strategies range from catastrophizing to praying or hoping.
The study also showed that fibromyalgia patients who used high levels of passive strategies felt less in control of their pain that those who tended to shy away from passive strategies. This was not seen in neuropathy pain patients.
The authors concluded that, for clinical practice and especially for fibromyalgia patients, “passive coping strategies should be restructured into active ones.”
Neuropathy pain arises as a direct consequence of an injury or a disease affecting the sensory system. It is characterized by localized hypersensitivity in and around the area of the damaged nervous system. Hypersensitivity and spontaneous pain are also seen in people with fibromyalgia, however, pain in these people is more generalized and not confined to a certain body part.