Exercise may help fibromyalgia sufferers.




Arthritis Care and Research

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Fibromyalgia
Professional Data: Fibromyalgia


If you find yourself confused about fibromyalgia, you are not alone. Patients, physicians, and researchers alike have been perplexed by this complex condition. Even as few as ten years ago, there was little discussion about this syndrome within the medical community. Today science has recognized fibromyalgia as a rheumatic autoimmune disorder affecting between 3 and 6 million Americans each year. What was once thought of a psychosomatic complaint has turned out to be a complex disorder which is only now beginning to be understood.

Several symptoms must be present in order to confirm a fibromyalgia diagnosis. The first is widespread muscle and skeletal pain. Widespread is defined as pain occurring on the right and left sides of the body, above and below the waist, and along the spine. Localized pain also must occur in a majority of identified "tender points" all over the surface of the body.

Other general, common symptoms include aching, disturbed sleep patterns, fatigue, morning stiffness, depression, recurrent headaches, tender lymph nodes, bowel or bladder disturbances, sensitivity to heat or cold, anxiety, gastrointestinal disturbances, dizziness, occasional racing heart beats, decreased coordination, and environmental allergies. The presence of certain diseases is also common with a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Three of the most common diseases are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Raynaud's disease, and temporal mandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).

In a recent issue of Arthritis Care and Research a small pilot study assessed the benefits of exercise on a small group of women. Muscle strength, injury, and endurance were observed in 15 women diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome (FSM). The status of these women was recorded before and after a 20-week exercise regimen. Following the 20 weeks, there was significant improvement in strength in both the lower and upper body, timed walking distance, and improved Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire scores. Concluding, the researchers stated that, "progressive strength training and cardiovascular exercise can be safe, well tolerated, and effective at improving muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance and functional status in women with FMS without exacerbating symptoms. This program may also contribute to a reduction in the severity of several symptoms."1


1. Rooks DS. The effects of progressive strength training and aerobic exercise on muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness in women with fibromyalgia: A pilot study. Arthritis Care and Research. Feb 2002;47:22-28.