Is exercise good for treating fibromyalgia?
This is a loaded question. On one hand, studies regularly find that exercise is good for those with fibromyalgia. On the other hand, many of you find that you have pain flare-ups after trying to do exercise. So how can exercise be good for you but make your pain worse. This is a frustrating conundrum. Also, there are many of you who find that movement and exercise is almost mandatory to stave off symptoms. This is more in line with what the studies suggest, but can be maddening when what works for you doesn’t work for the next person with the same diagnosis.
When I see a group of people with the “same condition” have very different results with a certain treatment method, it leads me to believe that the condition has differing underlying actions. Specifically, all fibromyalgia is not the same, and should not be treated the same. How do you fight an enemy you do not know? You need to delve deeper.
Fibromyalgia is like a series of knots tied together. Nitric oxide dysregulation can be a cause (fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue symptoms coincided with taking a desk job and sitting for 8-10 hours per day), or it can be a symptom of a different root cause (had a car collision, and even after physical therapy the pain did not subside, and then it started progressively getting harder and harder to sleep).
If there is too much nitric oxide, or the nitric oxide is “stuck” somewhere in the body, it will cause inflammation and pain, and also interrupt sleep cycles and have a deleterious effect on the liver system. Exercise will make pain lessen because the exercise is helping the move nitric oxide and blood, lessening inflammation and allowing GABA receptors to be properly regulated.
If there is not enough nitric oxide then chronic fatigue will show because cell mitochondria are not being told to create enough ATP, and there are not enough signalling molecules to tell autoregulatory systems to stay in line. This also lets GABA receptors become too excited, which can cause pain. In this case though, nitric oxide is “spent” each time you do exercise, which further exacerbates the condition. This is often the case when exercise makes pain flare-ups worse. The gas tank is already low on fuel, and you are using more up. Slow, gentle movements and holding certain postures might be preferential, such as yoga, taiji, and qigong, and the underlying theme is to only do enough exercise to incite your system to create more, rather than spend extra.
It is very important to listen to your body, and realize that your pain is not the same as the pain others feel. It is a complicated mess of knots, and sometimes you need to untie them in different ways.
What about you? What has been your experience with different types of exercise?