Examination of an internet-delivered cognitive behavioural pain management course for adults with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial

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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a common and often debilitating chronic pain condition. Research shows that symptoms of depression and anxiety are present in up to 3 quarters of individuals with FM. Of concern, most adults with FM cannot access traditional face-to-face cognitive behavioural pain management programs, which are known to be beneficial. Given known difficulties with treatment access, the present study sought to explore the efficacy and acceptability of a previously developed Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural pain management course, the Pain Course, for adults with FM. The five-lesson course was delivered over 8 weeks and was provided with brief weekly contact, via telephone and secure email, with a guide throughout the course. Participants were randomized either to the Pain Course (n = 30) or to a waiting-list control group (n = 30). Symptoms were assessed at pre-treatment, post-treatment and 4-week follow-up. Completion rates (87%) and satisfaction ratings (86%) were high. Improvements were significantly greater in treatment group participants compared to waiting-list group participants on measures of FM (Cohen's d = 0.70; 18% reduction), depression (Cohen's d = 0.63-0.72; 20%-28% reduction), pain (Cohen's d = 0.87; 11% improvement) and fear of pain (Cohen's d = 1.61; 12% improvement). Smaller effects were also observed on measures of generalized anxiety and physical health. The changes were maintained at 4-week follow-up. The current findings add to existing literature and highlight the specific potential of Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural pain management programs for adults with FM, especially as a part of stepped-care models of care. Future research directions are described.

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