Physical activity in one’s daily life results in better outcomes in function and fatigue, but does not seem to influence pain and pain-related psychological measures, in women with fibromyalgia.
A study with that finding, “Physical activity is related to function and fatigue but not pain in women with fibromyalgia: baseline analyses from the Fibromyalgia Activity Study with TENS (FAST),” was published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy,
Patients suffering from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia usually do not meet recommendations about physical activity, and are regarded as people leading sedentary (under-active) lifestyles. Studies have shown this may be due to pain experienced by fibromyalgia patients as they increase their physical activities, in addition to certain psychological conditions associated with fibromyalgia such as depression and fear of movement.
Studies in healthy individuals indicate that regular physical activity reduces pain sensitivity and the risk of developing chronic pain. This also applies to patients with chronic pain conditions, who also exhibit reduction in pain and disability following increased physical activity. In the case of fibromyalgia, these studies have been focused on exercise rather than lifestyle physical activity.
That is why researchers decided to investigate the relationship between symptoms and daily lifestyle physical activity in women with fibromyalgia.
The study used baseline data from an ongoing Phase 2 (NCT01888640) clinical trial and involved 171 women (age 20-70) diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Self-reported physical activity (ranging from vigorous activities to walking and sitting) performed by participants over the past seven days was assessed using a questionnaire known as IPAQ (International Physical Activity Questionnaire). Physical activity also was objectively measured using accelerometers worn by participants for seven to 10 days.
More questionnaires and tests were conducted to assess symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and included: pain; pain sensitivity; pain severity; resting fatigue; movement fatigue; physical endurance; pain-related psychological measures (e.g., fear of movement); disease impact, and; quality of life. Statistical tests then were used to assess the correlation between physical activity and these fibromyalgia-associated symptoms.
Researchers found there was an insignificant correlation between physical exercise and pain, pain sensitivity, pain-related psychological measures, resting fatigue or emotional quality of life. However, the study did show that lower levels of daily lifestyle physical activity were associated with lower physical quality of life and movement fatigue.
The researchers concluded that “clinically, these data support that increasing daily physical activity has the potential to improve function, improve physical [quality of life], and reduce movement-evoked fatigue” in the patients in the study.