Researchers from Belgium have found that increased body awareness could positively impact anxiety, depression and health-related-quality-of-life in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The study, titled Effectiveness of Body Awareness Interventions in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, appeared January 19th in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy.
Fibromyalgia is the most frequently occurring musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. Unfortunately it is often misdiagnosed or even disregarded. Symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain and fatigue. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition of continued tiredness that does not diminish with rest and is not directly caused by a different specific medication condition.
Body awareness refers to an understanding of where one’s body is in space. It combines the sense of balance (vestibular), feeling of touch (tactile), and sense of position (proprioceptive) sensory systems. These three systems in combination make up what is referred to as body awareness.
The authors, led by Imke Courtois of the Reval Research Center, University Hasselt, conducted a meta-analysis of the research that has been published on the topic of body awareness and its impact on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. They found a total of 29 articles. The studies demonstrated that increased body awareness has positive effects on several measurements, including the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (a standard assessment of health, physical function and symptoms), reduced pain, reduced depression, reduced anxiety and improvements in Health Related Quality of Life (HRQoL). Results between studies were variable across studies for the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire and pain, but anxiety, depression and HRQoL effects were consistent.
The question then becomes: what can be done to increase body awareness? Several interventions have been designed to increase and to treat body awareness, known as body awareness therapies (BAT). These therapies include Basic BAT, Mensendieck and Feldenkrais therapy. In basic BAT, the therapist and patient work on movements that are used everyday, including lying, sitting, standing and walking. It also includes voice exercises, mental exercises and massage. Mensendieck therapy involves correcting everyday activities to make the patient more graceful as well as relaxing muscles to release tension. Feldenkrais focuses on learning to move with less effort and explores the relationship between movement and thought.
The study investigators noted that “Body awareness seems to play an important role in anxiety, depression and HRQoL.” They cautioned however, that more high-quality studies of the relationship between body awareness and fibromyalgia are needed. In addition, direct comparisons of different body awareness therapies could help to determine which are most beneficial for treating people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.