Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects a significant amount of people and it is still widely misunderstood. In recent years, there has been more information available to patients and health care providers regarding treatment options which include medication, therapy, diet changes, and exercise. Fibromyalgia is characterized by a group of symptoms that include moderate to severe pain, stiffness, fatigue and localized tenderness. Therefore, exercise and increased physical activity are incorrectly thought by some patients to be counterproductive. It is important to understand that although it might be hard to initiate activity with fibromyalgia, a gentle exercise routine can be extremely beneficial in order to cope with fibromyalgia symptoms.
In general, gentle exercise provide a series of benefits that can lessen the pain and discomfort from muscle soreness, stiffness, and fatigue. Gentle and repetitive motion or light exercises increase circulation to a targeted area and therefore decrease pain and soreness. Also, stretching can alleviate the pain that results from stiffness due to decreased motion in specific joints and muscle tightness. In addition, exercise is a great way of fighting fatigue.
A gentle routine that includes slow and appropriate progression of physical activity and exercise not only helps increase tolerance for our daily activities, but also increases the production of endorphins in our body, which not only reduces pain, but also positively affects our energy levels and mood. Increased activity and exercise also influences our sleep, promoting better rest at night, which is crucial for our bodies to heal and recover from the demands of the day.
People with fibromyalgia might need guidance starting a new routine. General exercise guidelines can be applied, but it is important to adapt them to your specific tolerance level.
Warm up: Slow, gentle movements to reduce stiffness and increase blood flow should be performed at the beginning of the workout to prepare our body and avoid injuries.
Exercise: It can be a preferred physical activity such as walking, biking, swimming, or a gentle exercise routine that can be done at home. It should be tailored to specific needs and tolerance (and it should be enjoyable!)
Stretch. Stretch muscles worked and those that might still feel sore and tight, this will help relax your muscles, avoid injuries, and avoid increased soreness.
Managing fibromyalgia is an especially personal process. Initially, just a warm up might be enough to get a work out. The important thing is to learn how to maintain our body strength, to benefit as much as we can from physical activity, and keep moving! When we keep moving we avoid stiffness, we reduce fatigue, and we can maintain our body’s readiness to meet our daily demands. As long as we learn how to listen to our body and do it safely we can use exercise as a tool to manage fibromyalgia.