Cognitive-educational treatment of fibromyalgia: a randomized clinical trial. i. clinical effects

Johan W.S. Vlaeyen*, Nicole J.G. Teeken-Gruben, Marielle E.J.B. Goossens, Maureen P.M.H. Rutten-van Mölken, Rob A.G.B. Pelt, Hugo Van Eek, Peter H.T.G. Heuts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

199 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. This randomized controlled clinical trial evaluates the effectiveness of outpatient group cognitive/educational treatment for patients with the fibromyalgia (FM) syndrome. We hypothesized that the combination of group education with cognitive treatment aimed at developing pain coping skills would be more effective than group education alone. Methods. 131 patients with FM were randomly assigned to 3 conditions: an experimental condition, which was the combined cognitive/educational intervention (ECO); an attention control condition consisting of group education plus group discussion (EDI); and a waiting list control (WLC). For the treatment conditions ECO and EDI, assessments were made 2 weeks before treatment, at start of treatment, at post-treatment, and at 6 and 12 mo followup. WLC patients received only 3 assessments. Results. There were no pretreatment differences between the groups, or between dropouts and patients who remained in the study. At post-treatment, and compared with the WLC, the ECO patients improved in knowledge about FM (p = 0.007) and pain coping (p < 0.001). EDI patients improved on pain coping (p = 0.005) and pain control (p = 0.002). EDI patients reported significantly less fear than ECO patients (p= 0.005). There were no other differential effects between ECO and EDI at post-treatment or 6 mo or 12 mo followup. Based on the reliability of change index for clinical significance, the relative short term success rates are 6.4 and 18.4% for ECO and EDI, respectively. Conclusion. The surplus value of a highly structured, 12 session group cognitive treatment added to group education cannot be supported by our study. In EDI, fear reduction might have enhanced pain coping and pain control, while poor compliance, the difficulty of homework assignments, and lack of individual support may have limited the effectiveness of ECO.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1237-1245
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


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