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Aerobic Exercise Effective
in Treating Fibromyalgia


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study shows that aerobic exercise can ease pain in patients with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition marked by widespread muscular and joint pain, as well as specific "tender" points that typically occur in the neck, spine, hips and shoulders. Other symptoms include sleep disturbances and fatigue, depression and irritable bowel syndrome. The condition affects an estimated 2% to 4% of the population, but is seen most often in women of reproductive age.

In the current study, Dr. Selwyn C. M. Richards from Poole Hospital NHS Trust and Dr. David L. Scott from King's College Hospital, London, randomly assigned 136 patients with fibromyalgia to a program of aerobic exercise or relaxation and flexibility exercise. They report their findings in the July 27th issue of the British Medical Journal.

The researchers assessed study participants' tender point count and other symptoms and asked them to assess their own improvement.

At 3 months, 24 of 69 of the patients in the aerobic exercise group rated themselves as "much or very much better," compared with 12 of 67 of the patients in the relaxation and flexibility group, Richards and Scott found.

After 1 year, the benefits of the exercise program continued for 26 of the patients in the aerobic exercise group and for 15 of the patients in the control group.

Compared with controls, patients in the aerobic exercise group also had greater reductions in tender point counts and in scores on questionnaires measuring fibromyalgia symptoms, the researchers note. Based on tender point counts, only 75 patients in both groups still met the criteria for fibromyalgia after 1 year. Fewer of these patients were in the aerobic exercise group (31) than in the control group (44).

Richards and Scott conclude that "prescribed graded aerobic exercise is a simple, cheap, effective and potentially widely available treatment for fibromyalgia."

The major drawback of their program, they add, was compliance-only 72 study participants attended more than one third of the classes. "Future strategies to increase the efficacy of exercise as an intervention should confront the issue of compliance," Richards and Scott add.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal 2002;325:185-187.


Reference Source 89

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