Couple perceptions of fibromyalgia symptoms: The role of communication

Karen S. Lyons, Kim D. Jones, Robert M. Bennett, Shirin O. Hiatt, Aline G. Sayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The objectives of the current study were to describe fibromyalgia patient-spouse incongruence regarding patient pain, fatigue, and physical function; and to examine the associations of individual and interpersonal factors with patient-spouse incongruence. Two hundred four fibromyalgia patients and their coresiding partners rated the patient's symptoms and function. Multilevel modeling revealed that spouses, on average, rated patient fatigue significantly lower than patients. Couple incongruence was not significantly different from zero, on average, for pain severity, interference, or physical function. However, there was significant variability across couples in how they rated the severity of symptoms and function, and how much incongruence existed within couples. Controlling for individual factors, patient and spouse reports of communication problems were significantly associated with levels of couple incongruence regarding patient fatigue and physical function, albeit in opposing directions. Across couples, incongruence was high when patients rated communication problems as high; incongruence was low when spouses rated communication problems as high. An important within-couple interaction was found for pain interference, suggesting that couples who are similar on level of communication problems experience low incongruence; those with disparate ratings of communication problems experience high incongruence. Findings suggest the important roles of spouse response and the patient's perception of how well the couple is communicating. Couple-level interventions targeting communication or other interpersonal factors may help to decrease incongruence and lead to better patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2417-2426
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic pain
  • Communication
  • Couples
  • Multilevel modeling
  • Symptom incongruence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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