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www.ProHealth.com • January 23, 2006


Exercising regularly isn't easy even when you are in perfect health. When you have fibromyalgia, it's even harder. Here are some things to keep in mind when you exercise:
-Consult your doctor or physical therapist before you start a fitness program.
-If a form of exercise, such as walking, causes you increased pain that lasts two hours after you finish, slow down next time or make your workout shorter.
-If you find you can't do any form of exercise without significant pain, ask your doctor or physical therapist about a different form of exercise.
-Applying heat and cold may help lessen muscle aches. Heat increases blood flow, which can reduce stiffness, relax aching muscles and calm nerve endings. Apply no more than 20 minutes of heat (heating pads, warm showers, baths or whirlpools) to painful areas before exercise. Cold helps reduce muscle spasms and control pain. Apply no more than 10 to 15 minutes of cold (ice, cold packs or even bags of frozen vegetables) to painful areas after you exercise.
-Gently massage stiff or sore muscles before you exercise, and make sure you warm up.
-Don't do too much too quickly. Building endurance should be spread out over several weeks or months.
-Stop exercising if you feel dangerous symptoms such as chest tightness, severe shortness of breath, dizziness, faintness or nausea. If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
-Use supports, such as elastic devices for elbows, knees and ankles. Use a walking stick or cane on your least affected side for stability and support. The handle should reach your wrist when your arm is by your side.
-Distract your mind while you exercise - listen to music, watch a video or exercise with a friend. Think about things you look forward to. Just keep your mind occupied with something besides pain.
-Think of your pain in a different way: a hot sensation, or a temporary discomfort. Remind yourself that as your muscles relax into exercise, some of the pain will lessen. (Source: Natural Treatments for Fibromyalgia: An A to Z Guide, by Kenna Simmons. An official publication of the Arthritis Foundation, available at www.arthritis.org.)



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