How to Exercise If You Have Fibromyalgia

Around two percent of the population suffers from Fibromyalgia. If you are one of those suffering from this condition, you most likely deal with the unbearable pain. As you are aware, the chronic symptoms can make even simple routine activities such as writing, typing, lifting objects, or even using a mobile phone quite difficult. Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose most of the time since its symptoms are often mistaken for other medical conditions. Besides, there are no special laboratory tests, and the doctors often have to rule out a host of other medical conditions in order to reach a diagnosis.

I’ll go into more detail so we can understand more about this condition, its symptoms, and why exercise is important for those experiencing it, and how to exercise for maximum benefit.

 What is Fibromyalgia? 

It is a chronic disorder that causes fatigue and extreme muscle pain. As per the National Fibromyalgia Association, it has no clear cause, but it seems to involve the central nervous system, which processes pain and other stimuli abnormally. It can affect the muscles in any part of the body but is most commonly seen in extremities, especially hands and fingers. In the majority of cases, the symptoms are first experienced in the little finger and gradually spread inward until they reach the thumb. If you have Fibromyalgia, you will most likely experience the following symptoms:

● Throbbing or painful joints in the fingers, knuckles, and wrist

● Stiffness, tenderness, numbness, tingling or weakness in extremities, hands, and fingers

● Reduced mobility of wrist and finger joints

● Waxy or rubbery texture of the skin

In severe cases, individuals may also notice tenderness and pain in other parts of the body, disturbed sleep, reduced memory or cognitive function, and several other issues.

 Is exercise vital in treating Fibromyalgia?

If you have pain in your hands and fingers due to Fibromyalgia, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. However, experts believe that physical exercise can actually reduce the pain and even help relieve the mental symptoms. Appropriate physical exercise is necessary for keeping the muscles flexible and strong, controlling weight, and helping you stay active. But remember, overexertion can lead to problems post-exercise such as post-exertion malaise. Hence, you shouldn’t exercise hard, but you should exercise appropriately to ease the effects of the symptoms.

 How to Exercise for Maximum Benefit?

woman doing yoga
Photo by Katee Lue on Unsplash

Exercise is generally the first line of treatment recommended for relieving fibromyalgia leg pain or fibromyalgia pain in hands and fingers. Choose those exercises which you enjoy the most to stay motivated. Certain activities are proven to be effective for fibromyalgia hand pain relief or relieving their other symptoms. These are plain walking or Nordic walking, Tai chi, strength training, regular low-impact aerobic exercise, yoga, and warm water exercise. 

 Below are tips on how to exercise for getting maximum relief from fibromyalgia pain in your extremities:

  1. Start Slow But Be Regular Start out slow, don’t try throwing yourself into an intense workout from day one. It is important that you start slow and be consistent. With Fibromyalgia, less is more. For instance, a simple five-minute walk can make a good improvement. Daily stretching can help enhance your posture and increase mobility. It will eventually lead to reduced pain when you are active. Understand the needs of your body, listen to it, and you will know when to stop. Focus on improving a little each day. In the long run, this steady but continuous pace can make a huge difference and reduce the effects of Fibromyalgia’s symptoms.
  2. Use Copper Compression Clothing While Exercising Copper compression clothing is used to treat stiffness or pain in muscles and joints. It combines the blood circulation-boosting benefits of graduated compression with the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of copper. By relieving the muscle stiffness and pain, copper compression gloves can help restore movement and make daily tasks such as writing and picking up objects easier. Copper-infused gloves can help keep the hands warm, which can alleviate fibromyalgia pain in hands and fingers. 
  3. Include Various Forms of Exercise Don’t stick to a single form of exercise. Try bringing variety to your exercise schedule. Yoga, tai chi, stretching, pool exercises, low-impact exercises, etc., can help you stick to the routine without getting bored or over-stressed. Some of these forms can help your body recover and reenergize it so that you feel motivated to continue with exercise the next day. 
  4. Do Mental Exercises Fibromyalgia can also result in memory and cognition problems. You may also experience forgetfulness, confusion, decreased alertness, and inability to stay focused or concentrate. Hence mental exercises are also equally important as physical exercises. Crossword puzzles, brain teasers, chess, bridge, checkers etc. are some of the examples of mentally stimulating activities which may help. Games which require strategic thinking can help keep the blood flowing and your brain active.
  5. Stay Hydrated and Focus on Recovery Staying hydrated is especially critical for people with Fibromyalgia. Water acts as a fuel for the body and helps keep it rejuvenated. Another important factor is to focus on recovery. If the body hasn’t recovered from insufficient sleep or excess physical activity, the pain can increase. Even if you have simply walked for only five minutes, rest is a must. Let your body relax and recover completely after every session of any kind of exercise. Factor in days for recovery with therapies like acupuncture or massage.  
  6. Manage Post-workout Flare-ups Remember to start gradually. Intense exercise or longer duration’s of exercise can aggravate the pain. The key is to do exercise daily for short periods. People with Fibromyalgia have a problem known as orthostatic intolerance. It means when they stand up, the blood rushes to their legs and stays there. This intolerance can be relieved by increasing the water and salt intake. Even wearing compression stocking can help by putting medium pressure. Different forms such as yoga and tai chi can also help increase your physical activity without resulting in painful post-workout flare-ups.  
  7. Exercise in Groups If you need motivation to start and stick to a regular exercise regime, hire a personal trainer, or join a group. Such support systems have proven to be very effective. You can find a certified trainer who has the experience of coaching individuals with this condition or join a fitness class, which allows you to workout at your own pace. An exercise group of people with similar conditions can help you cope with Fibromyalgia better and inspire you not to let the pain pull you back.

 Pro-tip: An ideal exercise routine for people with Fibromyalgia would be to:

● Exercise daily for 15 minutes

● Keep a target of feeling tired in a good way after a workout 

● In case you experience an increase in pain post-exercise, go easy and reduce the duration

● Unless you feel an increase in energy, do not try to increase the duration or intensity of your exercises

● Listen to your body 

 Apart from the tips described above regarding how to exercise, another important thing to keep in mind is to stay positive. Negative thought patterns may trigger physical pain. Hence, it is important to maintain a positive frame of mind. Get in touch with like-minded individuals and seek out support groups for Fibromyalgia. Persistence and patience can enable you to fight the symptoms of Fibromyalgia successfully.

 Author Bio: Kunal Patel is a passionate entrepreneur, fascinated by the workings of the human body and natural solutions for common health problems. Copper Defence is his passion, and his life work in partnering with global brands to make these high-tech materials easily accessible for everyone.