Fibromyalgia causes chronic body pain. The constant muscle and tissue tenderness can also lead to sleep problems. Shooting pains that may be quite severe originate from parts of your body known as “tender points.” The painful areas can include the following:
Exercise can help relieve your fibro pain and help you cope with the condition.
Many doctors recommend an exercise and fitness program as the first line of treatment for fibromyalgia. This is before any type of medication is considered. Even if your doctor prescribes medication for your condition it’s important to stay active. Movement should be a key part of your overall treatment plan.
According to the Cochrane Library, research shows that 12 weeks of moderate aerobic training, combined with strength training, can improve your pain and overall well-being. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, exercising regularly is one of the most effective ways to treat fibromyalgia.
The Mayo Clinic lists walking as the number one form of exercise for fibromyalgia. That’s because it’s a low-impact aerobic activity. Walking can safely bring oxygen to your muscles and decrease your pain and stiffness.
The American Heart Association (AHA)confirms that shorter periods of exercise throughout the day can be nearly as beneficial as a longer stint. The Cochrane Library suggests you start off slowly, for example, with 10-minute walks. Then build up to 30 minutes of walking a day.
Warm water and light exercise make for a soothing combination to help ease the pain of fibromyalgia. Research published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science showed that exercise in a pool was superior to gym-based exercise or home-based exercise in relieving fibromyalgia symptoms. Research suggests this may be due to the reduced impact on joints in pool-based exercise.
You don’t have to break out in a sweat in order for exercise to be useful. For fibromyalgia patients, the Mayo Clinicadvises that simple activities can make a big difference. For example, try:
- gentle stretching
- relaxation exercises
- maintaining good posture
Be careful not to overdo it though. Avoid any stretching that causes pain. It’s best to stretch stiff muscles after you’ve completed some light aerobic exercise. This will help you avoid injury. Other tips for healthy stretching include:
- Move gently.
- Never stretch to the point of pain.
- Hold light stretches for up to a minute in order to get the best benefit.
Strength training can significantly reduce the pain of fibromyalgia while improving overall well-being, according to the Cochrane Library. Strengthening workouts that involve resistance machines or free weights are appropriate. Just as long as the intensity is slowly increased and low weights are used.
Start as low as one to three pounds. Regular strength training can result in a significant drop in:
- tender points
If you’re not big on the gym or have too much fatigue or pain for more vigorous workouts, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases suggests that gentle exercise can still help. A study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy found that even vacuuming or scrubbing helped people with fibromyalgia feel less pain and function better. According to results of the study, just 30 minutes a day spent doing these type of chores made a difference.
The Mayo Clinic reports that working out can sometimes initially increase the pain of fibromyalgia. But don’t give up. Build slowly to a regular habit of activity. It’s likely that your symptoms will decrease.
If you need help getting started, ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend exercises to do at home. Pace yourself to avoid overdoing it when you feel good. Take it down a notch when you feel a fibro flare. It’s all about listening to your body and finding a healthy balance.