What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition characterized by widespread pain, localized tender points, and extreme fatigue. It is most common in females and has been shown to affect approximately 2% of the population. Although pain is the primary complaint, those with fibromyalgia also commonly experience stiffness, abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, numbness, tingling or altered sensation in their hands and feet, sleep disturbance, low mood, and decreased mental processing skills.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown but there are certain risk factors which may put you at a higher risk of developing the condition:

  • family history of fibromyalgia
  • female
  • other rheumatic condition (eg. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus)

In order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, widespread pain must have been present for a minimum of three months in the absence of another medical explanation for the pain. Newer methods of diagnosis no longer require the historical “tender point exam” of 18 specific points on the body. If you think you may have fibromyalgia, see your doctor for proper diagnosis.

Newly diagnosed and feeling misunderstood?

The most common misconception with fibromyalgia is that it’s “all in your head,” rather than a real medical condition. Since the mechanism of fibromyalgia is poorly understood and there isn’t  often a foolproof treatment plan, dealing with the diagnosis can be frustrating. Fibromyalgia affects the pain signals in our body and sensitizes our body to feel pain. It is a REAL problem.

People with fibromyalgia and those who care about them, need to realize that although there is currently no cure, treatments are available that can dramatically improve quality of life.

So what can you do about it?

EXERCISE! Strength training has been shown to improve the quality of life in those with fibromyalgia. The following article is a Cochrane Review. This is a rigorous process that adheres to strict guidelines in which all of the available evidence on a topic is gathered, synthesized, and compared in order to pass judgement on a topic. After reading a Cochrane Review, you can make an informed, research based, choice about your treatment. The paper “Resistance Exercise Training for Fibromyalgia” was co-authored by STRIDE’s own, Laurel Schafer. It shows that strength training with a focus on increasing muscular strength, power, and endurance improves quality of life and decreases both pain and tender points in those with fibromyalgia.

“Resistance Exercise Training for Fibromyalgia” summary:

See the full article here:

In addition to exercise, symptoms of fibromyalgia can be improved through medications (to target pain, depression, or sleep), relaxation, stress management techniques, getting adequate sleep, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Other alternate therapies that have been used for years in both relaxation and pain relief, may also be useful for management of fibromyalgia. Examples of these would be acupuncture, massage therapy, and yoga.

How can STRIDE help?

Seeing the benefits strength training can have on your life, takes both time and commitment to an exercise program. Due to the low energy state and chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, it can be difficult to begin and maintain an exercise program. STRIDE offers both individualized personal training sessions and large group “Bootcamp” classes which are an ideal way to reach your strength goals. Clients of STRIDE will be expertly guided through technique and progressions, all the while maintaining accountability and promoting adherence on your fitness journey. STRIDE fosters a safe and supportive way to take control of your health! Don’t let fibromyalgia stop you…let us help you hit your STRIDE!