Saturday, April 18, 2015

Can Aerobic Exercise Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms? by Celeste Cooper

The answer to this question, "Can Aerobic Exercise Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms?" is tricky because there is evidence that aerobic exercise can reduce fibromyalgia symptoms, and there is evidence to suggest it can increase fibromyalgia symptoms.

The Cardiovascular System

In regards to helping symptoms, aerobic exercise is movement that increases your heart rate. Because the heart is a muscular pump, making it work by increasing heart rate, aerobic activity improves the strength of the heart walls, making it more efficient. The heart can eject more oxygen rich blood to the cells.  Exercise also releases the feel good hormones thought to be in short supply for those of us who have fibromyalgia and cellular oxygen deprivation has been noted in some studies..

The Lymph System

Exercise or movement of any kind is the engine, the only engine that drives the lymph system, which is responsible for gathering, filtering, and removing cellular waste from the body. When the lymph system is working right, or we aren’t moving enough, swelling occurs in our extremities, a source of complaints for many people living with fibromyalgia.

The Muscles

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a condition that can be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia and it can coexist with fibromyalgia. If you have myofascial pain syndrome, make sure your muscles are well cared for and returned to their normal resting length before exercising, including weight bearing exercise or weight bearing of your body or static positions during Yoga. Otherwise, you may feel the exercise is worsening your symptoms because of stress on muscles with trigger points. Healthy muscles ward of the trigger points of MPS, so exercise is good for prevention, but not for treatment. Opting for T'ai Chi or Qi Gong might be a better choice.

Autonomic Effects

Some fibromyalgia patients have a condition called postural orthostatic hypotension. If you have this condition, aerobic exercise can harm you. Other studies suggest that some FM patients have a heart rate variability. In other words, when you exercise, you cannot reach your target heart rate, through no fault of your own. You body is not responding as it should.

What Next?

The best way to treat our body is to move it. Maybe we don’t tolerate exercise, maybe we tried too much too soon, maybe we have a joint problem that keeps us from doing moderate aerobic exercise, but even our joints do better if we move them. The best thing to do is move and use common sense. Nobody— nobodyNOBODY should start exercise without slow conditioning; magnify this by 10 for the  5 million Americans 18 or older who live with fibromyalgia.

When we say baby steps, really think about how a baby starts to walk, develop muscle slowly with certain movements.

So the short answer to “Can Aerobic Exercise Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms?”

  • One size does not fit all.
  • Start low and go slow.
  • And by all means—MOVE (even if it means exercises done in bed or requires the assistance of a caregiver).

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(Signature line appended, April 2018)

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Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

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