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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can hydrotherapy help someone with fibromyalgia?

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    Jo Charge

    Exercise Physiologist, Yoga Teacher

    Jo is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) and qualified Yoga teacher who specialises in working with individuals living with chronic musculoskeletal conditions, including Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis, … View Profile

    Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that include widespread chronic pain and tenderness throughout the body. The condition is becoming more widely diagnosed across the Western world and is most commonly seen in females with the typical age of onset between 20-50 years. A Rheumatologist should be consulted to confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and consult on the management of the condition.

    Hydrotherapy is exercise performed in a warm water pool. It is typically a structured exercise program prescribed by an Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist. The benefits of exercising in warm water are numerous and include:

    • Buoyancy- which helps relieve the joint discomfort which is a common symptom of different forms of arthritis which is common in people with fibromyalgia.
    • Warmth- which may help to relieve the discomfort of sore muscles and joints
    • Resistance- water is 830 times denser than air, so simply moving through water is more challenging than moving on land. The resistance provided by the water can be used to help strengthen muscles.
    • Relaxation and enjoyment- because many people enjoy the sensation of being in warm water and its anti-gravity effect pleasant, it can provide a more pleasant exercise experience to exercising on land.

    The research supports exercise as a treatment modality for those living with fibromyalgia. The most recent Cochrane review of Exercise for fibromyalgia states that moderate intensity aerobic exercise and strength training can have positive effects of overall wellbeing, physical function and pain. Unfortunately there have been no large good quality randomised trials of the effects of hydrotherapy and fibromyalgia. However, we can extrapolate the findings of the Cochrance review by deducing that performing aerobic exercise and strength training in warm water would have similar benefits for those living with fibromyalgia as exercising on land.

    It is recommended that anyone living with fibromyalgia who wishes to commence an exercise program consult an Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist for individualised advice. The program best suited to your needs should consider your exercise preferences, accessibility to exercise equipment, medical history and your goals. It is also important that you commence exercises that have a suitable level of intensity to prevent your symptoms increasing. Your exercise program should be closely monitored and progressed appropriately.

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