Breathing exercises can improve pain tolerance and quality of life in fibromyalgia patients, a study has found.
Fibromyalgia (FM) often is diagnosed based on complaints of pain in tender spots of the body, including the elbows, upper chest, knees and the front and back of the neck.
Its symptoms can be aggravated by respiratory disorders, with respiratory muscle weakness being associated with exhaustion and decreased physical condition and functionality in daily activities. So, it is important to consider strategies to improve respiratory muscle weakness.
Exercises have been shown to improve respiratory muscle weakness and benefit patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. However, there has been little work on the effect of respiratory exercise on FM patients.
A study, “Breathing Exercises Must Be a Real and Effective Intervention to Consider in Women with Fibromyalgia: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial” which was published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, aimed to investigate the effect of breathing training on the improvement of respiratory muscle function on pain and quality of life in FM patients.
Patients were split into two groups: an exercise group (18 participants) and a control group (17 participants). Patients in the exercise group were instructed to perform a breathing exercise program, which consisted of 30 minutes per session for seven times per week during a 12-week period. The breathing exercises intended to strengthen and lengthen the thorax and abdomen skeletal muscles.
Pain threshold in five tender points (on the body trunk and neck), as well as the overall impact of FM on daily life, were assessed at the beginning and end of the study. The latter was based on the FM Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), which evaluates the effect of FM on daily activities and well-being.
At the beginning of the study, no differences in pain or FM impact on daily life were observed between the exercise and control groups. After 12 weeks, however, the exercise group had reduced pain in the tender points in the upper body (especially the second rib, occiput and supraspinatus). The exercise group also showed an improvement in functional capacity to perform daily activities, pain and fatigue.
Overall, the study showed the 12-week breathing exercise program led to improvements in pain in tender points and quality of life. It is important to note that such an intervention requires patients to be highly motivated to exercise daily, which is a hinderance of this approach.
In conclusion, the researchers stated that the “results provide further support to an idea that breathing exercises, without using specific respiratory appliance, are a real and effective intervention to consider in the management of pain and for reducing FM impact on daily life of the patients.”