FM/CFS/ME RESOURCES - Fibro-Friendly Exercises


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Fibro-Friendly Exercises

If you are living with fibromyalgia, then you well know the discomfort and pain that comes along with it. Many fibromyalgia patients fear that exercising will increase their pain, when actually the opposite is true. Research has shown that exercising twice a week for 25 minutes each time can result in immediate improvement of fibromyalgia symptoms.

Exercise can boost your energy, decrease pain and stiffness, and help you be more active in your life. The key to fibro-friendly exercises is to do low to moderate-intensity activities such as walking, swimming, water aerobics, biking, yoga, qui gong or tai chi. With all of these exercises it is important to start slowly, and gradually increase the intensity and duration as you can.

The following will provide you with some detailed information about fibro-friendly exercises that you can do either at home or in a class:

Warming Up

To prevent injury, it's vital to warm up before exercising. A warm-up should begin with gentle joint rotations, starting from your toes and working your way up the body. Perform slow, circular movements (clockwise and counter-clockwise) until all your joints - from toes, ankles, knees, and legs, to hips, trunk, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, and knuckles - move smoothly. Never take these rotations to the point of pain.

Exercising the Joints

This is a great fibro-friendly exercise you can do at home. Start with your feet. Either sitting or standing, tense and then release your toes 5x to get circulation to the feet, then begin with gentle ankle rotations by making slow circular movements clockwise 5-10x, and then change directions to counterclockwise. Work your way up your body through all of your joints - knees, hips, spine, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders and neck. Move slowly and smoothly. Finish by sitting or standing quietly and taking 5 deep breaths.

Shake It Out

This is a wonderful fibro-friendly exercise to get your day started (and can be done at home). Start by standing, taking a few deep breaths, and then shaking out your hands, fingers and wrists. Expand the shaking by adding your arms, shoulders, and (very gently) your head. Let out deep exhales as you shake out pain and stiffness. Next, move to your lower body. Shake out your hips, buttocks, legs, ankles and feet. Have fun with this. Shake out your whole body for one minute, letting out any sounds that need to release. After the minute is up, stand still, put your hands at your heart, close your eyes and just breathe for about 30 seconds.


Stretching improves your circulation and sends nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and joints, increasing your range of motion so that moving around becomes easier. Stretching also increases your range of motion so that moving around becomes easier over time. Daily stretching lubricates the joints and sends nutrients and oxygen to the muscles.

Try this simple, fibro-friendly stretching exercise: Sitting or standing, stretch your arms up toward the sky, hook your thumbs together and take 5 deep breaths. When you complete 5 breaths, turn slightly to the right and take 3 deep breaths, then turn slightly to the left and take 3 deep breaths. This is a wonderful stretching exercise to release tension and stiffness in your back, chest and shoulders.

Stretching the Calves

To perform this move: facing a wall, place palms flat on the wall, one foot forward, and one foot back. Leaving your heels on the floor, lean forward. As you do so, feel the pull in your calf and the Achilles tendon at the back of the ankle. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Do three repetitions. Then reverse the position of your legs and repeat.

Boost Muscle, Mood, Strength

Studies show that strengthening exercises using free weights decrease pain and even reduce depression in people with fibromyalgia. What's most vital with strength training is not the weight, but the range of movements you take your muscles through. Get tips at a fitness center for using handheld weights, elastic bands, or machines for resistance, because done improperly these exercises can make your pain symptoms worse.

Isometric Chest Press

If regular strength training is painful, isometrics is another way to build muscle. Isometrics involve tensing the muscle without any visible movement. With your arms at chest height, press palms together as hard as you can. Hold for 5 seconds; then rest for 5 seconds. Do 5 repetitions. Slowly build to holding the press for 10-15 seconds at a time. If this exercise is painful, ask a trainer to show you another isometric chest exercise.

Isometric Shoulder Extension

This isometric exercise is done standing with your back against a wall and your arms at your sides. With your elbows straight, push your arms back toward the wall. Hold for 5 seconds, and then rest. You can repeat this 10 times. If this exercise is painful, ask a trainer to show you another isometric shoulder exercise.

