The pain of fibromyalgia (FM) can be debilitating, as anyone with the condition can tell you. What has perplexed researchers over the years is the source of this pain. Is it scarred muscle tissue? Nerve pain? Is it something in your head? Perhaps the adrenal glands are involved or maybe it’s the stress hormone called cortisol?
A recent article in the journal Medical Hypothesis brings forth some of the common features of FM pain. It is well known that exercise eases the pain in FM. But why is this? Shouldn’t exercise cause more pain? We have often heard the slogan “no pain, no gain.” Maybe this is true for the gym bodybuilder but in FM, exercise makes muscles hurt less, not more. One theory is that the pain in FM brought on by poor circulation. Put simply, a lack of blood supply (and oxygen to muscle tissue) is key to muscle aches.
Exercise causes the blood vessels in your muscles to open up, bringing much needed blood, nutrients and oxygen to the muscle cells. The lack of blood supply is called ischemia and exercise seems to reduce it. This may be why exercise is so beneficial to FM patients.
As your muscles ache with lack of movement and stress, perhaps it’s time to take a new direction, and become more active with exercise. Simple walking is a good place to start, followed by resistance strength training, targeting specific muscle groups.
Your doctor of chiropractic can outline a specific exercise routine that not only gets the blood moving to your muscles, but also does not move you so much or too fast, where potential joint injuries can occur. So start slow at first and gauge your progress conservatively. If you find even simple exercises cause joint pain, then this is a different matter altogether and should be brought to the attention of your doctor
Once you begin exercising you may find that additional sleep and rest will be needed, so that you recover adequately from each day’s activities. Combining exercise with proper nutrition and a low-inflammatory type of diet, are natural ways to combat the muscle pain of FM and get you back into the game.
This natural approach is much preferred to medication, which can often have long-term side effects. Discuss any medications with your doctor before discontinuing them. Some patients will go through withdrawal symptoms, but there is hope for those who want to deal with FM by integrating an progressive exercise program into their daily routine.