Objective: Psychological distress is a key risk factor for long-term complaints in fibromyalgia (FM). Prognostic factors for psychological distress might facilitate an early identification of patients at risk to help prevent long-term dysfunction, especially for the relatively well-functioning patients showing little distress who are usually not considered for treatment. This study hence examines potential prognostic factors in this subgroup.
Methods: Psychological distress, physical functioning, illness cognitions (helplessness, acceptance), pain-avoidance factors (passive pain-coping, fear of pain, hypervigilance), and social factors (social support, social reinforcement) was assessed in 78 low-distress FM patients at baseline and after a mean of 9 months (SD=3.3).
Results: Baseline physical functioning did not predict changes in psychological distress, whereas a higher level of hypervigilance, less acceptance, and less perceived social support predicted an increase in psychological distress at follow-up.
Conclusion: Illness cognitions, pain-avoidance factors, and social support can be considered as prognostic factors predicting changes in psychological distress in FM. More research is needed to investigate additional factors that could also be implicated (e.g. personality factors, stressful events).
Practice implications: Timely assessment of illness cognitions, pain-avoidance factors, and social support may help identify subgroups of relatively well-functioning FM patients at risk of longer term aggravated psychological distress.
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