Combating Fibromyalgia

7 November 2012

Fibromyalgia, a condition which affects more women than men, is characterized by widespread pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons, often causing fatigue and multiple tender points; places throughout the body where even the slightest pressure causes pain. Although mainstream medicine has yet to discover a successful treatment plan to relieve the suffering caused by fibromyalgia, yoga offers many sensible strategies for not only managing, but often overcoming the pain.

Learning and practicing yoga, especially restorative yoga, using yoga props as needed, is extremely helpful in alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia and offering an opportunity to reverse the affliction. This also applies to anyone with a disease similar to FMS, such as arthritis, chronic fatigue and other related disorders. Once familiar with the basics, regular home practice can begin in addition to ongoing studio instruction; this way yoga can offer relief at the most convenient times or as symptoms arise.

For those who are limited in their ability to move, yoga is the perfect medium, and is known to actually increase range of movement and flexibility in just one short session. A proper yoga instructor will start where you’re at, rather than where they might think you should be, and that will effectively insure continuous progress.

The positive influence of yoga in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms has been demonstrated by a relatively new study. According to research conducted at OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University), yoga exercises have been shown to have the power to combat fibromyalgia. As published in “Science Daily”…

James Carson, Ph.D., a clinical health psychologist and an assistant professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Here, we specifically focused on yoga to determine whether it should be considered as a prescribed treatment and the extent to which it can be successful.”

In this study, researchers enrolled 53 female study subjects previously diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The women were randomly assigned to two research groups. The first group participated in an eight-week yoga program, which included gentle poses, meditation, breathing exercises and group discussions. The second group of women — the control group — received only standard medication treatments for fibromyalgia.

Following completion of the yoga program, researchers assessed each study subject using questionnaires and physical tests. The results were then compared with testing results obtained prior to the yoga classes. The members of the control group underwent the same evaluations. In addition, each participant in the yoga group was urged to keep a daily diary to personally assess their condition throughout the entire program.

Comparison of the data for the two groups revealed that yoga appears to assist in combating a number of serious fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, fatigue, stiffness, poor sleep, depression, poor memory, anxiety and poor balance. All of these improvements were shown to be not only statistically but also clinically significant, meaning the changes were large enough to have a practical impact on daily functioning. For example, pain was reduced in the yoga group by an average of 24 percent, fatigue by 30 percent and depression by 42 percent.

Fibromyalgia affects between 11 million and 15 million Americans. The annual costs for health care for these patients have been estimated at $20 billion. The cause of fibromyalgia is currently unknown, but it is believed that physical/emotional stress may play a major role. It has been documented and well known for centuries that yoga practice combined with meditation has a direct and immediate effect , relieving both physical and emotional stress.

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