According to Doris Cope, MD, director of Pain Management at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, “Clenching is an involuntary reaction to stress. People tense their muscles, and probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. That reduces blood flow to the muscles, which causes pain.”
That might explain why having a very stressful lifestyle added to too much time on the couch is a double fisted hit for people who suffer with fibromyalgia. Without enough exercise, blood flow to the muscles is slowed and pain from fibromyalgia becomes worse.
Raise Your Heart Rate – Ease Pain
Raising the level of your pulse is a great remedy for muscle pain. Cope says, “Running, walking, having sex with your husband — these increase your pulse rate so you’re getting more blood to muscles. That will reduce pain in muscles. The worst thing (for pain) is to lie there, because then it will only hurt more.” Studies have shown that exercise and stretching are great aids in controlling pain from fibromyalgia and for managing muscle tenderness. With as little as three exercise sessions per week, a person can see improvements in the quality of their lives.
Water Therapy for Fibromyalgia
Perhaps the easiest of all exercises for people with fibromyalgia to do is water aerobics. Because many people with fibromyalgia also struggle with weight issues – a result of pain causing immobility – water therapy is a great place to start working out. Warm water has a tendency to be comforting and it helps to get the blood flowing to the muscles and tendons. The buoyancy of water takes stress off joints, so the pain is decreased appreciably and the effects of gravity are decreased, so it requires less effort to move. Since water offers resistance, muscles will get stronger and balance will be enhanced by working out in water.
And You Don’t Even Have to Know How to Swim
One of the beauties of water aerobics is that you don’t have to know how to swim to participate. Some classes take place in the shallow end of the pool and in others provide floatation devices while in deeper water. It is important to work together with your doctor or a therapist in order to get recommendations for workouts. Beginning slowly, at perhaps 20 to 30 minutes per session, will help you gradually build up stamina for longer sessions. Know your boundaries and limitations, if you’re feeling tired then just stop and relax for a few minutes. Don’t push your way through pain – listen to your body and honor where you are in terms of strength and fitness.
The Studies Prove It
A 2006 study in Brazil studied the effects of deep water running on fibromyalgia patients and how they were affected both mentally and physically. In Spain, researchers evaluated patients with fibromyalgia in waist-high warm water. A 2001 study in Norway compared land and water fitness for subjects suffering with fibromyalgia.
In these studies, pain was reduced, functionality improved and emotional health became much better. While in both land and water fitness there was improvement noted, those who participated in water activities had a higher number of “feeling good” days and improved in their levels of pain, anxiety and depression.