Objective: To evaluate the short- and long-term efficacy of exercise therapy in a warm, waist-high pool in women with fibromyalgia.
Methods: Thirty-four women (mean +/- SD tender points 17 +/- 1) were randomly assigned to either an exercise group (n = 17) to perform 3 weekly sessions of training including aerobic, proprioceptive, and strengthening exercises during 12 weeks, or to a control group (n = 17). Maximal unilateral isokinetic strength was measured in the knee extensors and flexors in concentric and eccentric actions at 60 degrees /second and 210 degrees /second, and in the shoulder abductors and adductors in concentric contractions. Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) was assessed using the EQ-5D questionnaire; pain was assessed on a visual analog scale. All were measured at baseline, posttreatment, and after 6 months.
Results: The strength of the knee extensors in concentric actions increased by 20% in both limbs after the training period, and these improvements were maintained after the de-training period in the exercise group. The strength of other muscle actions measured did not change. HRQOL improved by 93% (P = 0.007) and pain was reduced by 29% (P = 0.012) in the exercise group during the training, but pain returned close to the pretraining level during the subsequent de-training. However, there were no changes in the control group during the entire period.
Conclusion: The therapy relieved pain and improved HRQOL and muscle strength in the lower limbs at low velocity in patients with initial low muscle strength and high number of tender points. Most of these improvements were maintained long term.