EXERCISE AND FYBROMYALGIA
Living with fybromyalgia can be difficult and frustrating. Treatments include diet changes, medications, alternative treatments (like acupuncture), and physical exercise. I feel that a good combination of treatments is a balanced approach to successfully combat this condition. Among these, exercise is a must. No doubt it is not always easy to do with fybromyalgia. There are days where the exertion will aggravate symptoms and on good days, it is easy to overdue and pay the price the next day. However, the alternative is inactivity. This would prove disastrous.
The key is to exercise with intelligence. There is no one-size-fits-all exercise program for patients with fybromyalgia so you have got to be smart. Your doctor can be a big help with this. Together, explore the physical activities that make sense for you. Discuss how much, how often, and how intensely to do them. Here are some activities that may be on your list.
Although you may not be a water lover, you need to at least try water exercises. Water, especially warm water, is very therapeutic. Using water to exercise will not only help with pain and stiffness, but the therapeutic effects of water will also relieve anxiety and stress. Now you don’t have to do laps if that is not you. There are a lot of other workouts available. From aqua-aerobics to aqua relaxation therapies like yoga or tai chi, there is a work-out for you. Some spas and fitness centers even offer water-based line dancing, zumba, and hip-hop.
If the pool is not your thing, then consider low-impact exercise. There are many types of low-impact workouts available at fitness centers and on videos. Research suggests that cardio-based aerobic exercise can help lessen the symptoms of pain, stiffness, depression, and anxiety in fybromyalgia patients. If you like group sessions, join an exercise group at a fitness or recreation center. If you prefer to go solo, use a treadmill, elliptical machine, bicycle, or workout video. Always check with your doctor before you start an exercise program and keep the intensity mild to moderate. No aggressive workouts.
STRENGTH TRAINING EXERCISES
You don’t need to be a body builder to enjoy the benefits of strength training. Lifting light weights or other resistance-based strength training activities may improve fybromyalgia symptoms of pain, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Although few studies have been done about strength training and fybromyalgia, the health promises are there. An added benefit is the fact that strength training helps prevent muscle atrophy.
WALKING FOR FYBROMYALGIA
Walking is probably one of the easiest ways to exercise. Research suggests that mild to moderately intense walking may reduce fybromyalgia pain and fatigue as well as other forms of aerobic activity. But there are certain considerations you need to discuss with your doctor; how far, how fast, how often when first beginning. Start small and gradually build up to longer walks over time. How much you should do depends on several factors: your age, your fitness level, the severity of your symptoms, and whether the activity worsens the symptoms. Sometimes it is best to do several small walks instead of one long walk.
There is a dearth of studies on the effects of stretching and fybromyalgia. However, some findings on the stretching involved in physical therapy and yoga may help improve fybromyalgia symptoms like reducing overall stiffness, improving muscular flexibility, and enhancing well-being. Consider getting with a licensed physical therapist for stretching exercises that would be good for fybromyalgia patients.
WORK WITH A PHYSICAL THERAPIST
Perhaps you are new to exercise and are unsure of what exercises to do to help but not aggravate fybromyalgia symptoms. Ask your doctor to refer you to a licensed physical therapist who can guide you through some exercises to get you started. The advantage of using the physical therapist is that he or she is not a fitness trainer but a medically trained therapist. Working with this expert, you may avoid doing exercises or the intensity involved in doing them that will aggravate your symptoms. That is especially true if you have other physical issues to consider. In addition, some studies suggest that physical therapy helps improve flexibility and range of motion, promote well-being, and prevent muscle loss and weakness in patients with fybromyalgia.
TAI-CHI AND CHI-GONG (QIGONG)
Tai-chi and chi-gong are two ancient Chinese medicines that were developed centuries ago as techniques for enhancing the body’s vital life energy (chi) as a way to heal disease and increase well-being. They combine gentle martial-arts-type movement, postural exercises, breathing exercises, and mindfulness meditation. There needs to be more research on the effects of these exercises when it comes to fybromyalgia pain, but findings do suggest that these exercises may improve the ability to cope with fybro pain. Both exercises seem to also help with depression and anxiety, enhance balance, and improve body flexibility.
As with any treatment, you need to stick with your exercise program once you start. It may take several weeks before the benefits will be fully realized so be patient. Exercise needs to become a habit and activities usually take about 26-30 days to become habitual. If none of these exercises seem to work for you, check with your doctor to see what other options you have that can improve symptoms.