Fibromyalgia and Exercise
If you have fibromyalgia with painful tender points, deep muscle
pain, and fatigue, exercise is probably the last thing on your
mind. Yet did you know that exercise may be just what the doctor ordered?
Whether it's daily walks, stretching, swimming, yoga, tai
chi, or Pilates, low-impact exercise
programs can keep you fit in spite of your fibromyalgia and may help reduce
pain as well.
Why Is Exercise Important for Fibromyalgia?
Experts believe that exercise is essential for keeping muscles strong and
flexible, controlling weight, and helping you stay active in other areas of
life. In fact, exercise and activity allow patients to have some control over
fibromyalgia and the amount of pain they feel.
It used to be that doctors thought that exercise might worsen fibromyalgia symptoms or accelerate the disease. So
doctors encouraged patients to seek rest, not activity. But recent scientific
studies have shown that, for most patients, range of motion, strengthening, and
aerobic conditioning exercises are safe and necessary.
Does Exercise Boost Endorphins in Those With Fibromyalgia?
Studies show that exercise helps restore the body's neurochemical balance
and triggers a positive emotional state. Not only does regular exercise slow
down the heart-racing adrenaline associated with stress, but it also boosts
levels of natural endorphins -- pain-fighting molecules that may be responsible
for the well-known "runner's high." Endorphins help to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.
Does Exercise Boost Serotonin in People With Fibromyalgia?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that scientists have found to
be related to fibromyalgia. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that send
specific messages from one brain cell to another. While only a small percentage
of all serotonin -- 1% to 2% -- is located in the brain, this neurotransmitter
is believed to play a vital role in mediating moods.
Studies have found that too much stress can lead to permanently low levels
of serotonin. That, in turn, can create aggression. An increased level of
serotonin in the brain is associated with a calming, anxiety-reducing effect.
In some cases it's also associated with drowsiness. A stable serotonin level in
the brain is associated with a positive mood state or feeling good over a
period of time. Lack of exercise and inactivity can aggravate low serotonin
How Is Serotonin Related to Women and Fibromyalgia?
It appears that women may have a greater sensitivity to changes in this
brain chemical. Mood swings during the menstrual cycle, menopause, or following the birth of a
child may be hormonally induced through the action of the hormones on
Various factors -- such as sunlight, certain carbohydrate foods, some
hormones, and exercise -- can have a positive effect on serotonin. Exercise
acts as nature's tranquilizer by helping to boost serotonin in the brain.
Studies have also shown that exercise triggers the release of epinephrine and
norepinephrine, hormones that are known to boost alertness. For those who feel
"stressed out" frequently, exercise will help to desensitize your body to