Exercise Programs for Fibromyalgia Management Have Low Therapeutic Effectiveness, Study Suggests

Exercise Programs for Fibromyalgia Management Have Low Therapeutic Effectiveness, Study Suggests

The therapeutic effectiveness of exercise intervention programs for the treatment of fibromyalgia is low, a study suggests.

The study, “Therapeutic validity of exercise interventions in the management of fibromyalgia,” was published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

Fibromyalgia patients often experience significant disability, which leads to less ability to carry out everyday activities. Several non-pharmacological therapies, such as exercise, have been shown to be effective in managing fibromyalgia pain.

In particular, exercise therapy, widely used in clinical practice, has several advantages, namely in that it’s economical and easy to access.

However, while the benefits of exercise have been well-documented in patients with fibromyalgia, the optimal exercise regimen for this patient population remains unclear.

One of the issues with determining the best exercise regimen for these patients is that different clinical trials have used a wide variety of exercise programs, including differences in the type of exercise, intensity, frequency, program duration, and other factors.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for exercise testing and prescription have outlined specific recommendations to consider when designing exercise interventions in clinical trials of fibromyalgia patients.

Therapeutic validity, which is defined as the “potential effectiveness of a specific intervention given to a potential target group of patients,” can help determine the likelihood that an intervention will have an effect.

Therefore, researchers conducted a systematic review to evaluate the therapeutic validity of exercise interventions for adults with fibromyalgia that have been investigated in published, randomized, controlled clinical trials.

Additionally, researchers also explored whether exercise interventions with high therapeutic validity that meet the 2013 ACSM guidelines are positively associated with greater pain relief.

Therapeutic validity was assessed using the CONsensus on Therapeutic Exercise and Training (CONTENT) scale.

Results showed that the CONTENT mean total score was 4.42 out of 9 — which indicated a generally low therapeutic validity among the exercise regimens included in 28 trials, resulting in “a suboptimal training effect,” according to the researchers.

Moreover, most of these trials reported incomplete information regarding the characteristics of the exercise interventions.

“Unfortunately, the results of this review cannot lead to a clear answer to our research question regarding the impact of therapeutic validity on pain relief in adults with fibromyalgia due to inconsistent or inadequate information about the therapeutic exercise parameters,” the authors said.

Furthermore, there was poor agreement between therapeutic validity and pain relief as well as a poor association between the achievement of 2013 ACSM exercise recommendations and pain relief. This indicates that high therapeutic validity of exercise regimens or meeting the 2013 ACSM exercise recommendations does not translate to improved pain relief.

“The therapeutic validity of exercise intervention programs in fibromyalgia is low. This is mainly due to incomplete descriptions of exercise interventions and adherence,” the authors concluded, adding that “improved standardized reporting is recommended to identify optimal exercise prescription for fibromyalgia.”