Do comorbid fibromyalgia diagnoses change after a functional restoration program in patients with chronic disabling occupational musculoskeletal disorders?

Meredith M. Hartzell, Randy Neblett, Yoheli Perez, Emily Brede, Tom G. Mayer, Robert J. Gatchel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


STUDY DESIGN.: A retrospective study of prospectively collected data. OBJECTIVE.: To determine whether comorbid fibromyalgia, identified in patients with chronic disabling occupational musculoskeletal disorders (CDOMDs), resolves with a functional restoration program (FRP). SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA.: Fibromyalgia involves widespread bodily pain and tenderness to palpation. In recent studies, 23% to 41% of patients with CDOMDs entering an FRP had comorbid fibromyalgia, compared with population averages of 2% to 5%. Few studies have examined whether fibromyalgia diagnoses resolve with any treatment, and none have investigated diagnosis responsiveness to an FRP. METHODS.: A consecutive cohort of patients with CDOMDs (82% with spinal disorders and all reporting chronic spinal pain) and comorbid fibromyalgia (N = 117) completed an FRP, which included quantitatively directed exercise progression and multimodal disability management. Diagnosis responsiveness, evaluated at discharge, created 2 groups: those who retained fibromyalgia and those who did not. These groups were compared with chronic regional lumbar pain only patients (LO group, n = 87), lacking widespread pain and fibromyalgia. RESULTS.: Of the patients with comorbid fibromyalgia, 59% (n = 69) retained the fibromyalgia diagnosis (RFM group) and 41% (n = 48) lost the fibromyalgia diagnosis (LFM group) at discharge. Although all 3 groups reported decreased pain intensity, disability, and depressive symptoms from admission to discharge, RFM patients reported higher symptom levels than the LFM and LO groups at discharge. The LFM and LO groups were statistically similar. At 1-year follow-up, LO patients demonstrated higher work retention than both fibromyalgia groups (P < 0.03). CONCLUSION.: Despite a significant comorbid fibromyalgia prevalence in a cohort of patients with CDOMDs entering an FRP, 41% of patients with an initial fibromyalgia diagnosis no longer met diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia at discharge and were indistinguishable from LO patients on pain, disability, and depression symptoms. However, both fibromyalgia groups (LFM and RFM) had lower work retention than LO patients 1 year later, suggesting that an FRP may suppress symptoms of fibromyalgia in a subset of patients, but prolonged fibromyalgia-related disability may be more difficult to overcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1393-1400
Number of pages8
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2014


  • central sensitization
  • chronic disabling occupational musculoskeletal disorder
  • depression
  • disability
  • fibromyalgia
  • functional restoration
  • interdisciplinary treatment
  • outcomes
  • pain intensity
  • tender points
  • work return


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