Fibromyalgia Can Ease Chronic Pain

Category: Fibromyalgia (FMS) Published on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 Written by Yong Tsai, MD

Fibromyalgia, which stands for: fibro - fibrous tissues (such as tendons and ligaments), myo - muscles and algia - pain, has been shown to affect about five million Americans, thanks to recent studies. Unfortunately, despite continual research, its exact cause remains unknown.

The major symptoms of fibromyalgia are chronic widespread body pain, restless sleep and fatigue. Because of this general ill feeling, patients reduce their exercise and become out of shape, which eventually leads to increased pain, fatigue and weight gain.

On a good note, recent studies have proven that patients with fibromyalgia or other types of chronic pain who adopt a regular exercise regime experience less pain and fatigue than those who refrain from exercising.

For patients with fibromyalgia, the overall goal of an exercise program is to improve general fitness by increasing muscle strength, endurance and flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, all while improving emotional wellbeing and functional status. This can be attained with certain types of exercise in specific intensity, frequency, quantity, duration, and progression.

Because strength training, such as weight training, generally puts greater stress on muscles and their surrounding tissue, and requires longer periods of rest between exercises, it should be performed two to three times per week with 48-72 hours between sessions. However, cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, can be performed even daily along with flexibility exercises.

As a rule, an exercise program consists of a warm-up, an exercise, and a cool down period. For example, the first month of an exercise regime could include 5-10 minutes of walking, followed by 5-10 minutes of light strength training and 5-10 minutes of stretching and cooling down. People who are new to exercise, especially those with FMS, should keep an initial low impact pace, with a gradual increase in effort level over time.

On the flip side, exercising too much can aggravate FMS and induce a "failure cycle" in which the patient abandons their much-needed exercise. Excessive pain or fatigue lasting more than 24 hours is a clear sign that you over did it, which often requires a significant reduction in exercise intensity until the flare-up subsides. Furthermore, reducing the intensity and amount of exercise may help you stick with an exercise program.

I've often heard "I joined the gym to exercise, but I only feel worse. I've failed!" Unfortunately, the mere fact that it is not common for fitness trainers to know that FMS patients, despite looking healthy on the outside, cannot tolerate an average work-out, can actually be harmed by general exercise. The key is not only to exercise, but to implement an exercise regime tailor-made to you're your FMS needs with the help of your physician and/or a specialized trainer. Beware of the one-size-fits-all exercise plans.

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