Robert Edwards, PhD: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Lessens Fibromyalgia Pain

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Robert Edwards, PhD, discusses how cognitive behavioral therapy effectively reduced pain catastrophizing and improved quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia.

Edwards, a clinical psychologist in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, discussed the results of his Mass General Brigham study, “A Randomized, Controlled Neuroimaging Trial of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Fibromyalgia Pain,” in which patients receiving CBT were able to reduce the intensity of their pain, the impact of their pain, and the burden of their fibromyalgia symptoms.1

“There's been a fair amount of work recently suggesting that nonpharmacologic treatments for various chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia are quite safe and effective,” Edwards explained. “These would be treatments like CBT, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture. What we haven't been clear on is what the mechanisms are by which talk therapy treatment, like CBT, actually benefits patients with chronic pain and helps to reduce the burden of their pain, reduce their disability, and improve their function and quality of life.”

Edwards and his team found CBT was more effective than an active control group. In addition to improvements in pain and quality of life, these patients were also able to obtain reductions in pain catastrophizing according to neuroimaging data. These changes were directly related to how much benefit they received in terms of pain reduction and to shifts in their brain’s processing of pain-related information.

“There are a lot of really talented research groups working in this space and the more findings that come out from those groups, the more we learn we have a lot of effective, nonpharmacologic treatments for fibromyalgia,” Edwards concluded. “We hope to be able to contribute to figuring out which combinations of those treatments will be most effective. I would love to emphasize that there are a lot of effective and safe treatment options out there. If people have been living with this condition for quite some time, I hope that can add to their sense of optimism that they'll be able to identify effective management strategies.”

This transcript was edited for clarity.


  1. Jeungchan Lee, Asimina Lazaridou, Myrella Paschali, Marco L. Loggia, Michael P. Berry, Dan‐Mikael Ellingsen, Kylie Isenburg, Alessandra Anzolin, Arvina Grahl, Ajay D. Wasan, Vitaly Napadow, Robert R. Edwards. A Randomized, Controlled Neuroimaging Trial of Cognitive‐Behavioral Therapy for Fibromyalgia Pain. Arthritis & Rheumatology, 2023; DOI: 10.1002/art.42672