University of Texas at Austin nursing researcher receives $1.34 million for fibromyalgia study

AUSTIN, Texas—A University of Texas at Austin nursing researcher has received a $1.34 million National Institutes of Health grant to test a wellness program for fibromyalgia syndrome, a chronic disabling condition characterized by widespread muscular pain and fatigue.

Fibromyalgia syndrome is thought to affect three to six million Americans and occurs more often in women than in men, said Dr. Alexa Stuifbergen, associate dean for research in the School of Nursing. The cause of the disease remains unknown, there are no preventive measures and medical treatment is limited.

The research for the “Lifestyle Counts” program is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health.

The purpose of the four-year study is to test a wellness plan originally developed and tested by Stuifbergen in a clinical trial of women with multiple sclerosis. This wellness program resulted in significant improvements in self-efficacy, health behaviors and improvements in pain and mental health.

Outcomes of the study will provide health care professionals with information to help women with fibromyalgia syndrome improve their quality of life, said Stuifbergen, who has been studying chronic disabling conditions such as multiple sclerosis and post-polio syndrome for the past 15 years.

“Chronic disabling conditions have profound and pervasive effects on the lives of millions of Americans,” Stuifbergen said. “Although rarely addressed, the need for health promotion continues to exist and may be greater in persons living with long-term incurable conditions than in the general population.”

Long-standing pain—described as deep aching, radiating, gnawing, shooting or burning—is characteristic of fibromyalgia syndrome. Full recovery is unusual, and it tends to follow a non-remitting course. In addition to pain and fatigue, persons with the disease report depression, anxiety, poor sleep and fatigue, frequent awakening during the night and morning fatigue with stiffness, among other symptoms.

“Women with conditions such as fibromyalgia syndrome must manage a wide variety of disease-related, intrapersonal and environmental demands to maintain their health and quality of life,” Stuifbergen said. “Engaging in health-promoting behaviors is one strategy recommended to manage disease symptoms and enhance quality of life.”

A sample of 160 women with fibromyalgia syndrome who are between the ages of 18 to 75 years old will be recruited to participate in a randomized clinical study that includes an eight-week health promotion/behavior change component and three months of follow-up phone support.

The program includes stress management, lifestyle adjustment, physical activity, nutrition and women’s health issues with an emphasis on the skills needed to empower women with the tools for exercising personal control over their health behaviors.

For more information, contact Stuifbergen 512-471-9077 or 1-800-687-8010 or by e-mail at

For more information contact: Nancy Neff, 512-471-6504.