Intensive Treatment for Juvenile Fibromyalgia: Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Psychotherapy Can Help

Intensive Treatment for Juvenile FibromyalgiaDoes your child experience seemingly inexplicable and impossible to treat pain? Juvenile fibromyalgia is hard to treat; it is heartbreaking to watch a child in pain and not know what to do about it.

But researchers provide some hope for children with fibromyalgia; physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychosocial support combined into an intensive treatment program was found to effectively eliminate pain and offer long-lasting relief.

Intensive treatment plan for fibromyalgia combines physical and psychological therapies

The Journal of Pediatrics published a study in September 2015 from researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.[1]

Sixty-four children with fibromyalgia (average age of 16 years) were treated in a comprehensive program. During the program, the children had five to six hours of intensive physical and occupational therapy per day, and at least 4 hours of psychosocial services per week.[1]

The duration of the program depended on each child; the treatment ended when the treatment team determined the child had improved and reached their goals, and was able to sustain and further improve on the goals on their own. The average length of therapy was 23 days.[1]

For the children with fibromyalgia, physical therapy and occupational therapy focused on maximizing aerobic conditions while simultaneously reestablishing normal daily function. They did things like running up and down stairs, treadmill exercises, strength and endurance activities, stepping in and out of a tub, and dancing.

Desensitization techniques were used for kids who were sensitive to touch, experienced pain while eating, or had trouble with other daily activities.[1]

Children also participated in one-on-one and group sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, and music therapy.[1]

Impressive results lasted long after treatment ended

According to the researchers, “The philosophy of our program is that the children treat their own pain while learning the tools for doing so in our treatment program. It is our hope that because of this, they will remain fully functional and free of pain in the long term.” And remarkably, the results of the study reflected their hopes.

The average pain score decreased significantly from the beginning to the end of the program. At the beginning, average pain was at a 66/100, but at the end this number decreased to only 25/100.  And even better, pain reductions sustained long after the program.

At a one-year follow up, 33% of the children reported no pain, and another 15% had a score between 1/100 and 10/100. The average level of pain was only 25/100 at the follow-up.

Improvements were also seen in physical conditioning; children could spend more time walking on a gradually accelerating treadmill at the end of the study compared to the beginning, and scores remained significantly better at the one-year follow up.

At the follow up, scores for the treadmill test remained at or above the 90th percentile for age and sex compared with below the 25th percentile before enrollment in the study.[1]

Consider physical, occupational, and psychosocial therapy for your child

Juvenile fibromyalgia can be completely debilitating and may interfere with your child’s daily activities. But this new research gives some hope to those suffering.

Talk with a fibromyalgia specialist about your options, and consider visiting a local physical and/or occupational therapist. These therapists can help your child to learn the skills and tools they need to reduce pain and take back control of their lives.

Read these other blogs for ideas on managing fibromyalgia pain naturally:

Share your experience

Do you know someone who suffers from juvenile fibromyalgia? What helps them feel better? Have they ever tried physical therapy or occupational therapy? Share your ideas in the comments section below.


[1] J Pediatr. 2015 Sep;167(3):731-737.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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