Being Active Won't Worsen Fibromyalgia
Exercise Doesn't Increase Pain of Fibromyalgia
Jan. 26, 2005 -- People with and other chronic pain
conditions may be more active than they think they are, according to a new
"When you ask people with fibromyalgia about their level of function in
terms of activity levels, they'll report a lower function than almost any other
group," says researcher Dan Clauw, MD. "The surprising thing that we
found was that their average level of activity was about the same as someone
who didn't have fibromyalgia."
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes constant pain and tenderness in the
muscles. The symptoms are often severe enough to limit daily activities.
But round-the-clock monitoring of exercise levels of people with
fibromyalgia showed that they had similar average activity levels as people who
don't have chronic pain conditions. In addition, increased physical activity
was not associated with a subsequent increase in pain.
"Exercise and activity are essential to the well-being of people with
fibromyalgia," says researcher Dan Clauw, MD, director of the University of
Michigan Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, in a news release. "Our
research shows that higher activity is not in fact leading people to increased
pain, and it could be used to show patients that they can be active."
The results appear in the January issue of Arthritis &
Exercise and Fibromyalgia
In the study, researchers followed 38 people with fibromyalgia, chronic
fatigue syndrome, or both, and a comparison group of 27 healthy adults without
those conditions. Each participant wore an actigraph, a small watch-sized
device that measures movement in various directions rather than just one
direction like a pedometer, to measure physical activity levels.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disorder that causes prolonged constant
fatigue and tiredness that doesn't go away with rest.
The study showed that people with these conditions had lower peak exercise
levels and spent less time in high-intensity activities, such as taking an
aerobics class, than the healthy adults.
But the two groups had similar average exercise levels.
Researchers say the results may lead to a better understanding of
fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.
For example, the study showed that pain and fatigue preceded lower exercise
levels rather than followed increased physical activity. Researchers say this
finding may help doctors encourage their patients to remain active without
increasing painful symptoms.
"We've probably been thinking about fibromyalgia incorrectly," Clauw
says. "This group was impaired, but they weren't impaired in the way they
thought they would be."