Exercise & Fibro

When talking to people living with Fibro, 'exercise' can seem like a bad word sometimes. But it can be critical to maintaining health apart from the Fibro (we can still have heart attacks!) and it can also be a crucial part of getting control of Fibro.

Exercise is important for general health. It is important for maintaining mobility and muscle tone. It can help reduce depression.

A high level of fitness may protect someone against developing Fibro. Exercise may help protect someone with Fibro against getting worse (if you're currently doing regular exercise, don't stop!). Done correctly, it can also help relieve myofascial pain, reduce the incidence of myofascial trigger points, manage hypermobility and manage positional cervical cord compression, all of which are common among people with Fibro.

Exercise is very important in getting control of Fibro, but it has to be in an appropriate way. You can't just go down the gym and start working out and expect it to make you feel better! But there is a level of exercise anyone can do, even if it is just a few minutes of stretches whilst sitting in a chair.

If you're not currently doing any exercise, start by checking with your GP and consultant (if you have one) that it is okay to try exercising. You may have something else going on alongside the Fibro that means certain types of exercise would cause physical damage or other harm.

A referral to physiotherapy is then a good place to start, especially if you are currently not very fit. See this blog article on Physio & Fibro:

fibroaction.healthunlocked....

It is important that you learn how to exercise in such a way that it doesn't put joints under strain (hypermobility is common among people with Fibro and means extra care is needed) and also to prevent you putting any strain on your neck (especially important in light of research into positional cervical cord compression & Fibro).

It is also important that you get myofascial restrictions identified and dealt with, even if this is just through a programme of stretching and heat applications to do at home. A muscle with active trigger points on it will be painful to use, will get a build-up of lactic acid faster than normal and will not respond properly to strengthening exercises.

It is also important to make sure your sleep quality is being addressed. A lack of restorative sleep is a core symptom of Fibro and it means that you cannot physically recover properly from your day and also that you will struggle to build up muscle mass properly.

Start low and slow. If you are very unfit, this could mean starting with only 5 minutes of stretching in a pool. But gradually work up what you are doing and for how long you are exercising.

15 Replies

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  • Hi LindseyMed, Yes agree about exercise, although reading some posts on here quite a lot would really struggle. My problem is motivation...i have absolutely none at all. As a more "mature" lady i'm finding i'm putting on some wieght (could be all the wine!!)and need to do something as due to fibro i'm not as active, i have an exercise bike that just gathers dust. i did put Greys Anatomy on the pc at first and peddle away, but have really no motivation now. Just can't seem to be bothered. Know i should but oh i'll start tomorrow.

    The words ...Own and worst enemy spring to mind.

    Take care

    Jan H xx

  • Maybe try something more fun if you're up to it - I always find my motivation is better if I enjoy the exercise and if I have a class to go to or someone to exercise with.

  • Hmmm, will see, exrcisee classes would be my idea of pergatory. Have never exercised as i've always walked (quite quickly) as i don't drive. Kept me really fit and trim, but don't do half what i did as i have knee, ankle and thigh pains. Will have a stern talk to self and get on my bike and do some gentle stuff, knees allowing.Am slightly worried by my don't care attitude as it's not like me at all, everything seems a bit of an effort of late as pain is getting worse. Just had a docs appt and got blood tests and xrays.

    thankk you....

    Jan H xx

  • Have you had a physio referral? Might be a good start. Then treat the phyio exercises as prescribed medicine - might not be fun but has to be done.

  • Hi LindseyMid, had no referals at all was just told i had fibro and given painkillers and muscle relaxants for restless legs, now got wretched arthritis in both knees, did make the doc chuckle when i said well damn me always tried to keep fit and walk as i don't drive, (bad enough pedestrian lol) now due to that i've got wear and tear in my joints...no win there then!!! got appt with osteo so see what they say.

    thanks and take care

    jan xx

  • Hi Jan, know how you feel, i struggled too in that way, but really wanted to do something about it, especially as i gave up smoking 11 months ago, so put even more weight on, so my best friend suggested a wii and get wii active that caters for all people, i did that recently its the best thing i,ve done in a long time.

    I went through all the different activities, to see which ones would be good for me, i do mainly the yoga exercises, and its great myself and my friends can see a difference, it also records all your details, such as bmi, weight, ect, so you know what weight you lose or gain, and its in your own home at your pace, i actually am enjoying it now, you still have to do it regularly, but you can do it, i don,t do the body test daily i prefer to do it once a week.

    please think about it they have come down in price now as well, if you look on amazon, have good deals on, i even got wii sport now and play tennis and bowling on it, so it all helps, its one of the best things i did, no regrets and its fun, hope this encourages you and helps, please feel free to ask any questions,

    Very best wishes

    Shirley xx

  • Hi Shirley,

    gave up smoking 6 years ago, so know the feeling, just about the hardest thing i did, but sooo worth it.

    Had a bit of a crash and burn moment with arthritis, sneakedto in my left hip now. Just waiting for the right one to join in lol.went to the hosp last Wed and had a cortisone injection in my knee, On fri my back just cracked and i had pain shoot up my spine and down my leg. Went to see an osteopath yesterday and he said all the muscles in my left side had gone into a spasm and locked. All to do with being out of balance not walking properly due to knees, was there about hour and quarter and he took a medical history and gave me some very gentle manipulation. Was also very helpful in explaining how fibro was thrown in the mix. So far so good, have no stabbing pains in my back and legs, still sore but certainly better. Was advised to do some gentle exercise so am now going to do gentle walking and gardening.

    Will see about a WII as a couple of people i know have one and like them, give anything a go if it helps...hence the osteo visit.

    Best wishes and enjoy

    take care

    Jan xx.

