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J Clin Nurs. 2012 Mar;21(5-6):626-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2010.03501.x. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Strategies used for managing symptoms by women with fibromyalgia.

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School of Nursing, California State University, Fullerton, Irvine, CA 92620-1984, USA.



The goal of this study was to describe how persons with fibromyalgia manage their lives given the multiple symptoms they experience, in particular how they use non-pharmacologic strategies, or how they incorporate these strategies along with pharmacologic agents.


Persons with fibromyalgia, a widespread chronic pain condition, often suffer from considerable fatigue, sleep disturbances and morning stiffness. Medical management does not lead to a cure, and sufferers must self-manage to maintain a good quality of life.


This qualitative descriptive study used group interview methodology.


Data were obtained from eight women with fibromyalgia. Women's mean age was 61 (range 54-81). Participants were invited to participate in a 90- minute group interview focused on symptom management. In the interview, open-ended questions allowed them to speak freely about managing multiple fibromyalgia symptoms. Content analysis by the first and second authors led to the identification of themes, which were validated by the co-authors who attended the interviews.


Participants reported many strategies to cope with fibromyalgia symptoms and manage their lives. Main strategies included: 'pacing/planning', 'distraction techniques', 'coping with touch sensitivity', 'putting on the mask' and 'medications'. In addition, 'social support' from others with fibromyalgia and from family members was reported to be very important.


Study findings demonstrate that women with fibromyalgia can develop strategies that enable them to cope with a life encumbered with chronic pain and fatigue. Moreover, this study confirmed effective fibromyalgia management strategies reported in other studies. Further research is needed on risks/benefits of these and other self-management strategies used by women with fibromyalgia.


Our findings suggest that nurses should discuss the self-management strategies found with persons who have fibromyalgia in the context of individual patient experiences.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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