Fibromyalgia Patients Helping Doctors Understand their Symptoms

By using hand-held PDA devices, fibromyalgia patients and their doctors receive further insight into pain and the complex disease.

Hand-held PDA devices for recording daily symptoms are helping fibromyalgia patients and their doctors better understand links between pain, emotional distress, and fatigue in the complex pain disorder, according to research reported in The Journal of Pain, the peer review publications of the American Pain Society.

Pain researchers at the University of Utah and University of Washington studied 81 women with fibromyalgia to better understand reciprocal temporal relationships in this multi-symptom pain condition. The subjects were equipped with PDAs to report their pain, sleep problems, emotional distress, and other concerns three times a day for 30 days. It was assumed that immediate reporting would overcome the disadvantages of recall assessments provided by patients to their physicians in periodic visits. Recalled pain levels, the authors noted, are influenced by several factors, such as pain levels at the time of recall, overall emotional distress, and patient beliefs about their condition.

The results showed that analyzing several measures of multiple symptoms longitudinally can be helpful in clarifying relationships among symptoms. For example, previous pain was a significant predictor of both fatigue and emotional distress, and prior worsening of fatigue predicted current increased pain. Also, a previous increase in emotional distress predicted current fatigue.

Overall, the authors believe their findings support the utility of ecological momentary assessments (EMA) using PDA devices daily for data collection to provide dependable longitudinal, real-time assessments of multiple fibromyalgia symptoms.

Source: American Pain Society

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Would you include such technology into your treatment routines with fibromyalgia patients? Leave a comment.

Additional Resource:

Russell Portenoy, MD, chairman of the Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City explains fibromyalgia from a patient-perspective.