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Fibromyalgia and Exercise

Fibromyalgia is a difficult disease to diagnose and is associated with pain, muscle tenderness and fatigue. The medical profession have alway recognised muscular and arthritic diseases, in 1904 Gower coined the condition as Fibrositis; it was not changed to fibromyalgia until 1976

The treatment of fibromyalgia can be difficult, recommendations often include getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, managing stress and anxiety is also helpful.

Since 2014 Active aims has worked with a number of people with fibromyalgia, we have recognised that different strategies work for different people. When I say strategies I really mean exercise prescription, which is how an exercise programme is designed for an individual.

Personal training means that every individual has their own personalised workout, depending on their capabilities and goals. However people with fibromyalgia tend to have the same goal, which is to be pain free and able to deal with everyday tasks more easily.

Some of the original testing we do for this for this population of people is based on balance, strength, endurance, flexibility and co-ordination. To be honest its not unusual for balance and co-ordination to be a real issue and these can be the very first things we work on.

Strength and especially core strength really helps with both of these attributes, mainly because if the core muscles are stronger then the whole body is used to perform movement or any other type of task.

We start gently generally with simple balance movements, it is important to really focus on the muscle groups which are working and ensure the patient can also feel the right muscles. Depending on how many times we see our client, we can quickly introduce some weights and strength training. The weights are light and full range of motion is crucial, usually completing 8 – 12 reps of each exercise.

Focus mainly on the larger muscles groups and split the programme up, ensuring that every exercise is within the comfort zone of the individual. For example upper body then lower body, then core, then maybe a balance exercise so exercise intensity is low, build the programme up over a period of weeks and stay within the limits of the individual.

It is important not to overdo any training and constantly ask for feedback. We use a simple RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion) asking to rate the intensity of each exercise between 1 – 5 (1 being very light or nothing, 5 being maximal). Try to gauge and work at around 3 to begin with, then reassure them that they might feel some type of muscle soreness 1 – 2 days after the exercise programme.

We have seen amazing results in every person with fibromyalgia, many of them being pain free. Pain does seem to come and go, but on a far more sporadic basis and for a lot less time. One thing that is true for everyone is that they are fitter and stronger and more able than they ever were prior to starting exercise prescription.

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