Ice May Ease Fibromyalgia Pain

When you're hurting, cold compresses can reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels. Although cold packs can be uncomfortable at first, they may help numb the deep muscle pain of fibromyalgia.

How Much Exercise is Enough?

Some research shows that exercising twice a week for 25 minutes each time can result in immediate improvement of fibromyalgia symptoms. If you're just getting started with exercise, choose a low- to moderate-intensity exercise such as mall walking, swimming, water aerobics, using a kickboard in a pool, yoga, tai chi, or biking. Start slow, gradually increasing the duration and intensity as you can.

Add Daily Living Activities

Experts say that daily living activities and household chores such as playing with kids, mopping floors, washing windows, mowing the yard, and gardening can all be beneficial when it comes to increasing fitness - and reducing fibromyalgia symptoms.

Yoga for Body/Mind Fitness

Yoga, which incorporates exercises, stretching, and meditation, is a great way to increase fitness when you have fibromyalgia. The physical postures (asanas) can help alleviate aches and pains, concentration exercises (dharana) help overcome fibro-fog, and meditation (dhyana) helps you focus on the present instead of ruminating about your pain. Join a yoga class at your local community center or fitness center.

Gentle or Intense Yoga?

The gentle practice of Viniyoga incorporates deep breathing with gentle stretching. This type of yoga is a great way to improve health and wellbeing, particularly for those who face health challenges such as fibromyalgia. With all types of yoga, it's important to find a good instructor who understands fibromyalgia's challenges. Ask your support group, fibromyalgia community, or doctor for recommendations.

Qigong for Fibromyalgia Muscle Pain

Called the "mother of Chinese healing," qigong (pronounced chee-gong) combines meditation dance, movement, and breathing exercises. Studies on qigong and fibromyalgia show this traditional Chinese exercise helps improve energy, decreases fatigue, and alleviates pain.

Studies on qigong and fibromyalgia show that qiqong helps improve energy, decreases fatigue, improves sleep, decreases fibro-fog, decreases anxiety and alleviates pain. This ancient Chinese exercise combines meditation, dance, movement, and breathing exercises. Ask your doctor or fibromyalgia community to recommend an instructor or a class.

Tai Chi & Fibromyalgia Flexibility

Tai chi is another alternative exercise for fibromyalgia that emphasizes relaxation. Tai chi has been called a "meditation in motion," with dramatic, flowing movements instead of forceful actions. The goal of tai chi is to bring the principles of yin and yang into harmony. Sign up for a tai chi class at your fitness or community center. It is wonderfully low-impact exercise that emphasizes relaxation.

Studies have shown that tai chi can reduce fatigue, depression, anxiety, joint stiffness and pain in fibromyalgia patients. It can also improve mental clarity that is often compromised by fibro-fog. Tai chi is another fibro-friendly exercise that is best to start with a class. Ask your doctor or fibromyalgia community for recommendations.

Heat Therapy for Fibromyalgia Pain

Afraid exercise will be painful when you have fibromyalgia? Try heat applications before and after exercise to ease pain and stiffness. Heat therapy boosts your body's own healing force, dilating blood vessels, stimulating blood circulation, reducing muscle spasms, and altering the sensation of pain. You can try dry heat - like heating pads or heat lamps - or moist heat, such as warm baths or heated wash cloths.

Water Aerobics

This is a wonderful fibro-friendly exercise since the buoyancy of water takes stress off the joints. Studies on the effect of water aerobics on fibromyalgia patients have shown that it reduces pain, improves strength, improves circulation and improves emotional health. Ask your doctor or fibromyalgia community to recommend a class.

Strength Training

Studies performed by Harvard University have shown that a progressive regimen of strength training helps to reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. More specifically, strength training helps to reduce muscle pain and stiffness by encouraging daily use of all body parts; increases energy and reduces fatigue; improves sleep habits and alleviates symptoms of depression. Make sure to start out by working with a fitness instructor who understands the challenges of fibromyalgia.

Exercise is one of the most beneficial treatments for fibromyalgia symptoms. It can lessen your pain, strengthen your muscles, improve your mood, and make daily living a little bit easier. Talk to your doctor about getting started with any one of these fibro-friendly exercises.

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