Exercises to Reduce Fibromyalgia Pain:
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is thought to be the result of overactive nerves. It is a condition that results in chronic widespread pain and tenderness all over. Here’s exactly what that means:
- “Chronic” means that the pain lasts a long time—at least 3 months. Many people experience fibromyalgia pain for years before being diagnosed.
- “Widespread” means that it is all over the body. However, many people with fibromyalgia feel their pain in specific areas of their body, such as the lower back and neck.
- “Tenderness” means that even a small amount of pressure can cause a lot of pain.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions. It affects more than 5 million people in the United States. That’s nearly 1 in every 60 Americans. Mostly women have it. But so can men. Most people begin feeling the symptoms of fibromyalgia when they are middle aged, but symptoms can start before then.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is not a psychological condition. While the exact cause is still not known, it is believed to have a biological cause. Recent research suggests that changes in the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) may be responsible.
It is believed that there may be a number of factors working together:
- Trauma—physical and emotional trauma have been linked to fibromyalgia.
- Family history—the genes you inherit from your parents may increase the likelihood of developing fibromyalgia.
- Infections—there is some evidence to suggest that certain illnesses can act as a trigger.
- Autoimmune diseases—people with disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
The Role of Nerves
Connected to the muscles are nerves. Nerves throughout the body and spinal cord send messages to the brain. It is believed that people with fibromyalgia have overactive nerves. This may be responsible for the chronic widespread pain and tenderness of fibromyalgia.
What Are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Chronic widespread pain and tenderness are not the only fibromyalgia symptoms. See below for additional symptoms.
- Deep muscle pain and soreness
- Morning stiffness
- Flu-like aching
- Radiating pain
- Sensitivity to touch
Pain symptoms of fibromyalgia
- Problems sleeping
- Difficulty thinking clearly, also known as “fibro fog”
- Difficulty performing everyday tasks
- Stress and anxiety
- Migraine headaches
Other symptoms of fibromyalgia
Being more active may help to:
- Reduce the pain associated with fibromyalgia.
- Improve your sleep.
- Increase your physical fitness so that your daily activities are less painful.
Sometimes even light activity can be painful when you have fibromyalgia, but incorporating exercise into your daily routine may help ease the pain. You could go to the gym or simply increase the amount of physical activity within your day.
Before you begin incorporating physical activity to treat fibromyalgia pain talk to your healthcare provider about how your pain affects you. Work together to identify an exercise regimen that fits into your fibromyalgia treatment plan, and that suits your lifestyle.
Types of Exercises for Fibromyalgia:
Studies show that physical activity is one of the most effective ways to manage fibromyalgia. Try one of these activities:
You can incorporate walking into your everyday life by walking around your home or yard, taking the stairs, walking in the mall, or parking at the far end of the parking lot.
If you have access to a warm pool, activities such as, swimming, water walking, and water aerobics are a great place to start.
Gentle stretching is good for you both physically and mentally. It can help improve flexibility, increase blood flow to the muscles, reduce stress and calm your mind.
Movement and Breathing Exercises
Less strenuous exercise such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates and Gyrotonic may help to increase your balance, core strength and flexibility.
Light weight training or resistance training, where you use your own body weight to strengthen your muscles, may help to make you stronger and fitter.
Important Things to Keep In Mind:
- Start low and slow. Start with a few minutes a day with one of the recommended exercises and stick with it. Over time, gradually increase the amount of time and intensity.
- Don’t push yourself too much. If you overexert yourself, you may do more harm than good. Even if you feel great and want to do more in the moment, you could feel the pain and soreness the next day.
- Pace yourself. If your physical ability is limited one day, don’t overcompensate by overdoing it the next day when you feel more up for it. Find a balance of short periods of activity and rest that works for you.
- Be patient. Anyone starting an exercise routine can expect to experience some soreness in the beginning. If you continue at a pace that suits your capabilities, this may subside over time.
- Stretch. Warm up your muscles before and after each exercise session.
- Set goals and track your progress.
- Setting realistic goals in partnership with your healthcare provider will help you to stay motivated. And, by tracking your progress, you’ll be able to see the effect that physical activity may have on your fibromyalgia pain.
- Recognize your barriers. Understanding and anticipating the things that could stand between you and your physical activity can help you find ways to address and plan around them. If you don’t have access to a gym, can you exercise at home or outside? If you exercise outside, can you walk in the mall if the weather is bad?
- Get support. Starting and maintaining an exercise routine is easier with support from your family and friends. Connect with other people who have fibromyalgia in your local community or online; discuss your activity goals and invite them to join you in your efforts. Keep your family involved as well.
- Keep at it. While it may be painful to exercise with fibromyalgia, try to stick to your routine so you can experience the benefits. Always listen to your body and tailor your activity based on how you feel.
In recent years, there has been progress in the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia. But there are still many aspects of fibromyalgia that are not understood. Because of the complexity of the condition, it can be difficult to diagnose.