Research: HASSETT and COLLEAGUES,

Listed in Issue 156

Abstract

HASSETT and COLLEAGUES, Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (UMDNJ-RWJMS), PO Box 19, MEB-484, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  a.hassett@umdnj.edu conducted an open label trial of biofeedback training to manipulate sub-optimal heart rate variability (HRV), a key marker of autonomic dysfunction.

Background

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a non-inflammatory rheumatologic disorder characterized by musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, depression, cognitive dysfunction and sleep disturbance. Research suggests that autonomic dysfunction may account for some of the symptomatology of FM.

Methodology

Twelve women ages 18-60 with FM completed 10 weekly sessions of HRV biofeedback. They were taught to breathe at their resonant frequency (RF) and asked to practice twice daily. At sessions 1, 10 and 3-month follow-up, physiological and questionnaire data were collected.

Results

There were clinically significant decreases in depression and pain and improvement in functioning from Session 1 to a 3-month follow-up. For depression, the improvement occurred by Session 10. HRV and blood pressure variability (BPV) increased during biofeedback tasks. HRV increased from Sessions 1-10, while BPV decreased from Session 1 to the 3 month follow-up.

Conclusion

These data suggest that HRV biofeedback may be a useful treatment for FM, perhaps mediated by autonomic changes. While HRV effects were immediate, blood pressure, baroreflex, and therapeutic effects were delayed. This is consistent with data on the relationship among stress, HPA axis activity, and brain function.

References

Hassett AL,  Radvanski DC,  Vaschillo EG,  Vaschillo B,  Sigal LH,  Karavidas MK,  Buyske S and  Lehrer PM. A pilot study of the efficacy of heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback in patients with fibromyalgia. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback. 32(1): 1-10 Mar 2007.

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