The Process of Change in Pain During Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Background:Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) leads to a reduction of fatigue and pain in chronic fatigue syndrome. The processes underlying the reduction in pain have not been investigated. Recently, it was shown that increased self-efficacy, decreased focusing on symptoms, increased physical functioning, and a change in beliefs about activity contribute to the decrease in fatigue.Objectives:The present study has 2 objectives: (1) to determine the relationship between the reduction of fatigue and pain during CBT; (2) test to what extent the model for change in fatigue is applicable to the reduction in pain.Materials and Methods:One hundred forty-two patients meeting United States centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome, currently reporting pain, and starting CBT were included. A cross-lagged analysis was performed to study the causal direction of change between pain and fatigue. Pain and process variables were assessed before therapy, 3 times during CBT, and after therapy. Actual physical activity was also assessed. The model was tested with multiple regression analyses.Results:The direction of change between pain and fatigue could not be determined. An increase in physical functioning and decrease in focusing on symptoms explained 4% to 14% of the change in pain.Conclusions:Pain and fatigue most probably decrease simultaneously during CBT. Pain reduction can partly be explained by a reduction of symptom focusing and increased physical functioning. Additional, yet unknown cognitive-behavioral factors also play a role in the reduction of pain.

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