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May 2013

Physical Activity May Reduce Fibromyalgia Pain

Engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) for at least 12 weeks may improve function and well-being in people who have fibromyalgia (FM).

Fibromyalgia is a complex, disabling, and long-term condition characterized by widespread long-term pain, fatigue, and stiffness in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, as well as multiple tender points (places on the body where slight pressure causes pain). In addition to muscular pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia may also be associated with sleep problems, depression, and an inability to think clearly.

Although fibromyalgia is often considered an arthritis-related condition, it is not truly a form of arthritis because it does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles, or other tissues. Like arthritis, however, fibromyalgia is considered a rheumatic condition, a medical condition that impairs the joints and/or soft tissues and causes chronic pain.

In the current study, scientists evaluated the effects of MVPA in 170 people with FM. The subjects received individual exercise regimens and were assessed at weeks 12, 24, and 36. The researchers based symptom improvements on each person's Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire-Physical Impairment (FIQ-PI) score, as well as pain severity and depression.

Over the course of the study, 27 participants increased and sustained their MVPA, 68 increased but then declined, and 75 did not achieve this benchmark. People who increased their MVPA, regardless of sustaining, reported greater FIQ-PI improvement, as well as more reduced pain severity, compared to those who did not increase MVPA.

The researchers reported that participating in MVPA for at least 12 weeks may help reduce symptoms of FM and improve well-being. However, they emphasized that further study is needed before firm conclusions can be made.

Many integrative therapies have been studied for their potential benefits on FM. Acupuncture has been used, as well as trigger point therapy, a treatment in which irritated spots in the muscle are massaged to help release pain. Chlorella, a type of green algae, has also been used. All three of these therapies are supported by good scientific evidence for use in FM.

For more information about FM, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Kaleth AS, Saha CK, Jensen MP, et al. Moderate-vigorous physical activity improves long-term clinical outcomes without worsening pain in fibromyalgia.Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2013 Feb 11. doi: 10.1002/acr.21980. [Epub ahead of print] 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.

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