Physical and mental impact of COVID-19 outbreak on fibromyalgia patients

Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2021 Mar 11. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: Acute or chronic stress may trigger or aggravate symptoms of fibromyalgia (FM). We aimed to evaluate the physical and mental health of fibromyalgia patients during the COVID 19 outbreak and identify protective/risk factors.

METHODS: An online survey was published in May 2020, following two months of lockdown due to the COVID 19 outbreak, including questionnaires regarding demographic characteristics, access to medical services, anxiety, depression, life approach, coping strategies, perception of social support, widespread pain index (WPI) and symptoms severity scale (SSS), insomnia severity index (ISI) and patient global assessment.

RESULTS: Of the 233 patients included in the study, 98% were forced to discontinue complementary – alternative treatments during lockdown. Up to 30% of responders who had been treated with medical cannabis had to stop due to logistic difficulties and this was associated with significantly higher scores of WPI/SSS (p=0.024). Higher levels of anxiety and depression were significantly correlated with higher levels of pain, sleep disorders and subjective perception of deterioration (p=0.00). Higher scores of social support and positive life approach were correlated with less anxiety and depression (p<0.01), lower levels of pain (p<0.05) and less sleep disturbances (p<0.01). Avoidant coping style was strongly associated to higher levels of pain, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, and subjective perception of worsening (p<0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Fibromyalgia patients reported adverse mental and physical outcomes during the COVID-19 outbreak. Factors such as stopping current treatments may play a central role. Social support and a positive life approach appear to be protective.