Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterised by chronic musculoskeletal pain all over the body. It has been linked to sleep disorders, fatigue and memory problems. Many people afflicted with fibromyalgia give up on exercise very quickly because they believe it aggravates the pain. However, researchers from North Carolina´s Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have found that, not only does exercise have no adverse effect on pain levels, it may help improve overall symptoms in time.
Senior study author Dr Denis Ang said that light to moderate exercise done on a regular basis helped people with fibromyalgia relieve symptoms such as tiredness and sleep disturbance without worsening pain. He explained that patients would engage in physical activity for a week or two, start feeling pain and attribute the aggravation to exercise, which would prompt them to stop. Dr Ang and his team are hoping that the findings of their study will reassure patients and encourage them to embrace sustained exercise.
The researchers focused on the effect of moderate intensity exercise, which they defined as 20-minute daily sessions of light jogging or energetic walking. The study stretched over 36 weeks, covering 170 participants. Those who maintained a routine of moderate intensity exercise for a minimum of 12 weeks reported greater improvements in clinical symptoms compared to subjects who could not achieve higher activity levels. As Dr Ang pointed out, an even more important finding is that a prolonged period of physical activity at currently recommended levels is not linked to aggravated pain symptoms in people suffering from fibromyalgia.