by Sandra L. Palmer, MSOT OTR/L
This study attempted to identify potential causes, symptoms, treatment effectiveness, and functional impact as reported by adults experiencing fibromyalgia (FMS); and explore the potential role of occupational therapy treatment for FMS. A survey was constructed and distributed to self-identified adults via FMS support groups in the United States; 174 completed surveys were returned of 419 provided to support group leaders for independent distribution (estimated 42% return rate). Demographic characteristics were similar to those published by the American College of Rheumatology. The most common symptoms reported were muscle pain (95%), fatigue (94%), anatomical sore spots (90%), sleep disturbance (88%), and cognitive difficulties (70%). Most disruptive to daily life were pain (88%), fatigue (58%), cognitive difficulties (39%), and sleep disturbance (35%). All aspects of daily functioning were affected by FMS with respondents unable to complete most of their normal daily routines an average of 13 days per month (SD=11 days). Most impacted areas, in descending order of mean impact score, were heavy physical activity, child care, home care/maintenance, housekeeping, and intimate relations. Least impacted areas in descending order were communications, personal hygiene, and light healthcare. Some current common treatments reported as effective to a moderate degree were anti-depressants, pain medications, and moderate exercise, in descending order of mean rating. Occupational therapy (of unreported scope) was reported as used by a few respondents and as effective to a minimal degree.
Possible treatment strategies involving occupational therapy could include adaptive activity methods for energy conservation, pain management, relaxation methods/stress reductions, functional adaptation of work/home environments, cognitive rehabilitation, sleep improvements, and cognitive behavioral approaches. Loss of roles has been reported by survey respondents in other studies and might be inferred from the reported symptom patterns in the current study. Role reclamation can be another key goal of occupational therapy treatment.