Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy

Department or Program

Occupational Therapy

Department or Program Chair

Ruth Ramsey, EdD, OTR/L

First Reader

Julia Wilbarger, PhD, OTR/L


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a pain disorder that involves a variety of symptoms including painful joints, fatigue, muscle stiffness, and sleep disturbances. Cognitive symptoms are also a hallmark of FM, which result in difficulties with thought articulation, concentration, and mental fatigue. There is a gap in research substantiating increased levels of sensory defensiveness symptoms in individuals with FM and the effects in daily life. Currently, only one research study has provided evidence of increased sensory sensitivity across multiple modalities in individuals with FM. The purpose of this research was to determine whether women with FM had increased levels of sensory defensiveness in daily life when compared to pain free age matched women. This research also examined whether women with FM had decreased quality of life (QOL) and participation in daily occupations. Lastly, this study investigated if there was a relationship between sensory defensiveness, participation in typical patterns of daily activities, and QOL. This study was a quantitative, multi-group, quasi-experimental comparison design. Participants were recruited from South Central Wisconsin and Northern California. A total of 20 women participated in the study, 11 in the control group and 9 in the FM group. The data was collected through the following three distinct questionnaires and one activity: Medical Outcome Survey-Short Form 36 (SF-36), Adult/Adolescent Sensory Profile (AASP), Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), and the Activity Card Sort (ACS). Data was analyzed using two-tailed t-Test and Pearson's r Correlations. Women in the FM group reported significantly more symptoms for sensory defensiveness and participation in fewer daily activities than the control group. Women with FM reported decreased QOL when compared to the control group. Symptoms of sensory defensiveness were moderately, but not significantly, correlated with participation in daily activities. Increased symptoms of sensory defensiveness were strongly correlated with reports of poorer mental health scores in women with FM.