Fibromyalgia and Exercise

Fibromyalgia Doctor San Francisco We have been providing fibromyalgia treatment in San Francisco for almost 20 years now. It is common knowledge that we all benefit from exercise. But, it is especially important for people with fibromyalgia (FM) to exercise as it reduces fatigue, increases energy, improves joint flexibility, and improves sleep quality and mood. In essence, exercise allows FM sufferers to live a more enjoyable and fulfilling life!

                With that said, it is important to realize that not all exercises are right for every individual person. Therefore, when introducing new activities and exercises into your routine, do NOT do too many new or different exercises all at the same time as you will not be able to recognize those that may not be right for you.  Rather, pick one or maybe two new exercises at the most and incorporate them into your routine so that you can “prove” that they “work for you.” Then, if you get worse, you’ll be able to confidently identify the exercise that may not be right for you.

                The focus of deciding which exercises are “right for you” is usually based on the presence or absence of pain and hence, we should discuss pain.  There are “good” and “bad” forms of pain. A “good” pain does NOT feel harmful – that is, knife-like or lancinating or, severe intense pain. Rather, it should feel, “…like a good stretch,” or, a pain that, “…hurts good.” In fact, sore muscles after exercising prove that you’ve accomplished something positive.  It’s usually noticed the day or two after a new exercise or activity is started and then subsides gradually.  It will actually “go away” quicker if you perform the same activity or exercise within a few days after the initial session and after the 2nd or 3rd time, it will usually not give you that “post-exercise soreness” type of pain and you can gradually increase the exercise after that point. 

                Here are some specific recommendations for implementing exercise safely and successfully. Because FM seems to exaggerate pain, make sure to:

  1. Start out slow: Begin with only a few repetitions, move only so far (stay within “reasonable” pain boundaries), and do only 1 or 2 sets, maybe 5 minutes max of a particular maneuver. Remember, if you do too much and really hurt a lot afterwards, you may become afraid to exercise again and that’s the WORST thing that could happen!
  2. Self-Massage, hot or cold: Consider light self-applied massage with or without moist heat (but no more than 20 minutes / hour – don’t “swell it up” by leaving heat on for longer than 30 minutes.  If pain is more intense (>5/10 on a 0-10 scale, for example), use ice after exercising, usually for 15-20 minutes (on 15/off 15/on 15/off 15/on 15 = 1.25 hours), so it can act like a pump to remove swelling more efficiently. Talk to us about heat or cool rubs or gels.
  3. Personalize: Because you’re unique, personalize your program so it becomes “yours.” Remember, you are not like the next person and you must design a program that “works” for you. Pick things you like to do so you look forwards to doing it – bike riding, brisk walking, swimming, canoeing, hiking off road, weight lifting (emphasizing low weight/high reps), and so on – PICK SOME ACTIVITIES THAT YOU LIKE TO DO!
  4. Aerobic exercises: Consider starting with an aerobic (heart pumping) type of exercise. Many studies have reported that aerobics offer greater benefits compared to stretching, for the FM patient. Start with a low impact cardiovascular exercise like walking.  Even sitting on a gym ball and gently bouncing for 5 minutes gets the heart pumping quite nicely and, it’s fun!  Swimming and bicycling are good, non-pounding types of exercises as well.

        Note:  I would also like to mention that proper nutrition plays a big part in managing fibromyalgia. See our Fibromyalgia Dietary Guide post.

If you would like to schedule an appointment to find out if you are a candidate for fibromyalgia care at Executive Express Chiropractic…call 415-392-2225. Mention this blog post for a complimentary consultation.

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Eben Davis

I am a Chiropractor in the San Francisco Financial District specializing in chronic neck, arm and hand pain. I also treat herniated discs using spinal decompression, whiplash, sports injuries, headaches, and Fibromyalgia. My clinic is certified in the use of Deep Tissue Laser Therapy with the LiteCure LCT-1000 for conditions such as shoulder pain, TMJ and Plantar Fasciitis. I have been in practice for over 20 years.

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36 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia and Exercise

  1. Dory

    Will it hurt when we do the exercise? Do we need to exercise as long as we feel the pain? I want to check on it but I have low threshold for pain.

  2. Red

    I totally agree that not all exercises are good for all of us. It is not like one size fits all. We still need to try some exercises to know what will work for us.

  3. Courtney

    The explanation about good and bad pain is very informative. I didn’t know that there is a good pain. I will frequently visit this site and more power!

  4. Brian S.

    I thought all pains are bad and really painful. I am surprised that there is also a good pain and we can distinguish if it’s good or bad. This article is amazing!

  5. Janine

    Even without FM, exercising is scary when after doing it you feel a lot of pain. This article is very versatile. I hope you will continue to post some more.

