A few years ago, I had the pleasure to work with a very nice lady who was trying desperately to reduce the painful effects of fibromyalgia. She had been suffering for years as a result of this painful and debilitating condition.
Like most chronic pain conditions, the worst thing may not even be the pain itself. It is the effect that the pain has on the rest of your life. In my client’s case, she spent the first year of her daughter’s life in bed. Every day. Unable to care for her newborn child.
When I met her, she was in better shape. Her daughter was older. She participated in her daughter’s life. She had a challenging career. She was happy. But she was still in constant pain.
She came to me after having quite a few bad experiences with different forms of physical and exercise therapy. At the time, I was working at a fitness club. She was initially assigned to work with a young, female trainer. Her choice.
It didn’t go well. The female trainer, who was a good trainer, knew little about fibromyalgia. During their first workout, she treated her client like a normal, PAIN FREE person. Bad move.
A week later, our fibromyalgia lady returned and demanded her money back. She had spent the last week in bed, popping pills and regretting ever coming into our gym.
I don’t know how, but the owner of the club managed to calm her down and have her agree to sit down and talk with me.
At this point, I knew very little about fibromyalgia. I did, however, know how to talk, or rather listen to justifiably angry women. Yes, I am married.
We discussed her condition. I gave her my opinion and told her that I would spend the next few days researching the subject. A few days later, we met and talked again. I discussed my findings and outlined what my plan for her fitness training would include. After about half an hour, we began our workout.
It was very slow at the beginning, but after about 3 months, everything began to change. Her body changed. She was catching up and blowing by some of my pain-free clients. More importantly, her day to day life improved drastically.
For those of you out there who know someone like my former client, please show them the following research paper, along with my story and do what you have to do to get them moving. They will thank you for it. Not right away…right away they might not be too pleased…but eventually..they will thank you.
Group Exercise, Education, and Combination Self-management in Women With Fibromyalgia
A Randomized Trial
Daniel S. Rooks, ScD; Shiva Gautam, PhD; Matthew Romeling, BS; Martha L. Cross, BS; Diana Stratigakis, BA; Brittany Evans, BS; Don L. Goldenberg, MD; Maura D. Iversen, DPT, SD, MPH; Jeffrey N. Katz, MD, MS
Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(20):2192-2200.
Background Self-management has increasingly been recommended as part of standard care for fibromyalgia, a common, poorly understood condition with limited treatment options. Data that assess popular self-management recommendations are scarce. We evaluated and compared the effectiveness of 4 common self-management treatments on function, symptoms, and self-efficacy in women with fibromyalgia.
Methods A total of 207 women with confirmed fibromyalgia were recruited from September 16, 2002, through November 30, 2004, and randomly assigned to 16 weeks of (1) aerobic and flexibility exercise (AE); (2) strength training, aerobic, and flexibility exercise (ST); (3) the Fibromyalgia Self-Help Course (FSHC); or (4) a combination of ST and FSHC (ST-FSHC). The primary outcome was change in physical function from baseline to completion of the intervention. Secondary outcomes included social and emotional function, symptoms, and self-efficacy.
Results Improvements in the mean Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire score in the 4 groups were –12.7 for the ST-FSHC group, –8.2 for the AE group, –6.6 for the ST group, and –0.3 for the FSHC group. The ST-FSHC group demonstrated greater improvement than the FSHC group (mean difference, –12.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], –23.1 to –1.7). The ST-FSHC (mean difference, 13.6; 95% CI, 2.3 to 24.9) and AE (mean difference, 13.1; 95% CI, 1.6 to 25.6) groups had similar improvements in physical function scores on the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey. Bodily pain scores on the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey improved in the ST-FSHC (14.8), AE (13.2), and ST (5.7) groups. Social function, mental health, fatigue, depression, and self-efficacy also improved. The beneficial effect on physical function of exercise alone and in combination with education persisted at 6 months.
Conclusions Progressive walking, simple strength training movements, and stretching activities improve functional status, key symptoms, and self-efficacy in women with fibromyalgia actively being treated with medication. The benefits of exercise are enhanced when combined with targeted self-management education. Our findings suggest that appropriate exercise and patient education be included in the treatment of fibromyalgia.