When you’re in pain, exercising may be the last thing on your mind. But studies show that many people experience relief from fibromyalgia symptoms with regular exercise.
“Exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia,” says Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of anesthesiology and medicine at the University of Michigan. “It benefits all of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain, fatigue, and sleep problems (WebMD, Treating Fibromyalgia Pain).”
Here are the top 5 exercises to try today if you are suffering from fibromyalgia pain:
From restorative to Bikram, there is a style of yoga to fit your needs and abilities. Keys to success with practicing yoga:
- Take it easy. Remember that you may not be able to complete every pose to start. If you need to stop due to pain or fatigue, rest on your mat and come back when you are ready.
- Find a yoga instructor who monitors the class and adjusts the students when necessary.
- If utilizing yoga DVDs at home, look for videos targeted to audiences with pain or fibromyalgia.
- Don’t give up. If the first class you try doesn’t work for you, consider trying a class with another instructor or a different style. Some students love the pace of gentle yoga while others rely on the heat of Bikram yoga to relax wound-up muscles.
This mind-body discipline of slow-motion martial arts is the exercise answer for many patients of fibromyalgia. Many participants report better sleep, less pain, more energy, and better physical and mental health after taking just 12 weeks of tai chi classes (Chenchen Wang, MD, Tufts University School of Medicine).
Along with swimming, aqua aerobics classes are a great exercise option for fibro patients. The water supports sore joints and muscles, and protects participants from jarring, painful impact., while challenging muscles.
Originally designed to help in the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, Pilates has evolved to include sequences that can help relieve pain—particularly lower-back pain (Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation).
Tips for beginner Pilates students:
- Wear comfortable clothing that allows for full range of movement.
- Bring a towel for support during some exercises.
- Find an instructor certified in the Pilates method.
- Focus on your breath.
- Find a mat that is not too thick or too thin. A mat in a color you like may inspire you to practice more often.
With the aid of a home video or an online tool like the Mayo Clinic’s slideshow, moving through a simple succession of stretches can help with tightness and pain.
“Stretching and getting all your body parts moving in a full range of motion and working just a little bit against gravity is helpful,” says Dr. Perry Fine, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, in Salt Lake City.
Some patients report stretching in a hot shower, with a non-skid mat to prevent falls, is the best way to fall asleep at night. Others report a sense of “untwisting” their body with stretches.
The most important part of exercising to relieve fibromyalgia pain is to be easy on yourself. Moving at all may be very difficult at first, but with persistence it should become easier. The benefits in pain relief and energy gains will make exercising worthwhile.
Recent studies have shown whole body vibration therapy to help alleviate pain in fibromyalgia sufferers. Just as rubbing or massaging is a natural response to pain, vibaration, when set to a suitable frequency, massages and relaxes muscles.
“The vibration truly represents an analgesic effect,” says Dr. Roland Staud, a professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology in the University of Florida College of Medicine. “This is exciting because it is something that provides pain relief that is not associated with great cost.”
Find out more about the benefits of whole body vibration therapy.