  • Shortnsweet, do you like walking - have an interest in history, or birds or local wild life etc. Lots of local authoriites run 'bums off seats' sessions which aim to get people walking. You're with others so are safe and they have topics some weeks as above. Walking is the one for me and always has been except when I am very fit when I just speed this up to running - can't see this every happening again!!!!! lol

  • Hi Whippet-lover, did love walking, still do, but now knees are knackered due to arthritis..as per above" now got wretched arthritis in both knees, did make the doc chuckle when i said well damn me always tried to keep fit and walk as i don't drive, (bad enough pedestrian lol) now due to that i've got wear and tear in my joints...no win there then!!! got appt with osteo so see what they say. " doc said i'd got crepitus...eeek i thought wonder what that is....creeking knees lol.

    Have kicked own a**e, put an hour of gripping tv on ..the Borgias and Greys Anatomy at the mo and do pedallling at a pace i can cope with on activity...aka exercise bike. Am really going to try my best, feeling slightly more motivated of late so get going while i can

    thank and take care

    Jan xx

  • LindseyMid - I think this is so important. As wll as FM I suffer from major depression and walking is so emjoyable to me once I get out there. Had to let my Dad take my dog as I wasn't well enough to be regular enough with him and dogs need their routine. I do go with them a few times a week when I'm well enough. I have trouble keeping up - my Dad is 86 and the dog is 11 with end stage heart failure! but I just take my time and catch up on the flat bits - I say walk, but my Dad doesn't know the meaning of the word and it is still more like a hike. I also walk as often as I can - helped by having the car off the road due to finances. I think the word 'exercise' causes brain shut down for many people but 'activity' doesn't which is where most of us are going to be starting anyway.

    Thanks for all your hard work.

    Whippet x

  • hi lindseymid i started going to the swimming pool with the day center i attend we started going about 12years ago they put us in the water with the aid of a hoist/chair i couldnt swim at all i just tried to move my legs a bit holding on to sides of pool with the help of floats the type you can twist round the body, at that time id had fibro about 13years and could bearly walk so every thing was at a snails pace to begine with but gradualy i was moving a little bit more and learnt to swim a little bit ,then 2 years ago i tryed it with out the floats and im now able to swim 12lenghts of the pool this has realy helped strenghin my legs and back, for me its been a god send it realy helps my pains along with my meds xx

  • That's brilliant demelza! I think so many people get discouraged when you can only do such a tiny tiny amount at first - it's great that you stuck with it.

  • Hi

    I feel I may be the odd one out here, as my fibro appears to be quite mild, and I still work, but over the years as I became less able to work full time, I dropped to a 3 day week. My job is very useful to me as it involves no long periods of walking, lifting and sitting, instead just short periods of each. It keeps me loose and supple and I enjoy the varied company I get each day (I am a Photographer in my local hospital) Providing I pace mayself on the other days and sleep well, I can get along well. However I am constantly being told that more light exercise will improve my condition. I insist that my 3 days work is my mild exercise, and that most people with my condition can't even get out of the house. It puts it into context for people, and after that I don't get pushed into doing more than I can cope with. I had a different chiropractor a few weeks ago who hadn't read my records and insisted that to improve my well being I should take up Spinning!!!! I just smiled nicely and nodded, bemused that a professional should assume that if I am a UK size 18, I must sit on my bum all day, and that high impact excersise wouldn't make me worse. What I am getting to is that we shouldn't overdo it to please others, we should do it for ourselves, and know what makes us feel at our best. If you do too much and feel bad it can be very discouraging, but make the effort at least to find your OWN pace - which may or may not be quicker than your present state. :-)

  • exercise is a mixed bag for all of us. I've always been big but before RA and FM hit, I was up the gym 3 times a week and swimming following one of the sessions. Since then, the notion of a gym or swimming pool makes my blood run cold. That said, I've always been supple and could still do the splits 2 years ago.

    My new physio assessed me 3 weeks ago and determined there was nothing she could do for me, given my flexibility - not even for the neck compression problem I have which makes my hands go numb and/or tingle with burning.

    She firstly suggested gentle movements in the local swimming pool, once a week. I said I'd think about it (cue catalogue shopping for a new swimming cozzie). I did however nix her further suggestion of aqua-aerobics, knowing what that entails from previous experience (my 44H's don't take kindly to all that jumping around!). I also explained that actual swimming results in agony for 2 to 3 days after and being too weak even to hold a cup of tea.

    Have physiotherapists not heard of fibro ffs???

    Anyway, she promptly referred me to her colleague who does acupuncture, even though I told her that gentle professional manipulation of my shoulders and neck does give me some relief. she announced there was nothing she could do for me. (I've paid osteos and chiros previously for manipulation once or twice a year, but being able to afford such things is long gone...)

    Thinking back, my pain management clinic in 2008, suggested that pilates and yoga were the best exercises for folks with fibro. I asked who pays for the sessions, since SSP or ESA don't exactly make us flush with money!

    How about an exercise bike? they asked. How about the pain it causes? I responded. Anyway, it makes a good cat playstation!

    We then moved onto actual exercises using a wall or a doorway for counter-pressure. very gentle. very slow. building up the time you spend pressing against the wall or doorway. anything to keep or build up tone in the muscles, they said, using your body weight instead of weights at the gym.

    Gentle, they said. Slow, they said. So how come my door frames now have dents in them lol?

    Oh and while I've still got use of my hands, am going to make a cuppa. Anybody want one? :-D

  • i spent five years not being able to do nothing a good day for me was getting out of bedro and onto the sofa,just had a heart attack so people beware didnt even know i had one because the pain of the fibro covered it up it was just when i felt i was going to drop i got help so people please even if it is only a five min walk, keep it up. keep trying xxxx

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