Lower stress predicts significant pain improvement in fibromyalgia

Keep in mind:

“On the other hand, factors such as being a woman, having lower education, high body mass index (BMI), higher levels of depression and anxiety, worse sleep, being former smoker or having other concomitant disorders have been found to predict an increased risk of still having [chronic widespread pain] after 11years,” they added. “Most follow-up studies have been conducted after 3 to 6 years, and the knowledge of the course of symptoms in [fibromyalgia] and [chronic widespread pain] over a longer period appear to be scarce.” Study

Fibromyalgia and stress in women

There are a lot of factors in what the long term outlook for fibromyalgia is… including comorbid conditions. Also sort of annoying they didn’t include men in this study.

Anyway, they looked at people with Fibromyalgia who have had it for 10 to 12 years and the study was from 2004-2005. It was a randomized controlled trial with 166 women with fibromyalgia “compared a patient education program, in combination with 20 weeks of pool exercise, with a control group that received the education program only.”

Of the original 166, 126 chose to complete a set of questionnaires and tests of their physical functionality. Data was collected on their employment, sick leaves, disability pension, marital status, education, and medications.

In addition, self-administered questionnaires, conducted at baseline and follow-up, included pain distribution, the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Stress and Crisis Inventory the Short-form 36 and the Leisure Time Physical Activity Instrument. Participants also performed the 6-minute walk test at baseline. The researchers used this data to calculate the differences in symptoms among the participants over 10 to 12 years, as well as the predictors of substantial improvement in pain intensity, defined as 50% or greater. Study

In conclusion:

 Reduced stress symptoms and higher pain intensity at baseline predicted a higher likelihood of reporting at least 50% less pain intensity after 10-12years, compared with baseline.

“Lower levels of clinical stress symptoms and higher pain intensity predicted higher chances of substantial improvement in pain intensity 10 to 12years later,” Bergenheim and colleagues wrote. “Therefore, stress is recommended to be assessed and taken into account in the planning of treatments of patients with [fibromyalgia] and [chronic widespread pain].” Study


We all know that stress and fibromyalgia go hand in hand. The lack of deep sleep alone is stressful to the body. Pain is stressful to the body. We have life stresses like all other people. We have to function in pain and with brain fog which causes stress and more stress in the workplace. We have an issue with our flight or flight system going array and that means we do not cope well with stress physically.

So, yes, if we can simmer that down it can help with treatment. But doing so isn’t easy. I like meditation but it takes more than that. It takes pacing and knowing our limits. And accepting work we are capable of doing not work we want to do. Doing what we can do not what we want to do. Sticking to routines. Not multi-tasking. All these things can help reduce the stress that comes with fibromyalgia. And many other things. Exercises that we can do can also help.

But life being what it is… stress happens to us all. And when we are chronically ill compound that by 500%. Hell, just dealing with insurance companies compound it by 2100% right there. Financially instability? I mean, we have stresses. A whole lot of stresses.

So it may be part of the picture but it isn’t the whole picture. And one cannot eliminate stress from one’s life. For one thing, there is positive stress that motivates us and we need that. Everyone needs that. But would stress reduction courses and exercises programs be beneficial for treatment? Yes, they would. Are they offered… of course not.

See more:

Long-term study on fibromyalgia severity

What to do about stress

Chronic pain: emotional toll
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