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The predominant themes observed were the presence of a specific trigger (stressful event) for fibromyalgia symptoms, fulfilling expected gender roles, a lack of support from family members, and abuse.
A focus group of nurses noted that managing emotions, improving communication, and accounting for issues, such as abuse and the absence of social-family support, are effective strategies for managing patients with fibromyalgia, according to a study published by Healthcare.1
A fibromyalgia diagnosis affects work, social relationships, and family, which can lead to stigmatization. Although symptoms persist, many patients are able to use coping mechanisms to moderate common symptoms, such as pain and fatigue, including changing the perception of the condition. Previous research has demonstrated these results are most effectively achieved after a combination of aerobic exercises and training protocols in which the intensity is gradually and progressively increased.2
“Fibromyalgia patients experience difficulties in their daily lives that are difficult to identify and recognize due to the stigma associated with the disease,” according to a team of Spanish investigators. “Nurses can help identify them to establish biopsychosocial coping and treatment.”
A qualitative content analysis analyzed the perceptions of Spanish nurses regarding the patient experience of fibromyalgia. Eight nurses participated in focus groups to report their insights after group-based problem-solving therapy of this patient population. The mean age of nurses was 50 years and most had nursing experience ≥30 years. Patients with fibromyalgia had a mean diagnosis of 10 years, a mean age of 61 years, and most preferred and were satisfied with non-pharmacological treatment compared with medication for treating their condition.
The predominant themes observed were the presence of a specific trigger (stressful event) for fibromyalgia symptoms, fulfilling expected gender roles, a lack of support from family members, and abuse. The nurses interviewed recognized the mind-body connection after the impact of stress on patients. The expected gender roles ultimately impacted recovery due to the frustration and guilt patients felt when not being able to fulfil them.
Specific triggers included maltreatment during childhood, abuse, and concerns about illness. Abuse was a phenomenon appearing across all groups, including psychological, physical, and economical. A lack of support from family members was also a predominant theme. Although patients reported enjoying the support of family, few received it. Patients generally experienced difficulty facing problems, including setting boundaries and asking for help. Regarding a strong sense of obligation to fulfill their notions of gender roles. With this in mind, the condition could be better managed if patients were given strategies that incorporated a gender approach.
Investigators noted the small sample size may have hindered results; however, they explained qualitative studies such as these seek to understand a phenomenon instead of measuring it. The analysis was strengthened due to the inclusion of a team of experienced healthcare professionals. Using a population from southern Spain may have limited generalizability. Future, cross-cultural research is necessary to confirm results and analyze differences between populations. Additionally, as the study reflected the perceptions of female patients reported by female nurses, further research examining male perspectives may be of interest.
“Primary care nurses and fibromyalgia unit nurses are frontline clinicians who have first-hand knowledge of the emotional problems of women who live with this poorly understood health condition on a day-to-day basis,” investigators concluded. “As part of standard treatment, rehabilitation clinicians usually have the important task of providing comfort to patients in emotional distress without having been trained in specific psychological interventions. We suggest that rehabilitation clinicians need to lead focused care for the empowerment of people and their families.”