Wed Feb 27,12:11 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – An exercise plan that includes strength training and aerobic activity may help women with the painful disorder fibromyalgia, the results of a small study suggest.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition marked by widespread muscular and joint pain, as well as specific “tender” points that typically occur in the neck, spine, hips and shoulders. Other symptoms include sleep disturbances and fatigue, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
The condition is seen most often in women of reproductive age.
While there is no known cause or cure for fibromyalgia, there is evidence that exercise can help alleviate symptoms. But most of this research has focused on aerobic exercise to boost cardiovascular conditioning, to the exclusion of strength training, according to the authors of the new study.
This is in part due to concerns that strength conditioning could exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms or cause injury, note Dr. Daniel S. Rooks, of the Harvard Institute of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues.
But their study of 15 women who completed a 20-week exercise program showed that a mixture of aerobic activity and strength conditioning can in fact improve fibromyalgia symptoms.
The researchers report their findings in the current issue of the journal Arthritis Care and Research.
Rooks and his colleagues had the women go through a progressive regimen that started with pool exercises to improve their joint movement, then moved on to walking and strengthening exercises with hand weights, machines and the body’s own resistance.
After 20 weeks, the women’s muscle strength and endurance improved overall -as did their symptoms of pain, stiffness, fatigue and depression, the researchers report.
“These findings demonstrate that an exercise program that includes strength training activities can be safe, feasible, and beneficial for persons with fibromyalgia syndrome,” Rooks and colleagues write.
Larger, controlled trials are needed to lay out specific exercise guidelines for fibromyalgia patients, the authors note.
For now, they conclude, “these data support the inclusion of strength training as part of the recommended regimen of exercise for women with fibromyalgia syndrome.”
SOURCE: Arthritis Care and Research 2002;47:22-28.