Couldn't find what you looking for?


Table of Contents

Fibromyalgia is a real and stubborn medical problem that doesn't usually respond very well to medication. The right kind, the right amount, and the right intensity of exercise, however, can reduce pain.

Most people who have fibromyalgia go through a long process just to begin to get treatment. Fibromyalgia most often presents itself in young or middle aged women, although anyone of any age can develop the disease. Doctors are never especially eager to diagnose fibromyalgia. 

The fibromyalgia diagnosis guidelines require that the pain has to be widespread and continuous for at least three months. Usually that's three months as reported to the doctor, not three months as noticed by the patient. In the West, fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means a long list of other diseases has to be ruled out before fibromyalgia is ruled in. 

Getting Your Doctor To Believe In Your Pain

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed in terms of pain at any of 18 paired pressure points or three single pressure points. The problem for many patients is that they feel pain no matter where the doctor presses against with a device known as a pressure algometer or dolorimeter (pain meter). Some doctors press on the skin where there isn't a diagnostic point with the expectation that someone who is "faking it" will complain in pain. 

The fact is, just because you have pain in places that aren't usually linked to fibromyalgia doesn't mean you don't really have the disease.

'I'll Just Take One Of Each' At The Pharmacy

Pain specialists try offer chronic pain relief with muscle relaxants, antidepressants, antianxiety agents, alpha-2 agonists (which activate an inhibitory nerve that slows down heart rate and reduces sensitivity of muscles to pain triggers), and a variety of pain relievers. The problem with medication for fibromyalgia is that starting any new medication may lower the pain threshold, and stopping any old medication can also lower the pain threshold, and changing dosage can make pressure points more sensitive, too. It can take a long time just to establish credibility with your doctor, and even longer, sometimes many years, to hit on a combination of medication and lifestyle changes that actually work. Exercise, however, sometimes provides pain relief relatively quickly.

What About Exercise?

Dr Laura Ellingson, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University in the USA, recently reported a clinical study that found that exercise could "temporarily improve centrally mediated pain modulation." In other words, getting some exercise helps the brain be less responsive to the triggers that cause pain.
Ellingson and her collaborators recruited 12 women to work out on a stationary bicycle for 25 minutes, and then to have a functional MRI of their brains. The women were then told to go home and avoid exercise, resting as much as possible, for a week. At the end of the week, the women were given a second MRI to look for changes in their pain centers.
The researchers found that the exercise session resulted in greater activity in a part of the brain known as the anterior insula or the insular cortex. This part of the brain is involved in activities ranging from bowel movement and sex to making complex decisions about what to do in the world. It is a key part of the brain in creating consciousness. When this part of the brain is active, it "wakes up" to sensations other than pain, pain, and more pain.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Oka T, Tanahashi T, Chijiwa T, Lkhagvasuren B, Sudo N, Oka K. Isometric yoga improves the fatigue and pain of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who are resistant to conventional therapy: a randomized, controlled trial.Biopsychosoc Med. 2014 Dec 11. 8(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s13030-014-0027-8. eCollection 2014.PMID: 25525457.
  • Sawynok J, Lynch M. Qigong and fibromyalgia: randomized controlled trials and beyond. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014. 2014:379715. doi: 10.1155/2014/379715. Epub 2014 Nov 12. Review.PMID: 25477991.
  • Photo courtesy of Synergy by Jasmine via Flickr:
  • Mind map by