setting treatment image

How do I set meaningful treatment goals?

Setting treatment goals for your patients with FM involves assessing symptom severity and prioritizing the functional areas and/or symptoms to be treated.

Key points for setting treatment goals1

  • A main benefit of goal setting in FM management is that it helps provide a starting point for the treatment plan and focuses the patient on targeted functional outcomes. It also provides structure for follow-up visits

    • For instance, if the patient decides to walk 10 minutes a day or participate in aquatic therapy class, either activity might serve as a goal to track at each visit

    • Visits become more streamlined as patients begin to anticipate the questions you may ask and know what is expected of them

Prioritizing patient goals2

  • Appropriate goals for FM management are

    • Specific, realistic, and measurable

    • Reflect the patient's priorities

    • Have a target date for completion

    • Aim for improved functionality in key domains

  • To help ensure that specific goals are realistic, assess potential barriers and help the patient problem-solve to minimize them

    • Once you and the patient agree on a particular goal, you can ask the patient if he or she can imagine anything that might interfere with accomplishing that goal

    • If barriers are identified, you can brainstorm about ways to prevent the problem and increase the likelihood that
      the patient will attain his or her goal

A patient who states her goal is to "feel better" needs to be guided to a more specific goal. For example, ask, "What will you be doing so that you and I will both know that you are feeling better?" Once identified, this more measurable objective becomes the target goal as opposed to "feeling better."


1. McCarberg BH. Fibromyalgia management for the primary care provider. In: McCarberg BH, Clauw DJ, eds. Fibromyalgia. New
York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2009:152-158.

2. Filoramo MA. Improving goal setting and goal attainment in patients with chronic noncancer pain. Pain Manag Nurs.