Regular aerobic exercise can significantly decrease pain levels in those with fibromyalgia despite the fact that many who suffer from the disease find it difficult to participate in activity.
According to a study published in Clinical Rheumatology pain threshold, painful body surface and tender points decreased significantly after people with FM trained for an average of 25 minutes two-or-three times per week over a 12-week period.
Patients participated in regularly scheduled aerobic exercise that consisted of jogging, walking, cycling or swimming. Respiratory levels were monitored before and after training, and pain intensity was measured. Of those participating in the study, 63% reported an improvement in their general pain levels.
Added benefits of exercising that were detailed in the study included decreased heart and increased respiratory rates.
The study underlines the importance of exercise for people with FM, many of whom wonder how they can entertain thoughts of expending extraneous energy on exercise when they have none to spare.
But many exercise specialists say it is important to remember to exercise in moderation and according to the individual’s capabilities. According to Janice Strubbe Wittenberg, R.N., author of The Rebellious Body, common sense plays a vital role in exercise. If someone has been sedentary for a long time, a physician should first be consulted.
Wittenberg also stresses the importance on beginning with an easy, brief activity, gradually increasing the amount of time spent, or the distance, or the vigor of participation. This means doing what feels right, listening to the body and understanding that the amount of exercise that can be tolerated will most likely vary from day to day.
Even mild aerobic exercise such as walking, coupled with proper breathing techniques, helps reduce the buildup of toxic residues through increased circulation while supplying much-needed oxygen used to regenerate cells, she says.
Wittenberg states that the absence of oxygen provides a medium for bacterial and fungal growth. Exercise increases oxygenation of cells, strengthening the immune system and increasing metabolism. The stronger the body becomes, the more capable it is of fighting off current and potential invaders.
Exercise also releases serotonin and noepinephrine, hormones that counteract depression. Some studies have found low levels of both these hormones in people with FM. Research is also being conducted to see what role they play in the proper working of the DNIC (diffuse noxious inhibitory control system). This system’s role in the body is to restrain potentially painful signals that enter the spinal cord in route to the brain and relies heavily on serotonin and norepinephrine to work.