  6. Levia

    Will Fibromyalgia lead to other conditions or diseases? Or is it cause by another condition? I am curious since my sister is complaining about unexplainable muscle pain.

  7. Tiara

    My husband has sleeping problem and mood swings because of the pain and stiffness in his muscles and joints. Will we find it out through X-ray or lab tests? He said the pain started 4 months ago.

  8. Leo

    I just have few questions. Will the Fibromyalgia patients feel the pain all throughout the day? If they undergo the treatment, will they need to exercise for maintenance?

  9. Miley

    My grandmother had this when she was still alive. She did water aerobics to relieve the pain. I am happy that the information is now readily available online. Great job!

  10. Dr. Eben Davis

    Fibromyalgia treatment at Executive Express Chiropractic includes custom exercises that are based on patient tolerance. Yes…they are done in conjunction with treatment. Our San Francisco chiropractors are fibromyalgia experts.

  11. Brianna

    Can teenagers get fibromyalgia? Does this only happen to matured people? I am only 18 years old and few months back the aches and pains began to occur all over my body.

  12. Oliver

    This would be a great relief to those who have fibromyalgia. It’s nice to know that in Executive Express Chiropractic, you really take good care of your patients. Good job!

  13. Arg

    Will there be a lot of physical examinations? I told my mother about this but she is still uncertain if she can handle another pain. Would the exercise hurt a bit?

  14. Nolita

    I’ve had upper, middle and lower back pain all started 3 years ago. Then the pain just stopped for 1 year and its back again. It felt like all my bones are broken. Is this a sign that I have fibromyalgia?

  15. Jory

    I have few friends who have fibromyalgia. I can say that they are really in so much pain and depression tears them apart. I will absolutely refer them to Executive Express Chiropractic. I know they will feel a lot better.

  16. Louie

    Is Fibromyalgia an arthritis related disease? Are the symptoms the same with arthritis? My dad would like to try your clinic.

  17. Jayraldine

    I’m glad that there are a lot of ways to relieve the pain. The exercise sounds fun because it is made just for you. Excellent!

  18. Raymond

    How many treatments are there? In my country we don’t have that kind of clinic. The people there are blessed that you offer that treatment/therapy. More power to your clinic!

  19. Jayramie

    I am sure you have helped a lot of Fibromyalgia patients. You are heaven sent! Keep up the good work.

  20. Sophianna

    I can’t go on the day if I don’t have enough sleep. I am hoping I won’t experience this pain. But if ever I’ll have this in the future, I will definitely go into your clinic.

  21. Kim

    I have read that the cause of fibromyalgia is currently unknown. The symptoms are sometimes not manageable. However, your article made it a point that the patient will have fun at the same time help them relieve the pain.

  22. Ameilia

    Exercising and therapy works best on fibromyalgia. My close friend is already undergoing treatment. What other things we can do to help?

  23. Dr. Eben Davis

    treatment frequency varies per patient…as do the total number of visits. in general, fibromyalgia patients require more treatment than the general population. our san francisco fibromyalgia doctors tailor make treatments based on a patients age, condition, and level of fitness.

  24. Dr. Eben Davis

    chiropractic adjustments, deep tissue massage, and laser therapy…in addition to nutrition therapy and exercise. these are the primary concerns of our san francisco fibromyalgia doctors. and proper posture and sleeping habits.

  25. Cindy

    Kudos for the emphasis on personalization. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole! If a person doesn’t truly like the activity they are very unlikely to stick with it and with a chronic condition like FM, long term pain management is essential. I do wonder if FM sufferers experience relatively greater pain after exercise compared to a regular person? Perhaps this is difficult to measure since pain is so subjective.

  26. Gary B.

    I suffer from Fibro and my doctor advised me avoid high impact exercises because it will hurt more than low impact. And (as hinted by the article) if it hurts more, you may not want to engage in the activity any more. I think the exercises suggested in the article would be well suited for me. Not sure about canoeing though — most of us are not lucky enough to live on a lake! =)

  27. clarkj

    Hi i really love your fibromyalgia posts and find them very helpful. Thank you very much for your tips. It has started to work.

  28. jessica

    Hi, interesting post. I have been wondering about this topic,so thanks for sharing. I will definitely be coming back to your site.

  29. smith

    I have had fibromyalgia for many years. Your have given me hope that I will be able to live a normal life!

  30. wright

    This post is very informative. It gives some really good tips. I think this would be the right place for you if you want to learn about Staying Healthy.

  31. Pacific Beach Chiropractor

    An amazing tip to achieve good health and wellness. Actually it encourages you to do fun exerciese (exercise that suit you best and you enjoy most). But of course, doctor never fail to mention good nutrition is also vital. Hands down, Thank you so much for sharing.


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