Fibromyalgia Overview

Fibromyalgia syndrome

Fibromyalgia is a condition that special population instructors may come across with clients of varying ages. It can significantly impact people’s day to day routines; however, exercise and physical activity is an important aspect to helping people manage this condition. In this blog, we overview fibromyalgia syndrome to develop our knowledge and understanding of a prevalent chronic pain condition.

What is it?

A long-term condition that effects the soft tissues and causes pain all over the body.

How is it diagnosed?

When no other reason for the symptoms has been found, the ‘widespread pain’ index is used. This is where the patient is assessed on areas of the body where they feel severe pain and milder pain for the same level for at least three months.

The doctor assesses these areas and generates a widespread pain index (WPI) score on a scale from 0 to19.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms are pain and fatigue. Other symptoms can include

  • Poor quality sleep
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Dizziness and lack of co-ordination
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Stomach problems and nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor body temperature regulation
  • Restless legs and paraesthesia (tingling, numbness and prickling in the hands and feet).

How exercise can help

Cardiovascular exercise and light resistance work are important to strengthen the muscles and prevent atrophy and muscle damage. This will also help with the other fibromyalgia symptoms such as depression, difficulty concentrating, and sleep problems.

Stretching is essential increase range of movement and mobility.

What exercise is recommended

The programme should be very much tailored to the individual to find out what works and develop a home workout for the client in-between sessions.

Shorter sessions of 15 minutes are recommended to start with focusing on low intensity cardiovascular (> 60% of MHR) and gentle passive stretching which should be done daily.

Low impact and non-weight bearing are recommended, and also walking because of the functional benefits. The instructor needs to give the correct amount of exercises to stimulate the cardiovascular system without over working the muscles which may result in a flare up. A programme should include a slow gradual warm-up including mobility and a mix of cardiovascular, light resistance work, stretching, posture work, breathing techniques and relaxation.

Programmes should not be expected to be progressive and will need to be adapted to the needs of the client on a particular day.

The client should keep a record of how they feel in the day(s) after the activity so the programme can be modified or changed.

Other recommendations

Relaxation works really well for most people with fibromyalgia. Advise clients on apps, CDs and classes. Swimming, sitting or exercising in a heated pool or warm water also can be beneficial.

Resources and signposting

Fibromyalgia Action UK

NHS Website

Read more

 Best practice: E-Model—Prescribing physical activity and exercise for individuals with fibromyalgia

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