Researchers report the intervention was found to be safe and effective, and proved to be superior to disease management education.
Results from the multi-site clinical trial are published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).
Experts say that juvenile fibromyalgia syndrome affects 2 percent to 7 percent of school age children. Similar to adult cases, the juvenile form of the disorder primarily strikes adolescent girls.
Typical symptoms of fibromyalgia include sleep and mood disturbances along with widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.
Previous studies show that juvenile fibromyalgia patients are burdened with substantial physical, school, social and emotional impairments. However, studies looking at treatment for the juvenile form of the disorder are limited.
In the current trial, researchers recruited 114 adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 years who were diagnosed with juvenile fibromyalgia.
The trial was conducted at four pediatric rheumatology centers between December 2005 through 2009, with participants randomized to cognitive-behavioral therapy or fibromyalgia education, receiving eight weekly individual therapy sessions and two additional sessions in the six months following the end of active therapy.
Researchers found that both patient groups displayed significant reduction in functional disability, pain, and depressive symptoms at the end of the trial.
But pediatric participants in the cognitive-behavioral therapy group reported a significantly greater reduction in functional disability compared to those receiving fibromyalgia education. The therapy group had a 37 percent improvement in disability compared to 12 percent in the education cohort.
Both groups had scores in the non-depressed range by the end of the study, but pain reduction was not clinically significant—a decrease in pain of less than 30 percent for either group.
The dropout rate was low with over 85 percent of participants attending all therapy sessions and no study-related adverse events were reported by investigators.
“Our trial confirms that cognitive-behavioral therapy is a safe and effective treatment for reducing functional disability and depression in patients with juvenile fibromyalgia,” said a study author. “When added to standard medical care, cognitive-behavioral therapy helps to improve daily functioning and overall well-being for adolescents with fibromyalgia.”