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Fibromyalgia and Exercise

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Dear Dr. Caraotta,

I am 38 years old and have been diagnosed with having fibromyalgia. I am a housewife and used to be active in sports during my high school years. I played tennis and basketball. My husband and I were thinking of getting a membership at the YMCA trying to exercise more but I hesitate, since I don’t know if this will make my fibromyalgia get worse. What do you suggest?


Dr. Caraotta's Response

That is an excellent question. We treat many individuals with Fibromyalgia in our office and when we begin to incorporate exercise into the treatment plan, many of them share the same concerns.

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes constant pain and tenderness in the muscles. The symptoms are often severe enough to limit daily activities. Many individuals with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions limit their activities, but may be more active than they think they could be, according to a new study.

Exercise and activity are essential to the well-being of people with fibromyalgia. In fact, exercise in many cases may cause a reduction of symptoms. There is a researcher from the University of Michigan, Dan Clauw, MD, who stated in a news releas, "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."

"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."

In brief, newer research indicates that exercise and being more active is not only permissible but preferable in patients with fibromyalgia.

I advise patients with fibromyalgia to get active, and stay active. Not every individual is able to do this without guidance and this is one reason we offer supervised exercise rehabilitation for individuals with the syndrome.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jacob G. Caraotta