Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition associated with tight, sore muscles but no one REALLY knows where FM comes from or why it picks on certain people and not others. Some feel it is caused by a lack of sleep, specifically deep sleep, eventually resulting in chronically tight muscles. Either way, tight muscles lead to poor blood flow through the muscle, and just like pumping up a blood pressure cuff too high and not releasing the tourniquet effect quick enough, pain results when the muscle is starved from lack of oxygen. Dr. Doris Cope, MD, director of Pain Management at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, wrote that many people (especially FM patients) tense their muscles and probably don’t even realize it, which reduces blood flow to the muscles, resulting in pain. So, the question is raised, how can the FM patient get their muscles to relax so blood can flow through, bringing in the necessary amount of oxygen to the muscle so it doesn’t’ hurt?
One method of muscle relaxation is exercise. When the pulse rate increases, more blood reaches the muscle, which reduces pain. The studies are clear that walking, stretching, and strength training all help reduce fibromyalgia pain. Exercise also relieves fatigue, helps sleep quality, and reduces depression – WHAT A GREAT ANSWER for the FM patient! The key is finding the right slow combination of exercises and how much should one do. Our advice is to START SLOW and gradually increase the dose once you’ve proven good tolerance to the last workout session. Consider flexibility exercises (stretching) such as yoga classes, walking around the block, or even playing golf (initially a few holes, then 9 and eventually a full round).
Many FM patients have found water exercises are uniquely helpful because of the weight reduction or buoyancy effect. This is especially true for the overweight FM patient as land-based exercises may be too traumatic on the feet/ankles, knees, hips, or low back. Also, warm water can be quite comforting. Another nice advantage of water exercises is that you can do these anywhere, as long as there is a pool! The exercises can be taught in a formal water exercise class, which is a good place to start if one is available locally or through a health care service. Studies from Spain report that water exercises improve the FM patient’s quality of life not just for the moment, but also over the long term! Over a 12-week timeframe, they discovered women who exercised in warm water for 60 minutes, 3 times per week improved both mentally and physically, had less FM related pain, and more energy (“vitality”). They reported less depression and found an improved desire to be sociable. The KEY for exercise to be successful is to increase the pulse rate. As Dr. Cope pointed out, a 20-minute, four times per week workout can make a big difference.
If you, a friend, or a family member requires care for FM, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services.