In a recent editorial published in the journal Arthritis, Research & Therapy, Kim D. Jones from the Oregon Health & Science University, School of Nursing discussed the growing body of evidence that is challenging the assumption that resistance (strength) training worsens muscle pain in patients with fibromyalgia (FM), a condition that affects about 5 million Americans 18 or older, particularly women.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue. People suffering from this condition have “tender points” in their body, specific places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs that hurt when pressure is put on them. People with fibromyalgia may also have other symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, morning stiffness, headaches, painful menstrual periods, tingling or numbness in hands and feet and problems with thinking and memory.
During resistance training, progressive resistance is used to improve endurance, muscle strength, power, or all. Resistance can be manipulated with free or machine weights, elastic tubing, bands, or with one’s own body weight. Resistance training builds muscle mass and strength and produces improvements in agility, balance and coordination.
In the editorial entitled “Recommendations for resistance training in patients with fibromyalgia”, the author discussed the results of various recent studies that found that when resistance training is tailored to individual needs, people with FM can obtain worthwhile improvements in FM severity.
In a recent Cochrane review, which captured the most updated evidence on the topic, the researchers found that resistance training improves multidimensional function, pain, tenderness, and muscle strength in women with FM. According to the author recommendations patients with FM should have a well-defined training goal in mind and focus on training consistently rather than intensively. This involves minimizing eccentric muscle loading, not to preform strength training during a symptom flare, and avoid doing high-intensity, power-based workouts.
The article recommends that patients should limit pain-provoking postures, be proactive by providing FM-specific exercise advice to a fitness trainer, work out at home with DVDs especially formulated for FM patients and link an exercise with an activity patients like or do regularly to increase the likelihood that exercise will become a life-long habit.
The author further advises that patients should not expect resistance training to be a replacement for medications; instead, patients should think of exercise as a key part of the overall interdisciplinary management plan. According to the author, clinicians need a deeper understanding of how resistance training helps people with FM, so as to prescribe more specific, personalized training to their patients.