Regular, moderate to intense physical activity has long‐term benefits as far as fitness, pain relief, disease burden, and quality of life for women with fibromyalgia, a study found.
The study, “Effects of a functional training programme in patients with Fibromyalgia: A 9‐years prospective longitudinal cohort study,” was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
People with fibromyalgia have functional capacity levels similar to those of very old people, and often have trouble carrying out everyday activities, such as walking and lifting objects.
Pain management often revolves around pharmacological therapy, as well as non-pharmacological treatments such as educational programs and physical exercise.
Studies have shown that exercise improves physical fitness, health, and quality of life for people with fibromyalgia. However, those that focused on assessing the impact of physical exercise in fibromyalgia have only evaluated short-term outcomes.
Researchers in Spain and Denmark conducted a study to investigate the long-term effects of a physical training regimen on pain, fitness, and quality of life of patients with fibromyalgia.
A total of 40 women with fibromyalgia participated in the study. Twenty-four were assigned an exercise program, while the remaining 16 served as a control group.
Those in the active group regularly and uninterruptedly engaged in physical activity through an exercise program — consisting of two weekly sessions of in-water exercises and one weekly on-land exercise session — for a period of nine years.
Researchers conducted several tests to evaluate participants’ symptoms, including pain sensitivity in several tender points, pain intensity using the visual analogical scale (VAS), physical fitness, symptom severity using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), and general health and quality of life using the Short Form Health Survey 36 (SF‐36).
They found that most women (85-95%) in the active group complied with the physical training regimen.
As time went on, participants in the active group experienced significant improvements in tender points, FIQ, and VAS scores compared with those in the control group. In contrast, women in the control group had a significant worsening in their FIQ scores.
Moreover, the active group saw significant improvements in leg and handgrip strength, balance, and cardiorespiratory fitness. Women in the control group had significant worsening of their handgrip strength, balance, and cardiorespiratory fitness.
Women in the active group also had better scores on social function, mental health, and general health measures.
Researchers found a strong relationship between improvements in variables of physical fitness and improvements in tender points, FIQ and VAS scores.
“Overall, the results suggest that fibromyalgia female patients who follow a physical training program will have a better quality of life in general, due to improvement of the physical functional capacity,” the researchers wrote.
“These results are clinically important, as they certify the importance of having an active and healthy lifestyle in this population which, in conjunction with continuous monitoring by medical professionals, could reduce pharmacological treatment or even eliminate it completely,” they said.