Assessing the Prevalence of Fibromyalgia in PTSD Patients and Family Members
Col Jay Higgs, MD (U.S. Air Force, Retired)
In light of the significant overlap between PTSD and fibromyalgia, determine whether it is important to assess for this painful rheumatic disorder in active-duty military personnel with PTSD. Screen volunteers from other STRONG STAR treatment studies and their spouses to determine the prevalence of fibromyalgia, observe its influence on patients’ prognosis, and look for secondary familial consequences of PTSD.
Research published by H. Cohen and colleagues in 2002 shows a significant overlap between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fibromyalgia, a painful rheumatic disorder that causes muscle tenderness and stiffness. This finding has led some to suggest that optimal care for fibromyalgia patients should include investigation for a component of PTSD.
But in an exploratory STRONG STAR study, Col Jay B. Higgs, MD, (USAF, Ret.) of San Antonio Military Medical Center will take the opposite approach. He and his research team seek to determine whether it is important to assess for fibromyalgia in active-duty members of the military suffering from PTSD.
As part of this novel research effort, patients with PTSD who are enrolled in STRONG STAR clinical trials at Fort Hood will be asked to consent to an additional study in which they will be screened for fibromyalgia. Investigators will then calculate the prevalence of fibromyalgia among PTSD patients and observe its influence on their prognosis by comparing treatment-outcome data between groups that do and do not meet criteria for fibromyalgia. The prevalence of fibromyalgia among patients’ spouses who are willing to consent to screening will also be investigated, as researchers look for secondary familial consequences of PTSD.
Research findings could shed light on yet another painful effect of PTSD and reveal additional complications for health care professionals to consider when treating PTSD or fibromyalgia.