A Powerful Therapeutic Duo

Knowledge is Power

We know that knowledge is power, so it makes sense that fibromyalgia patients benefit from learning about their condition. We also know that exercise is important to our overall health. However, we don't often realize that these good things that we do for ourselves don't necessarily work in a vacuum. Sometimes beneficial therapies work best in tandem. A recent study showed that exercise such as stretching, weight lifting, and power walking, alleviates more symptoms in women with fibromyalgia when accompanied by information on managing the course of the disease.

The Woman's Disease

Often known as a woman's disease, fibromyalgia affects around 3.4% of American women as compared to 0.5% of American men. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia comes after having experienced chronic body pain for a minimum of 3 months along with exhibiting specific tender spots. Not much is understood about the cause or the mechanism of the condition.

Though the FDA has pushed to approve drugs such as pregabalin, such drug therapies are not able to bring about, on their own, significant improvement in the condition of those with fibromyalgia. That's cause enough to look for other therapeutic means that can be used together with medication to better the quality of life for those who suffer from the condition.

Daniel S. Rooks, Sc.D., of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc., Cambridge, Mass, and the Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, along with his colleagues, completed a study that included 207 women treated with fibromyalgia medication between 2002 and 2004.

The women were split into four groups: 51 women did both aerobic and stretching exercises, 51 added weight lifting to this regimen, 50 were given a course on how to manage fibromyalgia, and the final group of 55 women did it all; all of the exercise plus the management course. The women in the exercise groups met twice a week, working toward a slow increase in the duration and level of the workouts and were told to add a third day of exercise to be done on their own. All the groups met for a total of 16 weeks.

Out of the 207 women, 135 managed to complete the work of the study, undergoing as well, an evaluation 6 months later. At the 6 month evaluation, the women completed two questionnaires relating to self-assessment and were given a performance test. The best results were seen in the women who had participated in all the exercise forms on offer along with attending the management course. "Social function, mental health, fatigue, depression and self-efficacy also improved," commented Rooks, "The beneficial effect on physical function of exercise alone and in combination with education persisted at six months."

Rooks says these findings suggest a need for professionals to prescribe for their patients both an exercise program and appropriate educational venues where fibromyalgia sufferers can learn how best to manage their condition.

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