Research from Lleida concludes the need to seek personalised treatments to treat chronic pain in fibromyalgia patients

Pain reduction is an unmet need and a source of frustration for people with fibromyalgia according to research led by the University of Lleida and IRBLleida

Pain management is a source of frustration and an unmet need for people with fibromyalgia. The heterogeneous response of people with fibromyalgia to current therapeutic approaches to pain is a barrier to the standardisation of their treatment. For this reason, it is necessary to look for personalised treatments, implementing phenotyping (the study of the characteristics that an individual presents as a result of the interaction between their genotype and the environment around them) and precision medicine, to treat pain in this population. This is one of the conclusions of a study led by Carolina Climent, professor at the University of Lleida and researcher in the GRECS group at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Lleida (IRBLleida).

"These findings provide crucial information for researchers to continue advancing in the treatment of this health condition," explained the researcher. The research has analysed 35 qualitative studies with a total of 728 patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This type of research is known as a qualitative evidence synthesis and has made it possible to describe how people with fibromyalgia self-manage pain and their perceptions of the treatment options provided by healthcare professionals, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological.

"The lack of effective treatments that produce long-term pain relief is frustrating for both patients and healthcare professionals. Healthcare professionals should take into account the unique view of this complex and heterogeneous disease offered by this qualitative synthesis," added Climent.

Estimates of the prevalence of fibromyalgia in the adult population range from 2-8%, and diagnosis rates are higher in women. However, the diagnosis and clinical conceptualisation of fibromyalgia is still not universally accepted in the medical profession, resulting in stigmatisation and inadequate treatment.

The research results show that people with fibromyalgia reported feeling stigmatised, over-medicalised and perceive that their treatments do not correspond to the severity of their health condition. Medications and exercise were reported as the most controversial approaches to pain relief. While some people indicated that these treatments alleviated pain, others perceived these approaches as ineffective or even harmful.

The research also involved collaboration with researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Virginia School of Medicine, both in the United States. It was made possible thanks to a Margarita Salas grant from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Article: Carolina Climent-Sanz, Katrina R. Hamilton, Oriol Martínez-Navarro, EricaBriones-Vozmediano, Miguel Gracia-Lasheras, Helena Fernández-Lago, Fran Valenzuela-Pascual & Patrick H. Finan (15 Nov 2023): Fibromyalgia pain management effectiveness from the patient perspective: a qualitative evidence synthesis, Disability and Rehabilitation, DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2023.2280057

The IRBLleida's researcher, Carolina Climent