Different types of exercise offer different fibromyalgia benefits, a Brazilian study shows.
Stretching improves patients’ physical functioning and quality of life, while resistance training helps combat depression, researchers said.
They reporting the findings in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. The article was titled “Muscle stretching exercises and resistance training in fibromyalgia: which is better? A three-arm randomized controlled trial.”
Fibromyalgia is a complex disorder characterized by chronic pain, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. Despite a lot of effort, scientists have yet to develop an effective treatment. The therapies available at the moment can only help patients manage their pain and improve their quality of life.
Because movement can increase fibromyalgia’s pain, many patients develop an inactive lifestyle. But in the long run, this can lead to both physical injury and emotional distress.
Exercise can benefit fibromyalgia patients, studies since the 1970s have shown. A key question last unanswered was the benefits of specific types of exercise.
Researchers at the University of São Paulo wanted to see how stretching and resistance training could help fibromyalgia patients.
The study covered 44 women, aged 30 to 55. Researchers randomly assigned them to a stretching group, a resistance training group, or a control group.
The stretching group went through a 12-week supervised training program. Twice a week they would take 40-minute stretching sessions without a therapist’s assistance. The trainers increased the intensity of the workouts over time.
Trainers put the resistance group through a similar 12-week, twice-a-week program. The patients did eight repetitions of resistance exercises, adding more weight each week.
The control group received standard fibromyalgia treatment but no exercise.
At the end of the 12 weeks, those in the stretching group were able to endure pain better and showed significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life. The resistance training group showed both physical and symptom improvements.
An analysis indicated that stretching significantly improved patients’ ability to deal with pain and to function better physically, while the biggest of resistance training was reducing patients’ depression.
The controls had the highest morning-fatigue and stiffness scores of the three groups, and the lowest score for vitality.
Researchers concluded that stretching had the biggest impact on patients’ quality of life, while resistance training had the biggest impact on fibromyalgia symptoms and on patients’ physical functioning, vitality, social interaction, and mental health.
“The muscle stretching exercise program was the most effective modality in improving quality of life, especially physical functioning and pain, and resistance training was the most effective modality in reducing depression,” the team wrote.
“In clinical [doctor’s office] practice, we suggest including both modalities in programs of exercise therapy for fibromyalgia,” they wrote.