Acceptance and commitment therapy, a type of psychotherapy, significantly eased the disability due to pain and mental health of women with fibromyalgia, but without changing the intensity of pain experienced or their physical quality of life, a study reported.
The study, “Acceptance and commitment therapy for fibromyalgia: A randomized controlled trial,” was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) aims to help people deal with and accept difficult life situations. Under this therapy, patients are in guided in ways that teach them to stop avoiding, denying, or struggling with their emotions; instead, they are taught to accept them as appropriate responses to hardship.
Its goal is acceptance and commitment to changes in behavior.
ACT has been used to treat workplace stress, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and psychosis. It also is used to help people with chronic pain, substance abuse, and diabetes.
The randomized, controlled trial included women ages 18 to 55 with a self-reported pain intensity of greater than 40 on a scale of 100. They attended once-weekly group therapy sessions for 12 weeks, or were put on a waiting list and received no therapy and served as controls. Questionnaires were completed before and after the therapy, and again three to four months post-treatment.
Its primary goal was changes in patients’ pain disability index (PDI), a self-reported measure of pain that affects daily life activities arrived at through a questionnaire.
Questionnaires were also used to measure pain intensity, overall health status, anxiety, and depression, including the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (FIQ), which measures patient status, progress and outcomes; and the psychological inflexibility in pain scale (PIPS) that assesses both avoidance of pain and cognitive fusion with pain.
Those fibromyalgia patients who underwent the therapy reported significant improvements in pain-linked disability compared to controls. And, by the study’s end, they said their daily life was less disrupted by chronic pain.
Significant improvements in their mental health and its related life quality — like depression, and anxiety — were also reported by these patients. But researchers found no significant changes in measures of physical measures of life quality or in pain intensity.
“The present study supports the utility of using a relatively brief ACT intervention in a group format for women diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and data suggests a mediating function on improvements in psychological flexibility,” the researchers concluded.