Fatigue, Pain, Disrupted Sleep and Depression
Sufferers of fibromyalgia know all too well the statistics:
- 35% reported having trouble with daily activities
- 55% had difficulty walking two blocks
- 62% had trouble climbing stairs
- 66% reported having trouble with shopping, light household chores, or carrying light groceries
Symptoms and fears associated with fibromyalgia include (source: Smith & Barkin, 2010, Bennett et al. 2007, Lawrence et al. 2008):
- Psychological: anger, anxiety, frustration, guild, fear, stress
- Neurological: headaches, restless leg syndrome, nerve dysfunction
- Urinary: increase in frequency, incontinence
- Gastrointestinal: constipation, bloating, reflux
- Miscellaneous: stiffness, deconditioning, weight gain, impaired concentration, family dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, difficulty engaging in normal daily activities
Research indicates that light exercise can be beneficial to the individual with fibromyalgia. Regular aerobic exercise may be most beneficial because of the circulatory benefits, which increases blood vessel formation, lowers resting blood pressure, and improves circulation and the flow of oxygen to the muscles. Improved blood supply to the muscle helps remove metabolic byproducts (toxins) that lead to pain and discomfort. Light resistance training helps by increasing muscular contractions, which further move the blood throughout the body. Additionally, water exercise, especially that done in warmer water has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia, as it provides both aerobic exercise and light resistance training.
Additionally, avoiding stress is desirable for the fibromyalgia sufferer, as stress only compounds the symptoms. Yoga, Tai Chi and other mind-body techniques for gentle movement and relaxation have been shown to reduce pain and stress.
Exercise is hard for individuals with fibromyalgia, because setbacks are common, so consulting with a professional is important. A light, progressive program is recommended. Light (easy) aerobic exercise such as water exercise, walking and/or riding a bike for 30-60 minutes 2-3 times a week may lessen pain, improve mental health and reduce depression.