Exercise Reduces Pain Perceptions in Fibromyalgia Patients
A Little Activity a Day Goes a Long Way
Getting regular physical activity—even 30 minutes a day—helps lessen perceptions of pain in people with fibromyalgia, according to a 2010 study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy.
Exercise is a commonly prescribed treatment for chronic pain, but the symptoms of fibromyalgia can make exercising a challenge. The goal of this study was to determine the effects of exercise on feelings of pain, fatigue, and depression in people with fibromyalgia.
The research team separated 84 minimally active patients (though only 73 completed the trial) into 2 groups. The first group had to do 30 minutes of Lifestyle Physical Activity (LPA) 5 to 7 days a week. LPA is activity that is moderately intense. In other words, it should increase your breathing rate, but you should still be comfortable carrying a conversation while you’re performing it.
The other group received information about fibromyalgia and attended support groups.
The researchers found that the patients who had regular physical activity increased their average daily steps by more than 50%. Also, the active patients reported less pain. Though the LPA group experienced increased physical function and decreased pain perceptions, the researchers observed no difference in fatigue, depression, or body mass index with the patients in the support group.
People with fibromyalgia can experience debilitating pain—and that can erase any motivation to exercise. But what this study shows is that 30 minutes a day of moderate activity can make a difference in how you perceive pain. You don’t have to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes or engage in heavy amounts of exercise to achieve these results, the researchers say. You could garden or take a walk, if that’s what you enjoy. Making small changes, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, might also make a difference.