Exercise is one thing medical experts suggest you do when you have chronic pain. But getting fit with fibromyalgia isn't easy. Not only does physical activity help modulate pain in the body, but helps increase endorphins. Fibromites and patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalitis and Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (CFS/ME/SEID) are found to have lower levels of endorphins and have a harder time increasing them.
Does fibromyalgia get worse with exercise?
Patients oftentimes avoid exercise, weary that it will only make the pain and fatigue worse. Only they make it worse by sitting or lying around for long periods of time. Getting fit with fibromyalgia helps with sleep, anxiety, stress and overall longevity. The list of physical activities includes biking, swimming, yoga, tai chi and walking. I do the two latter because they are the easiest to do.
Tai Chi for Chronic Pain
I will be honest and say I was sceptical about giving tai chi a try. It was something that kept popping up in my research, so I decided why not. Youtube was a great resource in this endeavour, with many, many videos for a variety of levels of fitness. I counted three or four different instructors, men and women, with a variety of backgrounds in the practice.
To those unfamiliar with the eastern martial art-yes, I was flabbergasted to learn it’s a martial art, too. It’s a slow meditative state of being that involves a sequence of smooth movements. It’s not an activity all people will find enjoyable enough to continue because it’s slow. I’ve stuck with it because I kept telling myself I was doing this to feel a little better.
Some alternative medical studies say it’s the chi, or energy, that helps fibro symptoms. Others disagree and simply state it’s the slow movement combined with mindfulness that helps alleviate symptoms and calm the brain. There’s a similar eastern practice, called qigong, which helps distribute chi in the body while doing certain movements (hailed by former fibromites to have been a ‘cure’ to their fibro). It has to do with vagal stimulation, the nerve which some experts say is involved in fibro/CFS/SEID/ME.
What is the best exercise for fibromyalgia?
However, there is controversy in the energy concept among western doctors, because there’s more to all these CNS/brain conditions than energy. A few physicians are weary about what the research says of these eastern practices, and acupuncture, which releases ‘pent up’ energy along meridian lines on the body. They argue that information may be wrong or misleading. Some even propose it’s alternative ‘experts’ wanting to make money off vulnerable patients, who have limited funds.
I’ve been practicing tai chi for about two months now, doing small sessions of five to ten minutes, every other day. I haven’t seen anything really change. Perhaps I need to do more, or increase how many days I do it, as with any natural therapy you must do it often and long enough to get the benefit. From the research I read, it took months to see the benefits come to light. It was also implied that people should invest in taking classes or hiring trainers, as opposed to doing sessions at home on their own. I’ve got limited funds right now, so I utilized the free videos on YouTube as best as I could.
Walking and Fibromyalgia
No exercise is greener or cheaper than walking for fibromyalgia. You only need a pair of good walking or running shoes (and boots, when the snow starts). The water bottle, sunglasses and hat are entirely optional. There’s no expensive gym membership or trainer involved. No fancy equipment. You can walk anytime of day, on any given day. You can do walk in rain, snow, or shine. Podcasts, audiobooks, and itunes are optional.
You have the choice to walk and listen to the rustle of leaves, caws of birds, pitter-patter of rain, or bark of dogs.You can enjoy the sight of leaves changing, the sky turning different colours, or watch the snowflakes fall softly from the clouds. Reminders that we share this earth with nature. We as a society, we as human beings, seem to take these small miracles of nature for granted as we stare at screens every passing minute. If not for work, or school, then for entertainment purposes.
Fit with Fibromyalgia
You might feel stuck in life, or at the keyboard, but the physical movement of walking-and fresh air-helps you feel like you’re in control. If you want, you can pause for a moment, close your eyes and breathe. There’s no reason to go fast, there's no rush to getting fit with fibromyalgia. There’s no exact direction, you can go as far as you’d like, for as long as you like. I’ve been an avid walker since my teens, walking whenever I could and I think it’s changed my metabolism.
In a way, It’s like moving yoga. You can meditate out in the open. Feel free of the constraints of life. Free your mind of whatever is bothering you. You can find a walking partner, a dog, or a walking group, but they are not required. There’s research pointing to the fact that walking is the best form of exercise to keep up in life. Not only does it help metabolism for those struggling with weight, It’s easy on the joints, compared to running or biking (and strengthens the joints at the same time). It doesn’t matter how much or little you do, it counts.
Exercise and chronic pain – Getting fit with fibromyalgia
Despite the pain and fatigue that comes with fibro, I’ve managed to keep relatively fit. I do a bit of activity each day, knowing that a little is better than nothing. Moreover, I take breaks and get up off the chair, doing housework throughout the day. I may dislike cleaning, and grocery shopping, but I do count it as part of my activity log.
This is a guest post from Ivi J. History graduate alum, writer, virgo, HSP, fibromite, cat mom and novice photographer. She’s also a fur mom to a fluffy grey cat, a fan of Orlando Bloom and loves dark chocolate. When not writing or taking photographs, she’s enjoying a warm cuppa and a bloody good British mystery. You can follow her on her photography and history social media platforms:
Instagram: @nature_nomad and @lives_livedpast