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Dedicated practice of tailored yoga regimen may help fibromyalgia symptoms more than standard care, trial suggests

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New research at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine has determined that their tailored yoga regimen, practiced with dedication, can support improvements in a number of fibromyalgia symptoms that are clinically significant and superior to a standard FM care program (medication treatments). Yoga teacher training course will be offered.

"Previous research suggests that the most successful treatment for fibromyalgia involves a combination of medications, physical exercise and development of coping skills," said chronic pain specialist James Carson, PhD, who led the study. "Here, we specifically focused on yoga to determine whether it should be considered as a prescribed treatment and the extent to which it can be successful."

Randomized, Controlled Study

In this study, published Oct 14 by the journal Pain(1), the research team enrolled 53 female study subjects previously diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The women were randomly assigned to two research groups. The first group participated in a comprehensive, tailored eight-week yoga program, which included gentle poses, meditation, breathing exercises and group discussions. The second group of women – the control group – received standard medication treatments for fibromyalgia.

Following completion of the yoga program, researchers assessed each study subject using questionnaires and physical tests. The results were then compared with testing results obtained prior to the yoga classes. The members of the control group underwent the same evaluations. In addition, each participant in the yoga group was urged to keep a daily diary to personally assess their condition throughout the entire program.

Comparison of the data for the two groups revealed that yoga appears to assist in combating a number of serious fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, fatigue, stiffness, poor sleep, depression, poor memory, anxiety and poor balance.

All of these improvements were shown to be not only statistically but also clinically significant – meaning the changes were large enough to have a practical impact on daily functioning. For example:

• Pain was reduced in the yoga group by an average of 24%,

• Fatigue by an average of 30%,

• And depression by an average of 42%.

Committed, Motivated Patients a Key Factor

"One likely reason for the apparent success of this study therapy was the strong commitment shown by the study subjects,” Dr. Carson emphasized.

• “Attendance at the classes was good, as was most participants' willingness to practice yoga while at home.

• "In addition, the results suggested the yoga intervention led to a beneficial shift in how patients cope with pain, including greater use of adaptive pain coping strategies.

•  “Based on the results of this research, we strongly believe that further study of this potential therapy is warranted."

OHSU to Sponsor Training for US & Canadian Yoga Teachers

As an outcome of this study and Dr. Carson's previous research showing yoga can be helpful with cancer-related pain, next June the OHSU Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine will be sponsoring a training course for U.S. and Canadian yoga teachers who want to build their skills for working with individuals who have chronic pain.
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1. “A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia” by James W. Carson, Kimberly M. Carson, Kim D. Jones, Robert M. Bennett, Cheryl L. Wright, and Scott D. Mist; Pain, Oct 14, 2010;Vol 151(#2) DOI:10.1016/j.pain.2010.08.020

Sources: Oregon Health & Science University and Elsevier news releases, Oct 14, 2010.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (15 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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