Exercise (Therapeutic Movement) for Fibromyalgia Care
Today we’re talking all about exercise for fibromyalgia. I know, I know, I can hear you groaning already. Exercise more than anything else falls into the category of “Oh, I really ought to do that but…I don’t want to right now. Maybe tomorrow. Or this weekend. Or next month. Or in the new year.”
If it’s so obvious that it’s so good for us, why do we consistently fail to follow through with exercise? The simple answer is that, frequently, the process of exercising is something that not only is not fun, but is painful as well.
I’ve taught dance and yoga professionally at different periods and this has always been something important for me. But I’ve always wanted a different word for it because “exercise” is so daunting. And I know I’m not the only one who dislikes the idea of “exercise”.
“Exercise” evokes negative feelings. Let’s do some quick word association around the word exercise:
- Prepare for it
I could go on and on. Exercise is generally thought of as something you “have to” do. I want to re-frame our thinking on that.
For example, I don’t think of dancing as exercise because I love to dance. At one point I liked to think of it as meaningful movement. When it’s more fun, playful, and meaningful, it doesn’t seem like such a huge undertaking. But after I read The Fibro Manual and heard Dr. Liptan’s phrase therapeutic movement, it really clicked with me and I like that term even better. So from now on I’m going to refer to exercise as therapeutic movement as much as possible.
Therapeutic Movement Basics
Why do our bodies need to move anyway? It turns out movement provides some critical benefits that aren’t always obvious:
- It repairs the ability of our muscles and brain to make energy.
- It brings more blood flow to our tissues to heal painful areas of the fascia.
- It increases blood flow to the brain, which improves memory and cognition.
- It releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.
- It triggers the release of growth hormone.
- It helps you sleep better.
- And it increases fluid production in the joints, which reduces pain from arthritis.
Something that applies to all types of therapeutic movement, and that is even more important for those of us with fibromyalgia, is warming up. You need to warm up your muscles before fully engaging in any of these activities, or your muscles are at risk for getting hurt. Warm-ups shouldn’t be weight-bearing and simply consist of slowly moving key muscles and joints through a gentle range of motion.
Some other key points to keep in mind besides the importance of warming up are:
- Choose low-impact activities. In other words, rock climbing is probably not the best idea.
- Start low and go slow.
- Listen to your body; be sure to stop when your body tells you to stop.
- And have at least a 48 hour recovery period between sessions. This one is flexible depending on how bad your fibro is.
Ideas for Therapeutic Movement
We did an informal survey of sorts on Instagram where we asked the community to share their favorite types of exercise – excuse me – movement – to help with fibro pain. By order of popularity, here were the results:
- Walking & Yoga (tie)
- Pilates & Light Stretching (tie)
- Qi-gong, Water Exercises, & Dancing (tie)
We’re not going to cover the details on each of these right now, but this is such a huge and important topic that we’ll be covering the details of all of the activities we just mentioned in future posts.
What type of therapeutic movement do you enjoy the most, or get the most benefit from? Do you prefer to exercise alone or with others in a class or similar setting? How do you consistently motivate yourself to follow through with an exercise regimen?
Please share your answers in the comments below.
• The Fibro Manual by Dr. Ginevra Liptan (2016) http://www.drliptan.com/book/