Exercise and Fibromyalgia
Often the mere mention of exercise can make fibromyalgia sufferers cringe in pain. Many people with this illness find that any type of physical activity simply makes their muscles and joints too painful to cope with. However, exercise is an important component of a fibromyalgia treatment plan. Exercises actually helps to strengthen your muscles, prevent further injuries, and eventually, it will decrease your pain symptoms too. So if you have fibromyalgia, consider getting into an exercise program. Though it may be difficult at the beginning, you will soon find that the benefits of exercise are well worth it. Some people with fibromyalgia find it too difficult to exercise, while others believe that some exercise can be detrimental. Be aware of this and consult your physician before you take on an exercise program.
Exercise – It’s Good For You!
Many chronic pain sufferers wonder how exercise could possibly make their illness any better. It hurts to work out, it hurts to stretch – for some people it even hurts to get out of bed in the morning. If you are suffering from fibromyalgia it may seem like the best choice is just to avoid exercise of any kind. But in fact, if you are avoiding exercise, you couldn’t be making a bigger mistake.
Many fibromyalgia patients haven’t exercised since their pain symptoms began. As a result, any type of exercise will cause lots of pain, stress, and stiffness. The natural response to this is to stop exercising. But this will actually decrease your pain threshold and cause your muscles to weaken even more. As a result, you will actually feel stiffer in the mornings, suffer from increased pain symptoms, and may even have problems functioning independently.
A regular exercise routine will actually help you to increase your muscle strength, decrease your muscle pain, and it might even make it easier to get to sleep at night. Consistent exercise will help your body to repair itself, and may prevent further injuries to your muscles. Over time, you will find that exercise will gradually aid you in becoming more independent and active.
Added Benefits of Exercise
Besides helping to improve your muscle strength and decrease your pain symptoms, exercise can also provide numerous other benefits, including:
- decreased cholesterol
- decreased risk of heart disease
- decreased risk of diabetes
- increased energy
- better mood
- less stress
- increased sense of well-being
What Your Exercise Routine Should Include
If you have fibromyalgia, you will benefit the most from exercises that work all your muscle groups. You want to target the stiffness and limited motion that your muscles now have. There are three essential parts to every fibromyalgia exercise plan:
Stretching is essential to every sufferer of fibromyalgia. Because your muscles can become so stiff and weak, you need to move them every day in order to get a better range of motion and increased comfort. Daily exercise in the form of stretching will condition your muscles and help to reduce your pain. Even better, stretching can be done anywhere at anytime and it doesn’t cost anything. Try yoga exercises or pilates exercises to liven up your stretching routine.
When you are just starting up a stretching routine, remember to take it slowly. Only do a few stretches a day and don’t hold these stretches for any longer than 3 seconds. Over time, gradually work up to 10 repetitions of each stretch, 2 to 3 times a day. And remember – only hold a stretch to the point of tightness, never to the point where you begin to feel pain.
Aerobic conditioning is another essential component of any fibromyalgia exercise routine. Aerobics help to get the heart pumping and blood circulating, restoring function to all parts of the body. It also helps to reduce your heart rate and increase your energy. Aerobic exercise stimulates our body to produce endorphins, which are natural painkillers. After activity, these natural painkillers will actually help to reduce the stress and strain in your muscles and improve your mood.
Aerobic workouts should always be low-impact; that is, they should not exert too much stress on the muscles or joints. Good low-impact aerobics include walking, cycling, water exercises, and dancing. When you first start out, begin slowly – you don’t want to overdo it. Aim for ten minutes of exercise for the first week or so. Gradually increase your aerobic exercise until you can exercise 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week. Always alternate your exercise days, taking a day off in between.
Strength training may seem like its for bodybuilders, but anyone can do it (and you won’t end up looking like He-Man)! Strength conditioning will help your muscles get used to activity again and build up their tolerance to pain. It will also help you get back that range of motion which fibromyalgia may have taken away from you.
When you begin strength training, use the lightest weights possible, even if its just a two pound weight. Begin with a few exercises and gradually work you way up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions. If you don’t like the idea of lifting weights, try exercise bands. These elastic, stretchy bands have the same effect on your muscles, but won’t cause so much strain to lift.
Tips to Stay Motivated
Exercise can be a difficult thing for anyone to stick to, but if you are suffering from fibromyalgia it can be even harder. Here are some tips to help you stay on task:
- Don’t push too hard at the beginning. This may cause severe stress on your muscles and get you down emotionally. Take it one step at a time.
- Set small goals. Gradually increase the time you exercise, even if it’s only by a minute each session. These goals will be easier to achieve.
- Keep track of your progress. This way you will be able to see exactly how far you’ve come.
- If you miss a day, let it go. Just stick to the schedule for the rest of the week.
- Exercise with a friend. Everything seems easier and more attainable if you have a friend by your side!