Exercise program may benefit women with fibromyalgia

January 9, 2008

A program of walking, stretching, and simple strength-training exercises appears to benefit women with fibromyalgia, particularly when combined with education in fibromyalgia self-management, according to research published in the Nov. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A program of walking, stretching, and simple strength-training exercises appears to benefit women with fibromyalgia, particularly when combined with education in fibromyalgia self-management, according to research published in the Nov. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Daniel S. Rooks, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues assessed how self-management techniques impacted patients with fibromyalgia by randomizing 207 women with confirmed fibromyalgia to undergo 16 weeks of one of four treatments: (1) aerobic and flexibility exercise; (2) strength-training, aerobic and flexibility exercise; (3) a fibromyalgia self-management course; or (4) a combination of (2) and (3). The primary outcome was change in functioning, and secondary outcomes included social and emotional function, symptoms and self-efficacy.

Individuals randomized to exercise plus education saw the greatest improvements in Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire scores (-12.7), followed by the aerobic and flexibility exercise group (-8.2). The smallest increases in scores occurred in the patients receiving education alone (-0.3). Exercise was also associated with improvements in physical function and pain scores on the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey.

These findings “suggest that an appropriately structured exercise program that involves progressive walking and flexibility movements with or without strength training improves physical, emotional and social function, key symptoms, and self-efficacy in women with fibromyalgia being actively treated with medication,” the authors write.

Rooks DS, Gautam S, Romeling M, et al. Group exercise, education, and combination self-management in women with fibromyalgia: a randomized trial. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:2192-2200.