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Exercise Is Still the Best Treatment for Fibromyalgia

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Fibromyalgia is a chronic medical disorder characterized by extensive pain and diminished pain threshold. Moreover, these individuals are extremely sensitive to minor pain and often develop pain from stimuli that do not generally cause pain. Other associated clinical features include extreme fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, headache, alterations in bowel habits, migraine, abdominal cramps, and urinary frequency.

The true incidence of fibromyalgia in America is not known because many individuals remain under diagnosed. Clinical reports indicate that about 2% of women and 0.5% of men are affected. Although the cause of fibromyalgia remains a mystery, it does share a few clinical features with both irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Recently, a multidisciplinary task force of experts from several European countries reviewed the literature and presented recommendations for its management. The therapies recommended included customized exercise programs; cognitive-behavioral therapy; hydrotherapy; stress relaxation; physical rehabilitation; and drug therapy with tricyclic antidepressants, SNRIs, pregabalin and gabapentin.

These authors also looked at many drug and non-drug therapies. Although pregabalin is the only FDA approved treatment for fibromyalgia, they discovered that this medication often did not work and other medications were frequently substituted instead. Overall, the study concluded that no single agent or class of drugs is widely effective for fibromyalgia.

Because conventional medical therapy has been disappointing in treatment of fibromyalgia, many people have been turning towards complimentary alternative care. Fibromyalgia is more likely to be self-treated with such alternative care therapies than other rheumatological disorder. There are many types of alternative care therapies for fibromyalgia including prayer, massage, chiropractic treatment, vitamins, and minerals like magnesium. Other very popular therapies for fibromyalgia include mind-body techniques (biofeedback, hypnosis, and cognitive-behavioral therapy), manipulative therapies (chiropractic and massage therapy), and acupuncture. For each of these therapies there have been positive and negative reports published.

Overall, it appears that evidence of a significant beneficial effect of any of these therapies for fibromyalgia is still lacking. Moreover, these experts cautioned against the use of homeopathic treatment like ginkgo biloba, anthocyanins, Coenzyme Q and topical capsaicin. There have been very few well-conducted studies on these substances. Moreover, reports of contamination or counterfeit products continue to flood the health supplement industry.

Of all the therapies for fibromyalgia, only moderate exercise has been shown as having a consistent beneficial effect. Thus, exercise of any type is highly recommended for fibromyalgia–Moreover this therapy is free, devoid of side effects and is good for overall health.

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

To list "prayer" at the top of an "alternative treatment list is beyond belief. Don't get me wrong, I didn't say it didn't help some folks, but come on...why not add the name of the god we're all supposed to pray to?

February 16, 2011 - 9:12am
EmpowHER Guest

The only therapy that helps my wife is warm-water exercise. However, the therapy pool is out of the way and we don't go as often because of the energy it takes for her to get there. We're looking for @ home warm water, indoor pools, but none have the correct depth. Anyone know how to make a custom heated indoor pool?

November 9, 2010 - 12:42pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Have you checked out Endless Pools? My understanding is that they are fairly customizable, by yourself or their people. I looked at those long ago, and dreamed of having one. I'm not connected with the company or anything, just a fan of swimming and warm water exercise.

November 10, 2010 - 7:25am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Cary Cook BSN RN)

They were one of the first places we checked after seeing their ad in an MS Magazine. Unfortunately, the maximum depth of their pool is only 5' and we need 6'.

November 10, 2010 - 12:50pm
EmpowHER Guest

Exercise can make symptoms far worse and cause a flare up. This is not really good advice. One must be very careful. Pacing is a far more effective treatment in my opinion

November 8, 2010 - 12:37pm
(reply to Anonymous)

It is true that you have to pace yourself, but recent studies have shown that slowly and gradually increasing activity actually decreases symptoms. It is hard to start when you don't feel good, but even walking 5 minutes a day and increasing that amount of time little by little will help decrease symptoms in most people. I have experienced it myself.

Thank you for reading.

November 9, 2010 - 7:42am
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