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Fibromyalgia Health Center

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Yoga Eases Fibromyalgia Pain

Gentle Stretching, Breathing Exercises, Meditation May Lessen Pain, Improve Function, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 14, 2010 -- Women with fibromyalgia can reduce symptoms of the disease and improve their function by practicing the mind-body techniques of yoga, a new study says.

Researchers in Oregon who enrolled 53 women aged 21 or older for the study say that women who participated in a “Yoga of Awareness” health program showed significantly greater improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms.

Their findings are published in the November issue of Pain, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

To participate in the study, the women had to have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia using the American College of Rheumatology’s criteria for at least one year, and to be on a stable regimen of prescription or over-the-counter medications for at least three months.

Because the prevalence of fibromyalgia is much greater in women than in men, researchers enrolled only women, 25 of whom participated in a yoga awareness program and 28 who received standard care.

Women in the “Yoga of Awareness” class participated for eight weeks in a program of instruction and exercise.

Classes included 40 minutes of gentle stretching poses, 25 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of breathing techniques, 20 minutes of teaching presentations on using yoga principles for coping, and 25 minutes of group discussions, in which participants talked about practicing yoga in their homes.

Both groups were then assessed for fibromyalgia symptoms and functional deficits and overall improvement of pain. They also underwent physical tests to identify “tender points” and an analysis of pain-coping strategies that they used.

Yoga Reduces Pain and Other Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Women assigned to the yoga program showed significantly greater improvements on the standardized measures of fibromyalgia symptoms, levels of pain, fatigue, and mood, among other things.

Researcher James W. Carson, PhD, of the Oregon Health & Science University, says in a news release that the results “suggested the yoga intervention led to a beneficial shift in how patients cope with pain, including greater use of adaptive pain-coping strategies.” Those strategies included engaging in activities despite pain, acceptance of their condition, the use of religion as a coping mechanism, and the ability to relax.

Women in the intervention group also reported feeling less isolated and said they were less confrontational and less likely to see things in the worst light, or to “catastrophize.”

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