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Moderate exercise said to improve symptoms of painful disorder

4th June 2013

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

A medical centre in North Carolina, USA has recently published a study which suggests that regular, moderate exercise does not make pain worse in people who have fibromyalgia. As a condition which is relatively unknown in terms of diagnostics and treatment, this research and its findings present promising news for those who have fibromyalgia.

The disorder causes widespread pain and joint stiffness in the bodies of sufferers, leading them to use specialist devices such as walk in showers to carry on living independently. Other symptoms include sleep disturbance, severe fatigue and weakness of the limbs, and previous research has linked fibromyalgia to psychiatric conditions, although it is classed as a functional somatic syndrome (meaning that it is a disorder of the body rather than the mind).

The cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, but a new study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has shed new light on potential treatment for some symptoms of the disorder. As with the cause, there is no universally accepted treatment or cure, but it has previously been suggested that exercise can help manage some of the debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia.

The study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center shows that exercise which is regular and moderate does not worsen pain in those who have the disorder, and instead may lessen it over time. Dennis Ang, senior author of the study and associate professor of internal medicine at the center, has said that he hopes the study will "reduce patients' fear" about exercising and will instead encourage them to undertake "sustained exercise" which can improve their overall health.

The study saw 170 volunteers each undertake a personal exercise prescription over a 36-week period and aimed to establish the effects of long-term moderate intensity exercise on those with fibromyalgia. Moderate intensity exercise consisted of either light jogging or brisk walking for 20 minutes each day, and the results were gathered from the participants after 9 months of attempting this exercise prescription.

The results found that those who managed to undertake moderate intensity exercise for at least 12 weeks showed greater improvement in clinical symptoms in comparison to those who did not engage in physical activity as much, particularly in terms of fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Dennis Ang said that the most important finding of the research was that this level and frequency of exercise does not exacerbate the pain symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Research such as this suggests that treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia offers the most promise for sufferers at the moment. Whereas mobility aids such as stairlifts can help with joint stiffness and muscle pain, exercise is best for tackling fatigue and sleep problems according to the findings of this study, and more research is continually being carried out to pin down a cure or treatment for the disorder.

 

Image Credit: Western Arctic National Parklands (flickr.com)