Beneficial Types of Exercises for Fibromyalgia

Beneficial exercises for fibromyalgia can ease the pain and suffering experienced by many people diagnosed with this chronic condition.[1] Many fibromyalgia patients do not exercise for fear of increasing their pain and other symptoms. In truth, research shows that patients who do not exercise can actually experience increased pain levels. A lack of exercise can also increase fatigue levels and other symptoms common to fibromyalgia. Many doctors now see exercise as one of the primary treatment options for patients with fibromyalgia.

A Vicious Cycle

Fibromyalgia patients often become caught in a vicious cycle when it comes to exercise. Due to the pain they are already experiencing, patients with this chronic disease are inclined to live a very sedentary life. As such, their bodies are out of condition. Their muscles and joints are not stretched and often cannot support their body.

The sedentary lifestyle of the fibromyalgia patient, and the ensuing lack of muscle tone and support for joints, adds to the pain that already exists. Fibromyalgia patients often will not have good flexibility or range of motion.

Once a patient with fibromyalgia becomes stuck in this sedentary lifestyle it is difficult to break the cycle – the original widespread pain leading to lack of exercise leads to even more pain and problems.

Gentle stretches and exercises can help get you back on the right path. You can begin to stretch muscles and joints that you may think have become ’frozen’ due to your disease with a few simple stretches. Theses stretches can lead to more exercises that will eventually help relieve the pain and many other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Warming Up

All athletes warm up before they exercise, and it is imperative that you follow this same rule. Warming up prevents injuries and helps stretch your muscles and joints.

If you are just beginning an exercise regimen, simple warm up stretches may be all that you need to do. As you feel more confident, and your body begins to respond to the warm ups, you can add other exercises to your plan such as walking.

Start your warm ups with moderate rotations of your joints. You can start at the bottom – at your toes – and work your way to your neck. Move your joints in a slow clockwise, and then counter-clockwise motion. You can include ankles, knees, fingers – all of your joints in these warm ups.

Stretches. Stretches are another way to warm up your joints and muscles. They are highly recommended for fibromyalgia patients. These types of exercises can increase your flexibility and your range of motion. If you are just beginning to exercise, stretches are an excellent idea.

Strengthening Exercises

Research shows that in addition to stretching, fibromyalgia patients need to strengthen their muscles.[2] Strengthening exercises are shown to help relieve pain and many other symptoms of this chronic disease, including depression.[3]

Some of these types of exercises utilize free weights. The focus of these types of exercises is the range of motion you will use while completing the exercise, not the weight itself. Free weights you can use include hand weights, elastic bands, and resistance machines.

Isometrics

Isometrics are another of the beneficial exercises for fibromyalgia. Some fibromyalgia patients find they cannot complete strength training exercises because it’s simply too painful. In order to still improve their muscles and help decrease pain isometric exercises offer an alternative.

Isometric exercises require you to isolate muscles and ‘freeze’ them for a period of time. You are actually tensing the muscle while not visibly moving. For example, to isolate your shoulders, stand with your back pressed against the wall. Place your arms to your sides, also against the wall. While holding your arms straight, push your arms back into the wall and hold the isolated move for five seconds. This exercise can be repeated ten times.

Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi

Yoga offers fibromyalgia patients an excellent way to involve exercise in their life. It includes stretching, exercise, and even meditation. For fibro patients, this type of exercise covers all the bases.

Yoga poses, called asanas, can lead to a decrease in fibromyalgia pain while the meditation exercises, or the dhyanas, can help with focus. If you experience the fibromyalgia fog common to most patients, you will enjoy the concentration exercises known as the dharanas.

There are several types of yoga. You will have to decide if you want to practice a gentle form of yoga such as Viniyoga which focuses on stretching and breathing or a more intense form of yoga.

Not a form of yoga, but considered a great natural healing method for fibromyalgia patients, is qigong. This type of exercise is sometimes known as the ‘mother of Chinese Healing’. It is an amalgamation of breathing exercises, exercises and movement, meditation, and sometimes dances. It is known to give practitioners more energy while it lowers fatigue levels and pain levels.

Tai Chi is another natural exercise that improves flexibility. It focuses on relaxation. Tai Chi is perfect for fibromyalgia patients because it involves movements that are slow and fluid, focusing on a full range of motion. There are no jerky or forceful motions with this form of exercise.

Get Moving

Whether you choose to join a gym, hire a trainer, or work out at home, the main thing is to get moving. With studies showing that exercise is beneficial to fibro patients, you can choose from a wide range of gentle exercises to help decrease your pain and relieve other fibromyalgia symptoms. For example, simple aerobic exercises, such as walking or swimming, have been studied by researchers and are shown to help a patient’s physical function, distress, and other symptoms.[4]

Break the vicious cycle right now. Begin your exercise program with warm ups and move on to other, more strenuous exercises as your body allows.

References

[1]  Martin, L. N. (2006). An Exercise Program in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia. Journal of Reumatology , 1050-3.

[2]  Jones, K. B. (2002). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Muscle Strengthening verus Flexibility Training in Fibromyalgia. The Journal of Rheumatology , 1041-48.

[3] ibid

[4]  Mannerkorpi, K. (2005). Exercise in Fibromyalgia. Current Opinion in Rheumatology , 190-4.

This article was originally published on July 11, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/7/2015