Prevalence of fear of pain and activity in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome

J Pain. 2004 Nov;5(9):483-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2004.08.002.


Patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) report pain, fatigue, emotional distress, activity avoidance, and disability. The role of fear of pain and activity in FMS patients has received only limited attention. FMS patients (N = 233) underwent examinations by a physician, physical therapist, and psychologist and completed measures of fear of pain and activity, disability, depressive mood, impact, and pain. Patients with high levels of fear of pain and activity (38.6%) reported greater disability (t = 4.02, P < .001), depressed mood (t = -4.14, P < .001), pain severity (t = -2.71, P < .01), and lower treadmill performance (t = -2.39, P < .05) than patients with low fear. Patients classified on the Multidimensional Pain Inventory as Dysfunctional reported greater fear than Interpersonally Distressed patients and Adaptive Copers (F = 8.13, P < .001). Only 50% of Dysfunctional patients, however, met the criterion of high fear, whereas 23.4% of Adaptive Copers met this criterion. Demographic factors, perceived disability, and Multidimensional Pain Inventory subgroup significantly predicted fear of pain and activity, accounting for 21.2% of the variance. Fear of pain and activity is prevalent among FMS patients. Treatment should address patient fears, because it might reduce disability and rates of nonadherence and attrition from outcome studies.

Perspective: Fear of movement is a significant concern for chronic pain sufferers because these behaviors maintain pain and increase disability. This study examined the role of fear in FMS, including associations between fear of pain/movement, pain severity, depressed mood, physical performance, and disability in FMS subgroups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / epidemiology*
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires