Incorporating short bursts of exercise into the day may improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, the chronic pain disorder that affects millions of Americans, a new study has found.
According to the scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, routine daily tasks such as doing the dishes, gardening.ore walking, vacuuming and stair-climbing done in moderation, can be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Dr. Kevin Fontaine, PhD, an assistant professor of rheumatology at Johns Hopkins University and a lead author of the study, said that just trying to engage in a little more physical activity throughout everyday routine, as opposed to traditional exercise, can improve the symptoms and pain among individuals who suffer the condition.
Fibromyalgia syndrome is a debilitating disease that is associated with long-term repeated pain and tender muscles and joints. Very often, those who suffer from the condition remain inactive as they are afraid that the symptoms will get worse. Fibromyalgia has also been linked to chronic fatigue, morning stiffness, problems with sleep and repeated headaches. It may be bad enough to stop individuals from getting on with life, making them feel devastated and miserable. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, bbout ten million Americans suffer from the condition.
The new study involved 84 minimally active individuals with fibromyalgia. The subjects were randomly assigned into two groups: the "Lifestyle Physical Activity" (LPA) group that involved moderate-intensity physical activity based on everyday routine tasks, and the Fibromyalgia Education (FME) group, where the patients only were provided with information and support about their disease, but no activity plan.
The 12-week trial was completed by 73 out of the 84 participants. It was revealed that patients in the LPA group became more active and increased their average daily steps (recorded by a pedometer) by 54 per cent when compared with those in FME group. In addition, questionnaires revealed that the participants in the LPA group demonstrated significantly less problems with movement and reported 35 per cent less pain than their counterparts in the education group. LPA group also scored 18 per cent higher on questions measuring how much they could do physically.
However, when both active and non-active groups were asked to take a 6-minute walk test, no differences between the groups were found when it came to decreasing fatigue, depression, BMI, or tenderness at specific points of their body, which are all common problems in fibromyalgia. Researchers say that, overall, the improvements for the LPA group were moderate, but they were quite similar to the improvements noted in previous studies on regular and sustained exercise.
"There is probably no single good or best exercise or lifestyle physical activity prescription for people with fibromyalgia because there is such variability in symptoms between people," Dr. Fontaine said, adding that for some patients just walking is helpful, while for others water exercise or riding a bike could be a better option. In other words, the best exercise or lifestyle physical activity is the one that a person can be comfortable with and the one that does not worsen their symptoms. "The main thing is for people with fibromyalgia to try to do something physical just about every day," Dr. Fontaine concluded.
The findings are reported in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.