Clustering fibromyalgia patients: A combination of psychosocial and somatic factors leads to resilient coping in a subgroup of fibromyalgia patients
Background: Coping strategies and their efficacy vary greatly in patients suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Objective: We aimed to identify somatic and psychosocial factors that might contribute to different coping strategies and resilience levels in FMS. Subjects and methods: Standardized questionnaires were used to assess coping, pain, and psychological variables in a cohort of 156 FMS patients. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) determined gene expression of selected cytokines in white blood cells of 136 FMS patients and 25 healthy controls. Data of skin innervation, functional and structural sensory profiles of peripheral nociceptive nerve fibers of a previous study were included into the statistics. An exploratory factor analysis was used to define variance explaining factors, which were then included into cluster analysis. Results: 54.9% of the variance was explained by four factors which we termed (1) affective load, (2) coping, (3) pain, and (4) pro-inflammatory cytokines (p < 0.05). Considering differences in the emerged factors, coping strategies, cytokine profiles, and disability levels, 118 FMS patients could be categorized into four clusters which we named maladaptive, adaptive, vulnerable, and resilient (p < 0.05). The adaptive cluster had low scores in disability and in all symptom categories in contrast to the vulnerable cluster, which was characterized by high scores in catastrophizing and disability (p < 0.05). The resilient vs. the maladaptive cluster was characterized by better coping and a less pro-inflammatory cytokine pattern (p < 0.05). Conclusion: Our data suggest that problem- and emotion-focused coping strategies and an anti-inflammatory cytokine pattern are associated with reduced disability and might promote resilience. Additional personal factors such as low anxiety scores, ability of acceptance, and persistence further favor a resilient phenotype. Individualized therapy should take these factors into account.
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