How To Move Without Pain

Exercises for Fibromyalgia Sufferers

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 6 minutes to read

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Fibromyalgia – you’ve likely heard about it from commercials on television, but what exactly is it?  It’s actually more common than you probably realize.  In fact, it is a very common condition affecting your bones and muscles, second  only to osteoporosis.

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Fibromyalgia symptoms often mimic those of other conditions, making diagnosis difficult. Fibromyalgia symptoms can occur alone or along with other disorders, and determining the true cause of your symptoms is key to receiving proper treatment. 

Fibromyalgia has been linked to changes in how the brain and spinal cord process pain signals.  Diagnostic guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology now include widespread pain throughout your body for at least three months.

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Fibromyalgia can feel similar to osteoarthritis, tendonitis and bursitis, but rather than hurting in a specific spot; fibromyalgia causes pain and stiffness throughout the body. 

Other fibromyalgia symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth, nose, and eyes
  • Sensitivity to cold, heat, light, or sound
  • Abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Increased urination frequency
  • Numbness or tingling in your face, arms, hands, legs, or feet

While daily activities and exercise can be difficult due to the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia, research has shown that regular aerobic exercise improves pain, function and overall quality of life.

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What types of exercise should you do with Fibromyalgia?

Aquatic Exercise: Exercising in warm water can also help relax your muscles and reduce pain.  Many people find water exercise to be easier on their joints because the buoyancy of the pool water reduces weight-bearing stress and the warmth can reduce muscle aches. 

Stretching Exercises. Stretching exercises can reduce muscle stiffness and improve joint range of motion. They can be a good way to start and end your exercise routine, to help prevent strain injuries.  Yoga and tai chi are practices that combine slow movements, deep breathing and promote relaxation and flexibility.

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Strengthening exercises. Strengthening muscles help support your joints and can help reduce fatigue. Using weights or resistance bands to improve muscle strength can also improve endurance, function, and activity tolerance to everyday activities. 

Aerobic exercises. Low-impact aerobic exercises can increase stamina and cardiovascular health.  Fast walking, biking, recumbent stepper, or swimming are options to improve breathing and heart rate.

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Fibromyalgia syndrome affects the muscles and soft tissue causing reluctance to activity, often because of fear that the pain could be made worse. But starting low and going slow helps keep symptoms from flaring up.  If you need help getting started with an exercise routine or advice on what kind of exercise is best for you, talk to your doctor about setting up a physical therapy consult.

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*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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