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Overview of Exercise and Fibromyalgia


There is evidence to suggest that exercise is an important strategy for managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Although most persons with FM describe themselves as "exercise intolerant," that is, they report no noticeable improvement in symptoms following exercise, some find that exercise greatly reduces their pain. In particular, aerobic exercise is an effective way for many individuals with FM to manage or reduce their symptoms and prevent decline in muscle strength and endurance and cardiovascular function. Other documented benefits include:
  • Relieving much, if not all, physical pain
  • Reducing physical impairment and recovering function
  • Improving flexibility
  • Improving weight control
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving energy levels
  • Reducing stress and depression
  • Improving self-efficacy, some feeling of control over one's care, and overall feelings of well-being

It appears that muscle deconditioning occurs when people with FM neglect exercise in order to avoid pain. Deconditioned muscles use excess energy to accomplish tasks. This may contribute to more fatigue and make the muscles more susceptible to microtrauma, thus aggravating pain with only a low intensity of exertion. This cyclical process leads to atrophy (wasting) and greater effort performing various activities. Exercise can help to counteract this deconditioned state by improving oxygen delivery, increasing cellular metabolism, reducing muscle tightness, and eventually relieving pain to some degree. An important benefit during aerobic exercise is that muscle temperatures rise and this may possibly lead to greater relaxation.


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