Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Fibromyalgia and Exercise
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes pain in your muscles and joints. It may also cause poor sleep, headaches, and stiffness or muscle aches. Stress or lack of sleep can make the symptoms of fibromyalgia worse. More women than men have fibromyalgia, but the disorder is common--it is seen in up to 5% of the population. However, it isn't life-threatening and it doesn't cause permanent damage.
If I have fibromyalgia, what can I do to help myself feel better?
One of the best things you can do if you have fibromyalgia is exercise. Begin with stretching exercises and gentle, low-impact activity, such as walking or bicycling. Start your exercise program slowly, because at the beginning, exercise may make your pain worse. Some muscle soreness is normal when you're starting to exercise, but sharp pain may be a sign that you have overworked your muscles.
As you progress with exercise, it will become more comfortable for you. In order for exercise to help, you must do it regularly. The goal is to get started and keep going, to gain relief from pain and to improve sleep. Below are some exercises you might want to try:
Walking: Start slowly by walking for 5 minutes the first day. The next day, add a minute to this total. Keep adding 1 or 2 minutes a day until you are walking for 60 minutes a day. When you reach this point, walk for at least 1 hour, 3 or 4 times a week. If you find yourself struggling as you're working your way up to walking for 60 minutes, go back to a length of time that was comfortable for you and continue walking for this period of time for several days. Then continue to increase the minutes again until you reach the goal of 60 minutes. Try as many times as you need to reach the goal of walking for 60 minutes.
Walking/jogging: After you feel comfortable with walking 3 or 4 times a week, you can alternate walking with slow jogging. Walk for 2 blocks, then jog for 1 block, walk for 2 blocks, jog for 1 block, and so on. Do this as often as it feels comfortable. Extend your exercise for longer periods if you feel comfortable.
Bicycling: Stationary bicycles (exercise bikes) offer the benefit of exercising indoors. Keep track of your mileage, or set a goal of bicycling for 60 minutes.
The type of exercise you choose is up to you. The important thing is that you start exercising and keep doing it. Exercise relieves much of the pain fibromyalgia causes. Some people even find that exercise makes all their pain go away. You will also feel better if you have some control over your own care and well-being.
Fibromyalgia Network: www.fmnetnews.com