Although it might sound counter-intuitive, evidence shows that fibromyalgia patients can actually use low to moderate impact exercises like stretching and strength-training to reduce crippling pain, extreme fatigue, mood swings, and brain fog—all hallmark symptoms associated with the disease.
The key is consistency.
Any exertion that relies on flowing, gentle movements is recommended. This includes biking, swimming, yoga, tai chi, and a big favorite for many people, walking. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial arts practice that is likened to learning how to do dance, as there are set steps and patterns that must be studied.
As with many forms of exercise, one may experience an increase in bone mass, better posture, improvements in muscle strength, and a reduction in weight. Additionally, the intense muscle tenderness and stiffness associated with fibromyalgia can ease up if the proper exercises are executed on a regular basis.
When starting an exercise regime, keep goals to a minimum. Even just 3-5 minutes a day of simple activities can be a great start. For example, begin by holding your arms to your sides and making small, quick circular motions. Gradually expand the circle until your arms are making motions as wide as possible.
Next, put your hands on your hips, space your feet hip-length apart, and swing your hips. Extend the motion as far as possible. After 1 to 2 minutes, reach for your toes and hang with your head upside down for at least 10 seconds. This allows blood to flow easily to your head.
After stretching, test your energy levels and go for some aerobic exercise. Don't worry about getting your heart rate racing, the idea is to move your body steadily. Walking is an excellent choice and, if you can, step up the pace and exaggerate the natural swinging motion of your arms.
When strength and confidence return to the body, becoming slightly more rigorous in the approach to exercising may be in order. This may mean participating in yoga or tai chi classes or adding extra laps onto your swimming routine.
Remember that although the first few workouts may not feel so great, strength is building and the subsequent workouts should get easier. If this is not the case, cutting back, but not stopping your physical exertions is the answer.
Do not be tempted by caffeinated beverages to give that extra bit of inspiration you are looking for. The boost is only temporary and may cause your energy levels to decline sharply.
If you're looking for more specific advice on which exercises are right for you, contact a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Sometimes unhealthy weight gain occurs in patients with fibromyalgia, making exercise all the more important. Extra pounds can put undue strain on the body and further exacerbate pain.
Contact an acupuncturist today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
Source: Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Fibromyalgia: Does exercise help or hurt? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/in-depth/fibromyalgia-and-exercise/art-20093376
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.