Unfortunately, one of the most debilitating symptoms experienced by those living with fibromyalgia is fatigue. Fatigue is different from simply being tired, which most of us complain of from time to time. Fatigue is defined as a pervasive sense of tiredness which is not relieved by rest. This presents a huge challenge for anyone living with fibromyalgia who wants to be more active. Research supports the use of exercise as part of the holistic management of fibromyalgia. There are many reasons for this:
- When we exercise, small amounts of hormones including endorphins are released which provides a form of mild analgesia. Serotonin is also released which can help improve mood and provide a sense of well being.
- A structured exercise program will help increase physical function. The stronger you muscles and heart and lungs are, the easier it is for the body to perform our activities of daily living. For instance, the practice of hanging out the washing or making the bed are daily task that become easier to perform the stronger we are and the less fatiguing these exercises are.
- The body functions best when it is active, so engaging in a little exercise each day serves to provide us with a feeling of well being and a sense we are nurturing our body and doing something positive for ourselves. It can also provide us with a sense of control over our body and a sense of achievement when we find we have exercised.
The suggestion I would make is to to start small and try and commit to doing some form of movement everyday. For instance taking a 5 to 15 minute slow walk or performing a short practice of restorative Yoga asana which can be supported with Yoga props to allow a gentle form of whole body stretching and movement.When I work with clients in the clinic what I try to create is a plan to help them progressively increase the amount of exercise and physical activity in their lives which helps to teach a technique called ‘pacing’. This means balancing the amount of activity and rest across an individual day and across the span of your week.
We start by looking at baseline activity levels as measured by a pedometer and creating a symptom diary. I then look at setting a daily activity target, along with a daily minimum and maximum activity level. Over time the aim is to progress activity levels by shifting the targets gradually higher. The aim of this program is to increase the functional capacity to do more activity. Whilst we may not be able to alter fatigue levels, as this is a symptom of the condition, the aim is to permit the individual to perform more activity without increasing fatigue levels and to help increase quality of life.For individualised advice on starting an exercise program contact your local Exercise Physiologist www.essa.org.au
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