A new study shows that aerobic exercise can ease pain in patients with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition marked by widespread muscular and joint pain, as well as specific "tender" points that typically occur in the neck, spine, hips and shoulders. Other symptoms include sleep disturbances and fatigue, depression and irritable bowel syndrome. The condition affects an estimated 2% to 4% of the population, but is seen most often in women of reproductive age.
In the current study, London researchers randomly assigned 136 patients with fibromyalgia to a program of aerobic exercise or relaxation and flexibility exercise. The researchers assessed study participants' tender point count and other symptoms and asked them to assess their own improvement.
At three months, 24 of 69 of the patients in the aerobic exercise group rated themselves as "much or very much better," compared with 12 of 67 of the patients in the relaxation and flexibility group. After one year, the benefits of the exercise program continued for 26 of the patients in the aerobic exercise group and for 15 of the patients in the control group.
Patients in the aerobic exercise group also had greater reductions in tender point counts and in scores on questionnaires measuring fibromyalgia symptoms. The scientists concluded, "prescribed graded aerobic exercise is a simple, cheap, effective and potentially widely available treatment for fibromyalgia."
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