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14. Fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.  Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.                                                                                                               

If you have fibromyalgia, you know what it’s like to live with the chronic pain and stiffness it can cause.  And while medication and therapy are key to controlling symptoms, incorporating physical activity can improve your quality of life dramatically.  Exercise can decrease your pain, help you sleep better and reduce your need for pain medications, as well as improve your mood.  Here are a few fibro-friendly workouts:

1 Walking

It is an excellent form of light aerobic exercise, which provides many benefits.  It brings oxygen to your muscles to help keep them healthy, helps to increase stamina, increases energy, and reduces stiffness and pain.  In fact, research has shown that low-impact aerobics is most effective for improving fibromyalgia symptoms.  Other effective forms of aerobic exercise includes bicycling, swimming and water aerobics in a warm pool.

Tip Research has shown that breaking your workout into shorter chunks provides the same health benefits as performing a longer workout.  Which for people with fibromyalgia is best.  If your goal is to walk for 30 minutes, start with three 10 minute walks a day. 

2.  Stretching

You should stretch at least once a day to help increase flexibility, loosen tight, stiff muscles, and to improve range of motion-the combination of which will help ease everyday movements.  Stretching during workouts may also help you to tolerate training better.

Tip The best time to stretch is after some form of light warm-up exercise, you could hurt yourself trying to stretch cold muscles.  You want to feel a slight stretch in the muscle, then hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a full minute for the most benefit.

3. Strength Training

You should use light weights, and lift slowly and precisely to improve tone and make muscles stronger.  Stronger muscles use less effort than weaker ones, which may leave them less fatigued.  Studies  show that strength  training can help treat depression.  You want to work out each major area two to three times per week, with at least a 1 day break in between.  Start with a weight you can comfortably lift for  eight repititions , then gradually work up to 10 to 12 reps. When you can lift the weight 12 times, two sessions in a row, you are ready to increase the weight slightly.

Tip Shorten the range of motion. Sometimes going too far in the range can cause discomfort and make pain worse for people with fibromyalgia.

4. Yoga

Hatha yoga is a more gentle combination of postures, breathing, and meditation  

Which reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain in women with fibromyalgia, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Pain Research.  Participants reported significantly less pain; and they were more accepting of their condition and felt less helpless.  Yoga also helps build endurance and energy and improves sleep and concentration.  Tai chi, where you slowly and gracefully perform a series of movements, has also been shown to help relieve fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms.

Tip  Modify moves to reduce stress.  If a certain posture hurts , you can change it to still get the benefits with less pain.  It’s important to find an instructor who understands your needs-ask your physical therapist or doctor for recommendations.

5. Everyday Activities

Believe it or not! Studies have shown that playing with your kids, mopping the floors, gardening, and other things you do in daily life count toward increasing fitness and reducing symptoms.

Tip  Plan your day to better manage pain.  Spread out your chores throughout the day, doing the tougher ones in the morning.  And give yourself a break, when you need a rest take it.

As with any exercise plan, check with your doctor before beginning any program.

Written by Sally Bachman, PTA

Published October 2011

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