Physical Activity To Ease Fibromyalgia Pain

Updated: Sep 27

Fibromyalgia is one of the more difficult chronic pain syndromes to treat. It requires a holistic approach that includes medications, a better diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes to feel better.

More than ten million US adults, mostly women, suffer from this disease and are looking for answers to how to deal with the daily onslaught of chronic pain, and short bursts of physical activity may be the answer.

A new research study

Because those with fibromyalgia often suffer from pain, they may feel that exercise is the last thing they want to do. However, a recent research study indicated that fibromyalgia patients who engaged in short bursts of physical activity felt better and function better in their daily lives. The findings of the study were published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.

According to the research, short bursts of activity, lasting less than ten minutes or less at a time but have some degree of intensity, can improve cardiovascular health and pain perception in those who regularly practice this daily. The study used “lifestyle physical activity.”

Woman slowly walking up stairs

What is lifestyle physical activity?

Participation in lifestyle physical activity refers to having the fibromyalgia patient find ways to add short intensive bursts of physical activity as part of their daily activities. This can involve incorporating many different activities, including walking long distances, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, gardening outdoors, or doing any activity that allows the person living with fibromyalgia to get more movement into their lives. Many researchers believe that engaging in these short bursts of exercise is just as effective in reducing pain as when the exercise involves doing thirty minutes of exercise in a row.

Researchers believe that no particular exercise stands out as superior to any other type of exercise for fibromyalgia patients, partly because fibromyalgia patients vary in their symptoms. For example, some fibromyalgia patients can tolerate extra walking, while others feel more comfortable doing bicycling or water aerobics.

Young women stretching with online lesson

The results of the study

The study was undertaken over a twelve-week period of time and involved studying 84 people with fibromyalgia. The study participants were told to incorporate thirty minutes of lifestyle exercise as part of the week for 5 to 7 days. In addition, the study participants were matched against control patients that only took part in an educational program about fibromyalgia.

The treatment group that was instructed in lifestyle exercises took 54 percent more steps during the course of the day when compared to the control group that only received education on how important exercise is to fibromyalgia but wasn’t given any particular recommendations about how to exercise or what exercises to do.

Those instructed particularly in lifestyle physical activity told the researchers that they had fewer physical functioning deficits and decreased pain than the control group, who did not receive special exercise training.

According to the researchers, fibromyalgia patients should try to do more physical activity as part of their daily exercises. However, physical activity duration doesn’t have to be significant, which is good because fibromyalgia patients have very little stamina, especially when starting an exercise program.

These short bursts of activity seem to be as effective or better than traditional forms of exercise, such as bicycling, walking, running, or swimming for a consecutive thirty minutes each day. According to the research, it is unnecessary to do more traditional forms of exercise to become motivated to exercise. The thought of doing a full thirty minutes of exercise can often be daunting for someone who has fibromyalgia. Instead, doing short bursts of exercise that don’t take very long can be a better motivator to do something physical to relieve the pain.

The final point

It is best for anyone who has fibromyalgia to choose an exercise they enjoy, and one that they can stick with that doesn’t cause a worsening of their symptoms. However, in the end, the idea is to physically move every day and move throughout the day, even if it is to choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Programs that can help:

Read Next - 12 Essential Tips For Coping With Fibromyalgia.