Association of Therapies With Reduced Pain and Improved Quality of Life in Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

JAMA Intern Med. 2021 Jan 1;181(1):104-112. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.5651.


Importance: Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that results in a significant burden to individuals and society.

Objective: To investigate the effectiveness of therapies for reducing pain and improving quality of life (QOL) in people with fibromyalgia.

Data sources: Searches were performed in the MEDLINE, Cochrane, Embase, AMED, PsycInfo, and PEDro databases without language or date restrictions on December 11, 2018, and updated on July 15, 2020.

Study selection: All published randomized or quasi-randomized clinical trials that investigated therapies for individuals with fibromyalgia were screened for inclusion.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias using the 0 to 10 PEDro scale. Effect sizes for specific therapies were pooled using random-effects models. The quality of evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment (GRADE) approach.

Main outcomes and measures: Pain intensity measured by the visual analog scale, numerical rating scales, and other valid instruments and QOL measured by the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire.

Results: A total of 224 trials including 29 962 participants were included. High-quality evidence was found in favor of cognitive behavioral therapy (weighted mean difference [WMD], -0.9; 95% CI, -1.4 to -0.3) for pain in the short term and was found in favor of central nervous system depressants (WMD, -1.2 [95% CI, -1.6 to -0.8]) and antidepressants (WMD, -0.5 [95% CI, -0.7 to -0.4]) for pain in the medium term. There was also high-quality evidence in favor of antidepressants (WMD, -6.8 [95% CI, -8.5 to -5.2]) for QOL in the short term and in favor of central nervous system depressants (WMD, -8.7 [95% CI, -11.3 to -6.0]) and antidepressants (WMD, -3.5 [95% CI, -4.5 to -2.5]) in the medium term. However, these associations were small and did not exceed the minimum clinically important change (2 points on an 11-point scale for pain and 14 points on a 101-point scale for QOL). Evidence for long-term outcomes of interventions was lacking.

Conclusions and relevance: This systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that most of the currently available therapies for the management of fibromyalgia are not supported by high-quality evidence. Some therapies may reduce pain and improve QOL in the short to medium term, although the effect size of the associations might not be clinically important to patients.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / therapeutic use
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Central Nervous System Depressants