Easy Does It! 7 Exercises to Ease the Strain of Fibromyalgia

People with fibromyalgia face a frustrating conundrum: Exercising can significantly improve their pain management and lessen their symptoms yet the pain of the illness makes exercise difficult if not exacerbating. Even simple stretches can seem to set your limbs on fire.

But regular exercise helps decrease fatigue, increases energy, and lessens symptoms overtime. In fact, exercising on a routine basis is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Granted, movement will hurt in the beginning as your muscles get used to the strain. Massage or apply heat to sore muscles before you exercise. Then put heat on them afterwards. Heat will improve localized blood flow, metabolism, and healing.

It’s important to remember that just a little of consistent exercise can bring about surprising benefits. You don’t need to overly strain yourself. In fact, it’s best that you don’t. Exercise as much as you are able. Here are 7 exercises designed for people with fibromyalgia in mind for you to get started.

Swimming

Swimming can be one of the best exercises for people with fibromyalgia, doctors will tell you.
In fact, swimming is more effective than gym-based aerobic exercise or home-based stretching and strengthening exercise in relieving fibromyalgia symptoms, according to research published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. Warm water around 88 degrees is best for relaxing the muscles.

And by swimming, we mean all forms of water based exercise. The beauty of water is it offers both resistance and support. The warm water and light exercise make for a smooth combination of challenge that’s highly soothing and beneficial.

Walking

You don’t need an expensive gym membership or a fancy fitness instructor to exercise. In fact, fibromyalgia doctors will tell you that walking is highly effective exercise. All you need is a decent pair of shoes and a nice patch of ground.

Start easy with a 30-minute walk on a flat surface. It can even be in your neighborhood, perhaps around the block or down the street to your favorite coffee shop. And if all you consistently have time or energy for is 10-15 min, then by all means just commit to that. Even 5 min daily on a stationary bike or treadmill will make a difference in your health. Commit to something you can handle, let yourself get confident, then bored, then ready for more.

Stretching

Many fibromyalgia sufferers hold a tremendous amount of tension in their upper bodies. Even simple stretching can be beneficial exercise for fibromyalgia. Doctors recommend gentle stretching that doesn’t overly strain the muscles or limbs. Don’t overdo it. Stretching is best done after you’ve warmed up with light aerobic exercise. Be gentle. Don’t stretch to the point of pain. DrB’s book, “Winners’ Guide to Pain Relief” has a wonderful section about stretching covering most every area of the body with pictures and explanations.

Do Chores Around the House

Even simple activities like gardening, vacuuming, and cleaning your house can be effective at easing the pain of fibromyalgia. Moving and going about regular activity will ease your fatigue and help manage symptoms. Beware however of the vacuum. Perhaps use a small and light cordless. Heavy vacuums require core strength that many FMS sufferers lack, and use can require days of recovery.

Biking

Biking is great exercise for fibromyalgia because it challenges the muscles with aerobic exercise without being overly taxing. Your muscles will warm and adjust the longer you ride for a smoother motion. Start with short distances on flat surfaces in your neighborhood. You don’t need to bike a triathlon. Even riding your bike a few times around the block can be helpful.

Yoga

Yoga is great for those days you just can’t find the energy to leave the house. Simple yoga stretches can be highly beneficial. When combined with meditation, the stretching movement can also be highly effective at alleviating depression associated with fibromyalgia. Try seated yoga positions on the floor or in a chair. You can also try a restorative pose where you lie with your legs extended straight up a wall. Flex your legs and extend your muscles.

Strength Training

Doctors recommend strength training for people with fibromyalgia. Use resistance bands or free weights. Stand on your tip toes and stretch your feet. Use light weights — around 1 to 3 pounds — and increase intensity slowly. A little does a lot of good.

Talk to your fibromyalgia doctor about a strength training exercise program. Some patients are more complex and require special considerations and approaches.

Follow Through

Exercise for people with fibromyalgia can be daunting at first. Be patient with yourself. Go easy, and don’t give up. You’ll build up your muscles so it becomes easier the longer you continue. Listen to your body. Find a healthy balance. Talk to your fibromyalgia doctor about forming an exercise plan you can follow through with that can be beneficial to your specific condition and challenges.

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