Should You Exercise During a Fibromyalgia Flare?


Anyone’s initial reaction to a fibromyalgia diagnosis is either confusion or fear. It’s understandable. Fibromyalgia can be overwhelming and scary if you do not know much about the disorder. 

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic syndrome that gives rise to pain all over the bones and muscles, tender points in the body, and general fatigue. Since no medical test can detect or gauge these symptoms, and pain is subjective, misdiagnosis of fibromyalgia frequently happens. 

In the past, most people (including doctors) downplayed fibromyalgia and thought of it as a product of patients' imagination. Thanks to studies, they have shed light upon the matter. Fibromyalgia is real and researchers are drawing close to fully understanding the condition. Even better news, several care options exist to manage the pain of fibromyalgia. Is exercise one of those, or does it make fibromyalgia flare even worse? Read on to find out. 

Main Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

When doctors hear that a patient has fibromyalgia, they may confirm the existence of trigger points or tender spots in the body. These are regions in the body that feel pain with even a mild press or light touch. They are common in most people with fibromyalgia, but not all. At one point, these trigger points were the main diagnostic factor for doctors until they realized that pain fluctuates and changes by the day. Although that’s not the case today, they are still helpful in figuring out the cause of fibromyalgia. 

The pain in these trigger points is often dull but constant ache. They are mostly in the following areas:

  • Back of the head
  • Tops of the shoulders
  • Upper chest
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Outer elbows

Experiencing pain for more than three months can make you a candidate for fibromyalgia, especially if you also have these symptoms: 

  • Abnormal headaches or migraines
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sleeping problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Sleeping more than usual without feeling rested
  • Dull aching or pain in the lower stomach area

These symptoms can stem from the overreaction of the brain and nerves to normal pain signals. 

4 Likely Causes of Fibromyalgia According to Theories

Researchers need to invest more in studies to come up and agree with the single reason why fibromyalgia happens. To date, the definite cause of fibromyalgia remains up in the air. Initial studies consider the following as contributors to the development of fibromyalgia:

  • Trauma: Past studies have identified the association between physical or emotional trauma and fibromyalgia. It is no coincidence that many people living with fibromyalgia also deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
  • Genetics: FM seems to run in families. Those with a family member dealing with fibromyalgia are at more risk of developing the condition as well. Studies say particular genetic mutations have to do with FM. However, researchers are unsuccessful in identifying the genes up till now. 
  • Infections: Another possibility is that an illness can bring about fibromyalgia or aggravate it. 
  • Stress: Like trauma, stress has far-reaching impacts on the body. It can cause hormonal imbalance, which in turn can trigger fibromyalgia. 

As I’ve said, doctors are puzzled about the origin of the widespread pain that fibromyalgia patients go through. The brain is likely lowering pain tolerance for unknown reasons. Another possible cause is the oversensitivity to stimulation of the nerves and receptors in the body. As a result, they overreact to pain signals, exaggerating the pain. 

Is It Okay to Exercise During a Fibromyalgia Flare-up?

Here’s the answer you have been waiting for. Yes, it is fine to exercise during a fibromyalgia flare. In fact, the European League Against Rheumatism favors exercise as a primary method to cope with fibromyalgia. You may think it’s strange as most people believe that exercise can worsen pain, but that is just not true. 

However, keep in mind that researchers are not urging you to overexert yourself and run a 10K or lift some heavy weights at the gym. Do not get the wrong idea. What they are encouraging are low impact exercises to improve your symptoms.  

In case you didn’t know, a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to pain and may increase the discomfort caused by fibromyalgia. How does it worsen chronic pain? Having no exercise for a long time can result in weight gain and may eventually lead to cardiac problems. 

Exercises to Manage Fibromyalgia

What kind of exercises are best for fibromyalgia? These low-impact activities can help:

  • Stretching: Pilates is suitable for beginners. It can help you strengthen your core and improve your range of motion. More importantly, it can help reduce your stress. 
  • Walking: Even a 10-minute walk every day is good for you in so many ways. It can lighten your mood, strengthen your muscles and joints, and help with weight loss. 
  • Swimming: An aerobic exercise, swimming can improve your blood circulation. Also, water offers resistance, which helps make the muscles grow stronger.

Another Great Way to Ease Fibromyalgia Pain 

Besides doing the above exercises, you can also visit a local upper cervical chiropractor in your area. Upper cervical chiropractic utilizes a low-impact method of adjustments that do not inflict more pain on the neck’s bones. Chiropractors practicing the upper cervical technique helps realign the upper cervical bones naturally. In short, patients can benefit from the longer-lasting adjustment as it can result in fewer visits. Many patients in case studies have enjoyed the huge improvement in their fibromyalgia after a few upper cervical chiropractors’ adjustments.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.