Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating chronic health condition that affects an estimated 15 million Americans, the majority of which are women. Now, new research shows that yoga may offer relief to the muscle soreness and tenderness associated with this autoimmune disorder.
In a recent study of more than 50 women conducted at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, those who participated in a two-hour yoga session once a week reported improvements in both physical and psychological aspects of fibromyalgia, including decreased pain, fatigue, tenderness, anxiety and better sleep and mood.
“The women were somewhat apprehensive when we started, but once they got into the rhythm of it they found it to be very helpful,” said lead researcher, James Carson, a clinical psychologist and pain specialist at Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland. “They came back after the first week reporting less pain, better sleep and feeling encouraged for the first time in years. That type of change continued to build over the course of the program.”
As prevalent as fibromyalgia is, not much is known about its causes, so a cure is still a hope for the future. Similar to many other chronic health conditions, lifestyle behaviors play a strong role in helping to alleviate or exacerbate symptoms. Tai chi and acupuncture have also shown positive effects in controlling fibromylagia flare-ups. All three of these practices – yoga, tai chi and acupuncture – work to promote circulation to tight and restricted areas of the body while also creating a stronger sense of body awareness in the individual. This can translate to improved flexibility, broader range of motion and enhanced pain management skills.
Diet has also been shown to reduce many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Although not yet a formal and structured eating plan, the Fibromyalgia Diet is a customizable approach to selecting foods that appear to relieve or promote the pain, fatigue and achiness associated with the condition.
If you have fibromylagia and are interested in experimenting with yoga to manage your condition, ask your health professional for a recommendation or contact yoga schools in your area to seek out yoga instructors who have experience in working with individuals who have chronic pain.