Here you will find an instructional guide to physical activity while living with Fibromyalgia. This guide is meant to help you navigate the therapeutic exercises in order to maintain strong and healthy muscle tissue, help manage pain and improve the quality of sleep and cognition.
You should always have the conversation with your care provider before initiating a new physical activity regimen.
One of the first and most beneficial steps of physical activity after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia is raising your body temperature or “Getting warm”. This prepares the muscles for the activity that follows. Whether you achieve this by taking a warm bath, laying under a warm blanket, or layering the clothes you wear, taking 15 minutes to increase your body temperature slightly can make all the difference.
Once your body is warm, you’re ready to start the routine.
Many warm-up routines start slow and gradually pick up in intensity. For those who live with Fibromyalgia, the focus will remain on slow and low impact movements. The objective is to maintain healthy muscles and decrease pain and stiffness.
Keep in mind that the routine of stretching can sometimes be the most significant part of the activity for the day. If all you can manage to complete is the warm-up itself, you’ll still gain all the benefits of staying in motion. Physical activity to help manage Fibromyalgia is very different from the physical activity of an athlete and so preventing injury is important.
The routine will start on a flat surface, laying down or in a sitting position. If laying down, lay on something soft such as the carpet or an excesses mat. Place your hands at your sides and keep your feet about shoulder width apart.
Take slow, controlled and deep breaths. Try to visualize your breath filling your lungs and leaving on exhale.
Begin at your feet. Curl your toes in towards your heel. Do this slowly. You may feel a slight pull on the pads of your feet. Now extend your toes up towards the sky. Repeat this 5 times. If you begin to feel significant discomfort, do not push yourself.
Next, move to the ankles. While still laying down, bring your knees as close to your chest as you can. With both hands, hold onto your knees with your feet elevated off the ground. Begin rotating your ankles in circles. Flex your ankles up, down, let and right. Then drop your knees and rest for a few seconds. Repeat up to 5 times. Do not push yourself past your comfort threshold.
And now to the legs. Still lying flat with your palms on the ground beside you, bring your knees up towards your chest. Slowly begin to kick your legs up one at a time bending at the knee. Alternate between your left leg and right leg. After 2 kicks of each leg, rest for a few seconds and repeat. Do this 5 times. You should not be experiencing significant discomfort.
Next, while still lying flat on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flan on the ground. Bring one knee at a time in towards your chest while the other foot remains flat on the ground. Using your hands, hold your knee close to your chest for a few seconds, then release. Repeat with your other knee. Rest both legs for a few second, and then repeat. Do this stretch 5 times. Remember, do not push yourself past your comfort threshold.
Slowly stand up from the laying position. Make sure you have good balance. Once you’re sure that you are steady on your feet, stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Let your arms dangle at your sides. Begin gently rolling your shoulders forward in a circular motion. Repeat this movement 5 times. Next begin to roll your shoulders backwards in a circular motion. Repeat this 5 times.
The Advanced Stretch
If you do not feel like you are ready for more advanced stretching, there is no shame in that. Only you know our body’s limits. Remember, the goal is to stay active while preventing injury. You can go as slow and as gradual as you want.
For the Calf stretch, find a wall that is free of clutter. Stand about 3 inches away from the wall. While using your arms and hands to support yourself up against the wall, slowly lean your upper body into the wall while leaving your feet planted on the ground. You head, neck and spine should all be aligned. You should find yourself at about a 30 degree angle with the wall. Take your left leg and bend your knee and bring that knee closer to the wall. Plant your left foot on the ground closer to the wall. Your right leg should still be straight. You’ll notice a pulling sensation in the calf of the straight leg. If the pulling is too painful, decrease your angle. Hold this position for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat with the other leg. Do this stretch 4 times. Do not injure yourself and listen to your body during the stretch. Only you know your limits.
After completing the warm-up routine, your body is ready to take part is gentle and therapeutic exercise activities, such as Yoga, Water Aerobics or Tai Chi.
For some, the warm-up routine may be just enough for their bodies.
Listen to your body and know your limits. Pay attention to the warning signs your body may give you and do not feel discouraged if you need to take breaks throughout the routine.
Pay close attention to your balance and recognize the signs that your body has reached its comfort limits such as heart palpation, dizziness, loss of stability on your feet, dehydration and pain.
Poor balance, low blood pressure and dizziness are all common in Fibromyalgia patients. Slow movements, gradual changes in positions and exercising in a safe, clutter free environment can all help prevent injuries during physical activity.
It is important to remember that Fibromyalgia can act as a huge stress factor on the body. That being said, periods of rest and recovery between activities are necessary. It is recommended to maintain at least one full day or rest and recovery in between your workout days. If you had a fairly sedentary lifestyle before being diagnosed, 2 days between each workout for recovery can be more realistic.