Evidenced-Based Guidelines on the Treatment of Fibromyalgia Patients: Are They Consistent and If Not, Why Not? Have Effective Psychological Treatments Been Overlooked?

J Pain. 2017 Jul;18(7):747-756. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2016.12.006. Epub 2016 Dec 27.


We compared the recommendations and methodology of several recent evidence-based guidelines for the management of patients with fibromyalgia published by professional organizations: 1) American Pain Society (APS; 2005), 2) Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany (AWMF; 2012), 3) Canadian Pain Society (CPS; 2013; also used in the United Kingdom), and 4) European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR; 2016). Each guideline used systematic reviews and meta-analyses as highest level of evidence; APS, CPS, and AWMF also included individual randomized clinical trials. The APS, CPS, and AWMF assigned the highest ranking of recommendation to aerobic exercise, cognitive-behavioral therapy, amitriptyline, and multicomponent treatment. In contrast, the most recent EULAR guidelines assign the highest level of recommendation to exercise, contrary to the 2008 EULAR guidelines, which recommended pharmacotherapy. Although there was some consistency for pharmacological treatment recommendations among the 4 guidelines, APS, CPS, and AWMF guidelines gave the higher ranking to cognitive-behavioral therapy and multicomponent treatments. The inconsistencies across guidelines can be attributed to the criteria used for study inclusion, outcome measures used, weighting systems, and composition of the review panels. A guideline consensus is needed to harmonize the discrepancies.

Perspective: This article presents an overview and highlights the inconsistencies of 4 recent clinical practice guidelines for treatment of fibromyalgia patients related to study inclusion criteria, outcome measures used, ranking system used, and composition of the review panels. The discrepancies suggest a need to create a guideline consensus to synthesize guidelines.

Keywords: Fibromyalgia; guidelines; inclusion criteria; ranking system; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards*
  • Fibromyalgia / drug therapy
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*