Objective: To evaluate the impact of a 6 month group therapy program on the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia (FM). Since FM is a common problem in rheumatology practice, a program was designed to treat patients in a group setting using allied health professionals.
Methods: The FM group (15 to 25 patients) met once a week for 6 months. The average session lasted 90 min and consisted of formal lectures, group sessions emphasizing behavior modification, stress reduction techniques, strategies to improve fitness and flexibility and support sessions for spouses/significant others. The 2 major outcome measures were the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (FIQ) and the total tender point score. Secondary outcome measures were the quality of life scale, questionnaires to assess coping strategies and attitudes to illness, an index of aerobic conditioning, flexibility, distance walked in 6 min., Beck depression and Beck anxiety questionnaires. Patients were followed 2 years and compared to a group of patients outside the program.
Results: Between 1989 and 1993 170 patients were evaluated and 104 patients completed the program. At the end of the 6 months 73 (70%) of patients had <11 tender points and FIQ improved 25%. Having a pain profile on MMPI or having major depression, did not predict poorer outcome. Thirty-three patients followed for 2 years after the program continue to show improvement. A control group of 29 patients who never entered the program showed no significant improvement.
Conclusion: The group treatment of patients with FM in an outpatient setting shows promise; a more formal controlled study is needed to confirm this impression.