Journal of Physical Therapy Science
Online ISSN : 2187-5626
Print ISSN : 0915-5287
ISSN-L : 0915-5287
Original Article
Targeting pain catastrophization in patients with fibromyalgia using virtual reality exposure therapy: a proof-of-concept study
Linzette Deidrè MorrisQuinette Abegail LouwKaren Anne GrimmerErnesta Meintjes
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2015 Volume 27 Issue 11 Pages 3461-3467


[Purpose] Pain catastrophizing is a key predictor of poor compliance to exercises among patients with fibromyalgia syndrome. Alteration of pain catastrophizing in this group is thus warranted. This study aimed to provide proof-of-concept of a novel virtual reality exposure therapy program as treatment for exercise-related pain catastrophizing in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome. [Subjects and Methods] An exploratory, case-controlled study was conducted (fibromyalgia syndrome group and matched control group). Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to acquire neural correlates. The functional magnetic resonance imaging task consisted of two stimuli: active (exercise activity visuals) and passive (relaxing visuals). Structural images and blood-oxygenation-level-dependent contrasts were acquired for the conditions and compared within subjects/groups and between groups. Statistic images were thresholded using corrected clusters (determined by Z>2.3; level of significance: 0.05). [Results] Thirteen fibromyalgia syndrome subjects and nine healthy matched controls were included. The right inferior frontal gyrus, right middle frontal gyrus, right posterior cerebellum, left thalamus, and left supramarginal gyrus were activated in the fibromyalgia syndrome subjects. [Conclusion] The study results provide preliminary proof indicating that exposing patients with fibromyalgia syndrome to visuals of exercises elicits neurophysiological changes in functional brain areas associated with pain catastrophization and add to the current body of knowledge regarding the possibility of objectively identifying cognitive behavioral strategies like pain catastrophization.

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© 2015 by the Society of Physical Therapy Science. Published by IPEC Inc.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd) License.
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