November 13, 2019

Even small lifestyle changes can help with fibromyalgia pain management

Last month we discussed the benefits of exercising for those living with fibromyalgia.  We also noted that many people with this chronic condition are in too much pain to complete the requisite amount of exercise necessary to see an improvement in their condition.  It seems like a double-edged sword in that individuals need to work out in order to better manage the pain associated with fibromyalgia; however sometimes that same pain is too debilitating to allow exercise in the first place.  Fortunately, a new study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy and summarized in U.S. News and World Report: Health, indicates that even small steps throughout the day can count toward exercise, and individuals can reap the same pain management benefits.

The study, conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, focused on determining whether participants could get thirty minutes of exercise completed most days of the week and generally remain more active throughout the day.  The eighty-four participants were separated into two groups: one which incorporated “lifestyle physical activity” into their days, including taking stairs, walking more, and parking further away from stores, and one which was a control group, which did not make the same lifestyle changes.  Those in the “lifestyle” group reported better physical movement and decreased pain at the end of the study.  They also increased the amount of exercise that they could complete in a given day or week.  The researchers understood that people have good and bad days with fibromyalgia and encouraged them to simply move as much as they could on a bad day and to not try to overcompensate on a good day.

To make these recommendations more practical for you, U.S. News and one of the researchers listed various “lifestyle” activities that you can try to begin exercising.  They suggest doing activities such as small arm circles or slowly lifting your legs while seated.  Additionally, you should invest in a pedometer to monitor how far you have walked every day.  Perhaps you could challenge yourself to get in a couple extra steps each day.  The researchers also suggest doing yard work, gardening, and doing housework.  Each of these activities needs to be tailored toward your specific needs and should be broken up into short bursts over a couple of days.  Finally, they suggest taking the stairs or engaging in a water activity.  Swimming and water aerobics are both low impact and great exercise, while taking the stairs is a relatively easy way to add in exercise every single day.  Most importantly, you should try to make the activity fun and look for your own creative ways to move that fibromyalgia pain right out of your life.

The benefits of exercise for those suffering with fibromyalgia

We have been encouraged for a number of years now to exercise in order to keep weight gain at bay, to reduce stress, and to protect our hearts. Some research even indicates that those individuals who engage in regular cardiovascular activity, as well as weight lifting, improve their memory and overall intelligence. Now, a new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, indicates that exercise may also be beneficial to those suffering with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia. It appears that exercise is important for everyone at every stage of their lives.

The researchers of the study examined data from forty studies on how anxiety and stress is affected by exercise. The study consisted of three thousand sedentary individuals who suffered from various chronic conditions. Although they were primarily sedentary, they did have the ability to exercise for thirty minutes doing an array of activities. The researchers found that those who exercised had a twenty percent reduction in anxiety symptoms. What is more is that the researchers found that exercise helped to ease this worry despite most types of conditions – including fibromyalgia and depression. The only illness that did not benefit from exercise was multiple sclerosis. The researchers found that even those individuals who were not very anxious naturally became calmer with frequent exercise. A reduction of anxiety may help these individuals to handle the symptoms of their conditions more effectively. In the long run, consistent exercise may even decrease the frequency of symptoms.

Although this study appears promising, if you suffer from fibromyalgia, exercising may seem like the last activity that you want to engage in due to the debilitating pain of the condition. Perhaps you could try taking a twenty minute walk outside or even swimming, which are both very low impact exercises that may help reduce anxiety while not contributing to any pain you feel as a result of fibromyalgia. Additionally, you can also lift light weights, which is a great way to get a workout in, while at the same time building muscle and reducing the stress on joints. Another important factor in being able to exercise is taking any prescribed medications regularly, as they may ease some pain, allowing you to get a requisite amount of exercise. Working out does not need to be strenuous or even take place in a gym. Taking your dog for a walk, planting some new flowers, taking a dance class, and even housework can count toward your exercise quota.

Altering Your Breathing May Help Reduce Pain Associated With Fibromyalgia

When people are angry, become stressed, or get upset over circumstances in their lives, they are often told to “take a deep breath.” The thought behind deep breaththis is that taking in a slow, deep breath will allow them to refocus their energy and handle the situation more easily. Some new studies show that this same type of breathing technique may also work for people who suffer with chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia. Some researchers even believe that practicing breathing techniques on a regular basis can take the place of traditional drug regimes for certain individuals.

In the studies, scientists examined people who took half as many breaths as the average, healthy adult, which is approximately between twelve and eighteen breaths per minute. They found that individuals who cut those breaths in half were able to tolerate short-term pain from burns or cuts, as well as the chronic pain affecting muscles and joints. The research indicated that by reducing breaths to as few as six breaths a minute had a radical effect on pain experienced by individuals over the long term.

In the United States study, researchers evaluated a group of healthy, middle aged women and a group of women suffering from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, for which there is currently no cure. The research team exposed the women to various probes that generated heat against their hands at different temperatures. The scientists wanted to measure how much pain they could tolerate. The women were instructed to take fewer breaths while handling the probes. After taking half the amount of normal breaths, the women reported that the pain was less intense than when they breathed normally. The researchers found that the pain was rated about the same in both groups when fewer breaths were taken.

The theory behind why fewer breaths may ease pain stems from the idea that slow, measured breathing has a direct impact on the sympathetic nervous system. Fibers within the nervous system help to regulate blood flow and skin temperature. It appears that taking fewer breaths dampens the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn blocks pain. Other believe that taking shallow, slow breaths help to get the oxygen to the tissues in a more effective fashion, thereby helping the body react to pain. Breathing techniques have been around a very long time and in various cultural settings. Practicing breathing is cost-effective, easy, and can fit into your everyday schedule with relative ease. If you do suffer from pain associated with fibromyalgia, try to decrease the amount of breaths you take and truly concentrate on your breathing. It could just be that you find some of your pain minimized upon taking a deep breath.