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
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.
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