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Research Report: Functioning With Fibromyalgia

Wednesday 16 November 2016


From Heather Trainor (via email):


The University of Adelaide

Research Report: Functioning with Fibromyalgia

Monday 14 November 2016

Heather Trainor1, John Baranoff1,2, Miriam Henke1, Helen Winefield1

1School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, South Australia
2Centre for Treatment of Anxiety and Depression, Adelaide, South Australia

Background and aim: Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain, with associated symptoms of fatigue, depression, anxiety, and cognitive problems. Fibromyalgia has been associated with poor functioning and quality of life. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between various ways of responding to or coping with pain and levels of functioning.

Method: Participants were recruited primarily from Australian fibromyalgia social media-based support groups and South Australian fibromyalgia support services. The 337 participants had an average age of 46 years, with 95% female. Participants completed an online survey. Functioning was measured by self-report. Participants rated how difficult they found activities such as preparing a meal, cleaning, and shopping in the previous week; how much fibromyalgia prevented them from accomplishing goals and overwhelmed participants; and the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms.

Results: Consistent with previous research, the study found that participants with high self-efficacy, the belief or certainty in one’s ability to perform behaviours to control fibromyalgia symptoms, tended to have high functioning. No significant relationship was found between how well participants functioned and the use of traditional pain management strategies such as relaxation, changing how one thinks about pain, and resting. The study also found that higher acceptance of pain (rather than seeking to avoid pain), more awareness of the present moment, and more engagement in activities that are meaningful or valued even when experiencing pain were related to higher functioning. These factors also uniquely explained the level of functioning when demographics, pain levels, self-efficacy, and use of traditional pain management strategies were controlled for. Higher acceptance of negative thoughts and feelings in general, not just those regarding pain, was associated with higher functioning, and uniquely explained the level of functioning when the effects of all other significant factors measured in the study were controlled.

Conclusion: Acceptance of pain and negative thoughts and feelings more generally, values-based activity, and present-moment awareness are associated with higher functioning. More research is required to investigate whether increasing these psychological factors leads to improved functioning and quality of life for people with fibromyalgia.

Thank you once again for your participation in this study.

Thank you to the Bridges and Pathways Institute and ME/CFS Australia (SA) Inc. for their assistance in promoting this study.

If you have any further queries regarding this research, please email Heather Trainor at


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