Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a pain-fatigue syndrome that affects up to 4 percent of the population aged 20-60, and 80 percent of those diagnosed with the syndrome are women, according to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics. People affected by it are typically dealing with both physical and psychological pain. Feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration and guilt ("Why me?") are coupled with chronic pain, fatigue, headaches and nerve dysfunction. Other symptoms may include restless leg syndrome, morning stiffness, temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJ), impaired concentration and sensitivity in various "tender points."
As you would expect, these symptoms can take a severe toll in many ways. Those who are affected often find it difficult just carrying out their daily routines. Among FMS patients who were surveyed in a 2007 study:
- 35 percent reported having difficulty performing normal daily activities of daily living.
- 55 percent had difficulty walking two blocks.
- 62 percent had trouble climbing stairs.
- Two-thirds or more had difficulty with the minor tasks of shopping (66 percent), light household chores (68 percent) and carrying 10 pounds (70 percent).
The underlying cause of fibromyalgia is still being figured out. Exploring the details of the history or current research regarding its cause is beyond the scope of this article. However, it is noteworthy that research has shown that exercise is not only beneficial to treating those with FMS, but should be a central component to treating it.
According to a 1999 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 49 studies showed that drug-free treatments are more effective than drug treatments for the symptoms of fibromyalgia and assert that exercise is central to the treatment of fibromyalgia. And even more recently, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reported in 2011 that, "Research has repeatedly shown that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia."
Then the question is, what modes of exercise are the best?
Research has shown significant benefits with the following activities:
- Walking daily at a moderate pace.
- Deep water running or a water aerobic regimen three to five days a week for 45 minutes.
- Cycling at 70 percent to 75 percent of the predicted maximum for your age.
- Resistance training two to three days per week at intensities taking 8-12 repetitions to become fatigued.
- Mind-body approaches such as yoga, pilates, breathing exercises and whole-body vibration training.
Now studies have shown that it is important to start slow and participate in mild workouts when first starting out. From there, gradual progressions can be made. You will want to avoid intense, fatiguing exercises because it will enhance the buildup and overproduction of metabolic byproducts like lactic acid, which can actually make symptoms much worse. In fact, 70 percent of the surveyed patients in 2007 reported that strenuous physical activity is a prime aggravator for their symptoms.
So when first starting out it is recommended to:
- Begin with one mode of exercise; walking is the most common.
- Exercise intensity should be self-determined.
- Incorporate one to two days of rest in between workouts when needed.
- Develop good sleep habits and eating patterns
- As symptoms and endurance improve, slowly begin to introduce an additional activity.
- Try a variety of each of the activities listed to help you decide which ones are the most effective.
Every FMS case is different and should be treated on an individual basis. Work under the supervision of your health care professional to determine the best modes of activities to include and reap the medicinal benefits of exercise.
Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 15 years experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.championfit.net.