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Exercise Benefits Patients with Fibromyalgia

The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), offers a vigorous defense against the often-debilitating pain of fibromyalgia: Exercise, as well as some other non-drug treatments.

EULAR’s treatment guidelines, published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease, state that exercise is the best evidence-based therapy for this hard-to-pin-down rheumatic condition, which can trigger symptoms ranging from cognitive problems to widespread pain, irritable bowel, syndrome and sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights.   

The guidelines echo recommendations from Canada, Israel and Germany and say evidence for using any medication to treat the condition is weak. They specifically advise against taking growth hormones, sodium oxybate, strong opioids, and corticosteroids, “based on lack of efficacy and high risk of side effects.”   

They also don’t recommend biofeedback, capsaicin, hypnotherapy, massage, or SAMe and other alternative therapies and are strongly against chiropractic manipulation. EULAR did, however, offer a “weak recommendation” for mindful meditation, acupuncture and hydrotherapy to address fatigue and pain.

If you’re one of the more than five million Americans with fibromyalgia, talk with your doctor about establishing an exercise routine (start with 30 minutes three days a week). Brisk walking, biking, swimming and water aerobics are good first activities. Over time you may find exercise offers far greater relief than medications without the risk of side effects.