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Subgroups of Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS): Symptoms, Beliefs, and Tailored Treatment

This study is ongoing, but not recruiting participants.
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Dennis Turk, University of Washington Identifier:
First received: September 26, 2008
Last updated: June 17, 2013
Last verified: June 2013

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) refers to a set of symptoms that include exhaustion, muscle pain, and tender points, where slight pressure can cause pain. Doctors do not know what causes FMS or how to cure it, but some treatments have helped relieve its symptoms. Progressive exercise, in which exercise is started at low levels and then increased, is one of the most reliable treatments, but people with FMS often avoid exercise or stop after completing exercise programs. This research will focus on the idea that people with FMS do not exercise because they are afraid of injury or have had a negative experience exercising. Participants will undergo one or a combination of several different treatments that aim to reduce fear of exercising. The different treatments will then be evaluated on their effectiveness in reducing disability among people with FMS.

Condition Intervention Phase
Behavioral: CR+ST
Behavioral: ET
Behavioral: AC treatment
Phase 2

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Single Blind (Subject)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Subgroups of Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS): Symptoms, Beliefs, and Tailored Treatment

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by University of Washington:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) [ Time Frame: Measured at the initial evaluation; after 8 weeks on a waiting list; immediately after treatment; and 1, 3, and 6 months after treatment ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]

Estimated Enrollment: 235
Study Start Date: December 2005
Estimated Study Completion Date: June 2013
Estimated Primary Completion Date: June 2013 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Experimental: Cognitive restructuring and coping skills training (CR+ST) Behavioral: CR+ST
Addresses maladaptive beliefs in general and includes education and training in the use of specific coping strategies
Experimental: Exposure therapy (ET) Behavioral: ET
Addresses beliefs and emotional arousal during confrontations with feared element (exercising) through use of counter-conditioning and corrective feedback
Experimental: Combination (COMB) treatment Behavioral: CR+ST
Addresses maladaptive beliefs in general and includes education and training in the use of specific coping strategies
Behavioral: ET
Addresses beliefs and emotional arousal during confrontations with feared element (exercising) through use of counter-conditioning and corrective feedback
Active Comparator: Attention control (AC) treatment Behavioral: AC treatment
Provides support and controls for nonspecific factors associated with exposure to therapists and other FMS sufferers, but does not directly address either maladaptive beliefs or emotional arousal

Detailed Description:

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a condition without a known cause or cure. Differing theories place the blame on abnormal sensitivity to pain receptors in the brain, changes in metabolism and hormones, abnormalities in the autonomic nervous system, sleep disturbances, infection, or injury. A diagnosis of FMS, therefore, is based on a set of symptoms. These include pain in muscles, ligaments, and tendons; fatigue; and multiple tender points on the body, where even slight pressure causes pain.

Although there is no cure, FMS can be treated to reduce the severity or presence of symptoms. One of the most reliable ways to do this is through progressive exercise, which involves starting at low levels of exercise and building up to longer and more strenuous levels. Despite the benefit of exercise, FSM sufferers often drop out of supervised exercise programs or discontinue exercise once they are no longer supervised. Some FMS patients may have a fear-based avoidance of exercise, believing it will provoke pain or deterioration of their condition and experiencing significant negative emotional arousal when they exercise. This may be due to a prior painful or uncomfortable experience while exercising.

This study will employ multiple treatments that are usually used for treatment of phobias and will aim to reduce fear, increase exercising, and improve FMS symptoms. Under the purview of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are multiple types of treatments. Cognitive restructuring (CR) and coping skills training (ST) paired together address maladaptive beliefs and facilitate the development of more effective coping strategies. Exposure therapy (ET) reduces the level of emotional arousal when patients are exposed to the feared stimulus, in this case exercising. Attention control (AC) treatment, not a type of CBT, provides patients with support and controls for nonspecific factors related to exposure to their feared stimulus. AC will be used as the control treatment in this study.

Participation in this study will last 4 months. After recruitment and an initial evaluation, participants will be placed on a waiting list for 8 weeks to determine whether their symptoms improve or change naturally. They will then be reassessed and randomly assigned to one of the following groups for 8 weeks of treatment:

  1. CR+ST: This group will help participants develop adaptive ways of thinking and acting to alter maladaptive beliefs in general and beliefs about certain exercises in specific.
  2. ET: This group will help participants to decrease their fear response during specific exercises through progressive, controlled exposure to the feared stimulus.
  3. COMB: This group will combine CR+ST and ET treatment plans so that adaptive thoughts and behaviors will be emphasized in the first 4 weeks, and exposure to feared stimuli will be emphasized in the second 4 weeks.
  4. AC: This group will offer participants non-directive, supportive counseling. Each treatment group will meet in weekly 90-minute group sessions for the first 4 weeks and in weekly 60-minute individual sessions for the second 4 weeks. Participants will have 60-minute physical therapy sessions accompanying every treatment session. Participants will also be given weekly homework assignments specific to their treatment group.

Participants will undergo a series of assessments that include self-report measures, medical and psychological evaluations, and a physical capability evaluation by a physical trainer. These assessments will be performed at recruitment, after the 8-week waiting period, after treatment, at 1- and 3-month mail and telephone follow-ups, and at a 6-month follow-up in the treatment clinic. They will assess fear, health, physical ability, and psychological health.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 65 Years
Genders Eligible for Study:   Female
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Meet American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia
  • Able to comply with functional assessment and treadmill exercise

Exclusion Criteria:

  • History of psychiatric hospitalization, suicide attempt, or significant problems with chemical dependency during the 6 months prior to enrollment in the study
  • Evidence of severe psychiatric disorder that would prevent participation
  • Medical conditions, such as significant cardiac disease, that make it medically unsuitable for participation in a progressive exercise program
  • A medical condition, such as multiple sclerosis, that has a high likelihood of obscuring effects of the experimental treatments
  • Anxiety or mood disorders in which symptoms are severe enough to prevent participation
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00762125

United States, Washington
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington, United States, 98115
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Washington
Principal Investigator: Dennis C. Turk, PhD University of Washington
  More Information

Additional Information:
No publications provided

Responsible Party: Dennis Turk, Professor, University of Washington Identifier: NCT00762125     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: R01 AR044724-07, R01AR044724-07
Study First Received: September 26, 2008
Last Updated: June 17, 2013
Health Authority: United States: Federal Government

Keywords provided by University of Washington:
Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Physical Therapy
Group Counseling
Individual Counseling
Chronic Pain

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Myofascial Pain Syndromes
Muscular Diseases
Musculoskeletal Diseases
Nervous System Diseases
Neuromuscular Diseases
Pathologic Processes
Rheumatic Diseases processed this record on November 20, 2014