Research out of Spain confirmed the belief that exercise and physical fitness can help relieve symptoms due to chronic pain and fibromyalgia.
To conduct their experiment, researchers asked participants to refrain from using pain medications for at least 24 hours, then they measured their pain levels using a number of different scales, including the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS) and the Chronic Pain Self-Efficacy Scale. After pain was measured, researchers surveyed patients about their exercise habits. Although the findings don’t prove causation, researchers uncovered:
- Patients with higher physical activity exhibited lower levels of pain.
- Those who exercised more had a lower psychological overreaction to pain.
- Fitness appeared to decrease negative thoughts about chronic pain.
“These results might have implications for future intervention studies in this population,” the investigators wrote in Arthritis Care and Research. “In general, there was a linear (dose-response) relationship so that higher levels of fitness were associated with lower levels of pain and catastrophizing and higher self-efficacy.”
The team concluded that fitness helped improve overall agility, flexibility and mobility. They believe strength conditioning can help increase pain tolerance, while aerobic exercises can help a person with some of the mental aspects of chronic pain and fibromyalgia.
“Our exploratory analyses suggest that muscle strength and flexibility could be the fitness components most strongly associated with pain levels, while aerobic fitness and flexibility could be the fitness components most strongly associated with the psychological experience (i.e. catastrophizing and self-efficacy) of pain,” wrote the authors.
Dr. Cohn Comments
The benefits of exercise for chronic pain have been well documented, so it should come as no surprise that regular exercise can help alleviate problems associated with fibromyalgia.
I’ve even written about how exercise has helped me control my pain condition. If you’re suffering from chronic pain, try to squeeze in some regular exercise. Even 15 minutes of walking can do wonders for your mind and body. If some exercises are too trying, try to find an activity that works for your condition. Whether it’s running, walking or swimming find an activity that works for you!
Thomas Cohn, MD
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