Objective: To assess the utility of an exercise program, which included aerobic, flexibility and strengthening elements, in the treatment of fibromyalgia (FM). FM is a chronic musculoskeletal condition characterized by diffuse musculoskeletal pain and aching. It has been suggested that aerobic exercise is helpful in its treatment.
Methods: We studied 60 patients who met American College of Rheumatology criteria for FM and had no significant comorbidities. Measurements performed on each patient at the pre and poststudy assessment included the number of tender points (TP), total myalgic scores (TM), aerobic fitness (AF), flexibility and isokinetic strength. After initial evaluation patients were randomly assigned to either an exercise or a relaxation group. Each group met 3 times per week for 6 weeks for 1 h of supervised exercise or relaxation. All patients data were stored in a computerized database and statistical analysis was performed on all pre and poststudy assessments.
Results: Thirty-eight patients (18 exercise and 20 relaxation) completed the study. Analysis of our data showed no significant difference between the groups in their prestudy assessment. Poststudy assessments, however, showed a significant improvement between the exercise and relaxation groups in TP (p < 0.05), TM (p < 0.05), and AF (p < 0.05). Similar improvements were also found when the pre and poststudy assessment of the exercise group were compared.
Conclusion: Exercise is helpful in the management of FM in the short term. It also shows that FM patients can undertake an exercise program which includes aerobic, flexibility, and strength training exercises without adverse effects. The long term utility of this type of exercise requires further evaluation.