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A study under the FCT-funded SHARE project involved 96 volunteers
A study conducted by researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Health Research of the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal (CiiAS-IPS) allowed to test, with very positive results, the effects of physiotherapy treatment in people with fibromyalgia, based on the practice of specific physical exercise in conjunction with group educational sessions for self-management of this disease.
The research, which started in January 2020, is part of the SHARE project – Health and Humanities Acting in Network, funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), and lasted until April 2021, involving a total of 96 volunteers with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
“The ability to self-manage chronic clinical conditions, such as fibromyalgia, is currently a central aspect in the provision of health care informed by scientific evidence and centered on people”, recalls the responsible researcher, Carmen Caeiro, explaining the premise on which this study was based, which went through two phases.
At first, a randomized controlled trial was carried out, through which the aim was to investigate the effects of a treatment based on physical exercise sessions and education for the self-management of fibromyalgia (experimental group), compared with the effects of a treatment that included only physical exercise sessions (control group). Subsequently, a qualitative study was carried out to assess the contribution of educational sessions, in particular to the ability to self-manage the clinical condition, using focus groups to which participants who had attended the experimental group were invited in the first phase of the study.
In a preliminary analysis, what can be concluded is that “in both groups, the results were statistically significant and clinically relevant in the variables under study, which means that the participants obtained improvements, for example in terms of pain or their ability functional, which resulted from the implemented treatment“, informs the researcher, stressing that “there have been, so far, no significant differences between the groups“.
Regarding the qualitative component of the study, “we found that the educational sessions contributed, in the participants’ perception, to their ability to manage the disease“, by promoting, for example, learning about the factors that influence the perception of pain, the validation of the experience of living with fibromyalgia, “which takes on special relevance in a context of some social discrediting of the disease”, the reinterpretation of pain and disease and also “the empowerment to actually manage the disease in their daily lives. -day”, says the professor at the School of Health (ESS/IPS).
The study carried out, which suffered a delay in its completion, due to the suspension of in-person treatments for six months, given the pandemic context, also allowed to highlight some characteristics of the clinical approach that, in the perception of the participants, were decisive in the success of the treatment. Examples of this are the “active involvement of participants in educational sessions, through sharing their clinical narratives“, as well as the profile of the physiotherapist, “the most valued aspects being the ability to personalize the treatment and motivation to perform physical exercise“, says Carmen Caeiro.
It should be remembered that fibromyalgia is a syndrome that affects nearly 200 thousand people in Portugal and that its main symptoms are generalized pain and fatigue. potential benefits of non-pharmacological approaches are explored.
Led by IPS, the study had as partners the Faculty of Arts of the University of Lisbon, as the proponent institution of the SHARE project, MYOS – National Association Against Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the hospital centers of Setúbal (Multidisciplinary Therapeutics Unit of the Dor) and Western Lisbon (Rheumatology Service, Hospital Egas Moniz) and CEDOC – Center for the Study of Chronic Diseases, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Lisbon.
A research fellow physiotherapist, four master’s students in Physiotherapy in Musculoskeletal Conditions and three undergraduate students in Physiotherapy were involved in the application of the study.