Fibromyalgia: can online cognitive behavioral therapy help?

Ochsner J. 2014 Fall;14(3):343-9.


Background: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven useful in treating fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety. Computerized delivery of CBT allows increased access to such therapy. This study assessed the effect of internet-based CBT on Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) composite scores and tender point assessments.

Methods: This 12-week randomized controlled trial included patients ≥18 years of age with 1990 American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia and mild to moderate depression and anxiety. A total of 56 subjects were randomized into either a 6-week internet-based CBT group (MoodGYM) or a control group (standard care). We evaluated patients in both groups at 1-, 6-, and 12-week follow-up. The primary outcome measure was change in FIQ composite score. A secondary outcome measure was change in tender point assessment.

Results: The mean age of study participants was 55 years, and 88% were female. Mean FIQ scores were significantly lower in the MoodGYM group compared to the control group (P<0.05 for group differences at 6 and 12 weeks). Mean tender point scores were also significantly lower in the MoodGYM group (P<0.001 at 6 and 12 weeks). We found no significant difference in the FIQ scores across the 3 timepoints in the MoodGYM group, but tender points showed a significant negative trend from baseline to 12-week follow-up.

Conclusion: Patients in the internet-based MoodGYM CBT program had lower FIQ and tender point scores at 6- and 12-week follow-up. Internet-based CBT could be beneficial in the treatment of mild to moderate depression and anxiety in patients with fibromyalgia by allowing increased access to CBT.

Keywords: Cognitive therapy; fibromyalgia; therapy–computer-assisted.