Physical activity does not necessarily mean worsening of symptoms in fibromyalgia.




American Physiological Society (APS) Annual Meeting

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Fibromyalgia
Professional Data: Fibromyalgia


Patients, physicians, and researchers alike have been perplexed by fibromyalgia. Even as few as ten years ago, there was little discussion about this syndrome within the medical community. With the wide array of symptoms associated with it, fibromyalgia was often confused with the symptoms that accompanied it, and consequently was misdiagnosed or thought to be "in the mind." 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.

A recent study examined the association of physical activity and increasing fibromyalgia pain. This study included 15 women with fibromyalgia (FM) and 15 healthy women who were matched for age (between 21 and 45 years), smoking, and physical activity among others. Physical examinations and blood tests were administered as well as having the subjects complete pain questionnaires. The women stopped all medication one week before beginning this study. The FM group reported intense pain while the control group reported no pain and slight fatigue. Blood tests were taken at rest, during exercise, and after exhaustion. The results showed that even though healthy controls were matched with FM subjects for physical activity, the FM group had diminished peak oxygen uptake compared to the control group. The authors concluded that FM patients experienced pain at work and at home and that they should make modifications in their life to assist in easing their pain. However, the researchers did not find any physical results that exercise would aggravate fibromyalgia.1


1. Vøllestad NK. Metabolic And Hormonal Responses During Dynamic Exercise in Female Fibromyalgia Patients and Matched Healthy Controls. American Physiological Society (APS) Annual Meeting.2002.