Exercise is an important and necessary part of any fibromyalgia treatment program. Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes widespread pain, persistent fatigue, and a number of other debilitating symptoms. Though exercise can be difficult and painful for those suffering with fibromyalgia, it is an excellent way to increase muscle strength while decreasing muscle pain and stiffness.
If you are thinking about incorporating an exercise routine into your fibromyalgia treatment plan, stretching is an excellent way to begin improving both your symptoms and endurance levels. This article will provide with some of the basic information that you will need to know before you begin to stretch those muscles!
How Does Stretching Benefit Fibromyalgia Sufferers?
Stretching is one of the best forms of exercise that someone with fibromyalgia can do. But maybe you need some reasons to stretch to get you motivated. Here are some of the many benefits of basic stretches:
- Stretches help to elongate your muscles, helping to release stiffness and pain.
- Simple stretching exercises increase your flexibility, allowing you to get the full range of motion in all of your joints. This will help with your daily activities, including shopping, driving, cleaning, and cooking.
- Stretching will provide you with some much-needed time to relax, practice meditation, or just get reacquainted with yourself.
- If you suffer from disordered sleeping, a daily stretching routine may help you to fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night.
Types of Stretching
Though you may not realize it, there are actually many ways to stretch. Some forms are not suited to those suffering from fibromyalgia, as they put too much stress on the muscles and joints. Be sure to choose a stretching form that is recommended by your health care provider. Here are some popular forms of stretching to relieve fibromyalgia-related symptoms:
Passive stretching is probably the type of stretching that you are most familiar with. This is the type of stretching that most people do when warming up or cooling down from an aerobic exercise. Passive stretching is also known as relaxed stretching, because you are in a relatively relaxed position when carrying out the exercises. During passive stretching, you stand or sit in a relaxed position. Using your arms or some other part of your body, hold the position for at least 10 seconds. Passive stretching is an excellent way to get rid of those troublesome muscle spasms caused by fibromyalgia.
Isometric stretching is also a relaxed form of stretching. It involves no motion – instead, you clench a muscle in order to strengthen it. For example, if you wish to do an isometric leg stretch, don’t move your leg - just clench the thigh or calf muscle. After holding for a few seconds, relax the muscle again. These are easy exercises to do and can be done at home or at work. Isometric stretching is also a great way to increase your muscle strength and stamina.
Active stretching is a little bit more challenging for most fibromyalgia sufferers. However, if you work your way up to it, active stretching can really increase your flexibility and muscle strength. Assume a stretch and hold that body part using nothing but the strength of your muscles. For example, bring your knee to your chest and hold it there, without using your hands for assistance. Active stretches only need to be held for about 10 seconds.
Dynamic stretching involves moving your body slowly, so that your joint has reached its full range of motion. For example, extending your leg out in front of you as far as it will go is a dynamic stretch. It is very important that you do not bounce or violently swing your body in order to reach your full range of motion – this can cause serious damage to your joints. Instead, carefully lift the body part you are stretching until it can’t move any more. Always take your time when you are practicing dynamic stretching and if you can’t reach your full range of movement, don’t force yourself.
Tips for Good Stretching
When you are stretching, keep these tips in mind so that you always have a fun, enjoyable and safe experience:
- Warm up before you start stretching. Take a bath or shower, or go for a quick walk around the house to get your muscles ready.
- Never hold a stretch to the point of pain. Good stretches only go to the point where you feel some resistance in your muscles.
- While you stretch, focus on your breathing. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth.
- Start your stretching routine slowly. Start with 1 repetition of each exercise, and gradually work up to five or more repetitions.
- If a certain muscle is sore, do fewer repetitions of that stretch, or hold the stretch for a shorter amount of time. This will prevent injury.
- If you are particularly stiff, try stretching in warm water. The warm water will help to relax your muscles, making the stretch less painful to hold.
- If you are having trouble holding your stretches, ask a friend to help you out. Assisted stretching is just as beneficial as self stretching.
- Try a stretching class. Yoga stretches can help restore your flexibility and strength as well as reduce your stress levels.