Systematic Review Reveals Muscle Stretching Exercises Seem to Improve Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Systematic Review Reveals Muscle Stretching Exercises Seem to Improve Fibromyalgia Symptoms

A recent review on the treatment of fibromyalgia entitled ”Effects of muscle stretching exercises in the treatment of fibromyalgia: a systematic review” was published in Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia by Suélem Barros de Lorena from the Post-Graduate Program in Health Sciences at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Brazil, along with colleagues. In this review, the authors performed a systematic literature review about the use of muscle stretching exercises in the treatment of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia (FM) occurs approximately in 2% to 8% of the population, mainly in women with ages between 30 and 55 years old. FM is characterized by a chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain, and is normally accompanied by fatigue, memory problems, and sleep disturbances and ultimately with quality of life. Fibromyalgia (FM) has been described as a heterogeneous condition with differences in biological variables including elevated sedimentation rate (ESR), cytokine profile, and hormone levels. The diagnosis of FM is mainly clinical and specific biomarkers for this condition have until now not been identified.

The authors performed a retrospective research with no chronological and linguistic limits using the MEDLINE, LILACS, SciELO and PEDro databases as well as at PubMed search tool. In this systematic literature review, the researchers only included patients with a clinical diagnosis of fibromyalgia and muscle stretching exercises as a treatment strategy in at least one of the experimental groups. The studies analyzed were evaluated for the quality of the used methods using PEDro scale.

The authors observed a higher concentration of studies in the 2000s and only one publication in 1986. Notably, all studies were performed in countries from North American and South America, and the first study done in this context was published in Canada. The first discussions about improving quality of life globally due to the broad concept of health and the increase aging of the population started at the 1st International Conference on Health Promotion, held in Canada in 1986. They also observed heterogeneity in intervention times, frequency of sessions and in the intensity of exercise consistent with the absence of agreement regarding the application of the therapeutic stretching approach in patients with FM. Importantly, they found that in all studies analyzed there was a considerable improvement regarding pain, as well as quality of life and physical condition in patients with FM.

Overall, this review showed a high positive impact of muscle stretching in the treatment of fibromyalgia. However, there is an urgent need for future studies to establish the real positive effects of this approach in improving FM symptoms, since almost all of the published studies had low methodological quality and there is an absence of standardization concerning the use of muscle stretching exercises to treat fibromyalgia.