Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Fibromyalgia: Does It Work?

As any Pain Doctor will tell you: research that was recently published in the journal, Arthritis & Rheumatology, has found that “cognitive behavioural therapy can be especially helpful for those living with fibromyalgia” [1]. – So let’s take a deep dive into the findings

In a Nutshell

“The researchers [a team from Harvard, Norway, and Pittsburgh], were able to identify differences between fMRI scans between participants, as well as a significant reduction [in pain] using survey-style tools. Experts are hopeful that these finding can help support patients and clients while reducing bias and barriers to care” [1]
At the present juncture in time, people suffering from long-term pain, have not had sufficient access to vital mental health supports, including the popular therapy, CBT. To that end, the more positive research that comes out, the stronger the case for Pain Doctors to make CBT referrals to their patients. Generally speaking, when people who think they may have fibromyalgia, arrange an in-person or online consultation with a Pain Specialist.

Once the Pain Specialist has reviewed the patient’s medical history, asked them pertinent questions, and arranged any necessary tests and scans, they will then receive an accurate diagnosis. After this, the patient will then be given a Holistic Personalised Treatment Plan, which they can get started on right away. This individually tailored plan is likely to include both conventional and the latest cutting-edge treatments and therapies. The latter of which may involve cognitive behavioural therapy.

The Low-Down on the CBD Research

The aforementioned research, which involved 114 participants: “found that CBT was better at helping to reduce catastrophic thinking related to the disease. (This was compared to people using educational materials alone). According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Chandler Chang (PhD), understanding catastrophizing, is key to supporting people with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia” [1].

A Fibromyalgia Patient’s Catastrophic Thoughts

“The rest of my life is going to be like this, my life is ruined, everything is going to suck after this” [1]

These kinds of thoughts can unfortunately, become commonplace. – As after all, many fibromyalgia patients have had their lives turned upside down. Moreover, many sufferers have not been given the opportunity to experience a broad range of state-of-the-art treatment modalities. And as Kelsey Bates (LPC), founder at Women’s CBT, notes: “I meet folks and they’ve felt really gaslit by medical providers, especially with fibromyalgia in particular, that they have heard the phrases like you just need therapy, you just need to relax, just manage your stress” [1].

Examining Participants’ Pain & Catastrophizing

In order to to assess the subjects’ levels of pain alongside their medical data provided from the scans, the scientists involved in the study utilised various tools. These comprised:
• The Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS)
• The Brief Pain Inventory (BPI)
• The BPI Pain Severity, and
• The Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire-Revised (FIQR) [1]

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jeff Krauss, believes that the results of this research could help to reduce the stigma which fibromyalgia sufferers experience, and thus result in better patient outcomes. He remarked:

“One of the problems with chronic pain is that it’s very hard to see it. People get accused of faking their pain, because doctors will look and see that there’s nothing wrong with their back, or there’s nothing wrong with their knee… It’s really exciting that we can start to see it in the brain, and know that these feelings that people have are very real, even though it might not be correlated with tissue damage” [1]

On a positive note, Pain Doctors are different, in that they are sensitive to sufferers, because they specialise in treating fibromyalgia. Moreover, many Pain Specialists have countless years of clinical experience and expertise behind them, thereby making them extremely mindful of what their patients go through.


[1]. Loeppky , J. (2023). “How Cognitive Behavourial Therapy Can Help People With Fibromyalgia.” Healthline.,for%20those%20living%20with%20fibromyalgia.

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