Fibromyalgia can be a painful and debilitating disease that drastically decreases an individual’s overall quality of life. There is also a constant search to find an alternative treatment method other than medication that can help the affected cope with the condition. While exercising can be one of them, the medical condition can sometimes be too painful to let the affected individual exercise regularly. Hence, using low impact yoga may be an effective alternative exercising option to help manage the chronic pain. Read on to learn more about using yoga to deal with fibromyalgia and the associated pain.
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What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a debilitating condition characterized by symptoms of musculoskeletal pain, tenderness, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, depression, stiffness, poor sleep quality, poor memory, anxiety and bowel problems. It can affect both men and women (although women are at higher risk), and can cause a serious drop in the quality of living in terms of practical, social and personal functions.
Can Yoga Really Help With Fibromyalgia?
Yoga has been often noted for its healing properties and role as a low impact and sometimes strength building exercise. In this case, the yoga classes in question are of the gentle, restorative nature. Depending on the studio, it can be called gentle hatha, or just hatha yoga.
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In a study conducted by Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), yoga has been both statistically and clinically significant in helping patients combat serious fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, fatigue, stiffness, poor sleep, depression, poor memory, anxiety and poor balance. It has helped to improve their quality of life and impacted their daily activities for the better. Pain was reduced by 24 percent, fatigue by 30 percent, and depression by 42 percent.
What Can Yoga Do For My Fibromyalgia?
Relaxation. While certain types of yoga can also help with strength and muscle building, this can come in handy later on. Initially, the most helpful aspect of yoga for fibromyalgia would be to know how to deeply relax the body and mind despite other distractions and sensations in the body, such as discomfort, fatigue, or pain. Once yoga becomes a habit, it will be easier to intentionally relax when needed outside of the class.
Peace of mind. Having fibromyalgia can be extremely stressful, and with the addition of daily worries, the mind can become cluttered, which can exacerbate symptoms. By clearing the mind with yoga, you can become mentally stronger when coping with fibromyalgia. Hatha yoga breathing exercises (often referred to as pranayama in classes and scriptures) can further induce relaxation, increase energy, heighten mental clarity, and bring peace of mind as well as enforcing a sense of well-being.
Body awareness. Since yoga is a low impact exercise that uses minimal props, most of the exercising and stretching is done with the body alone. Body awareness in each yoga pose (often referred to as “asana” in class) is also emphasized, so the person can understand how his or her own body works and how it reacts to certain poses. Through heightened body awareness, people with fibromyalgia can understand and manage their own body better than before. This can be extremely helpful when trying to control symptoms of fibromyalgia.
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No expectations. One of the downfalls of using exercise as pain management therapy, with or without a physical therapist, is that people may want to push themselves to the point of physical maximization. However, yoga emphasizes movement at one’s own pace, and there are no expectations or judgments amongst students of the class. Sometimes, students may feel the need to “impress” teachers in exercising classes, but this is not expected in yoga classes. Hence, the stress stemming from expectations are eliminated, and it is a step closer to alleviating symptoms of fibromyalgia.
How To Start Using Yoga For Fibromyalgia
If you are considering yoga for fibromyalgia, be sure to always speak to your doctor first. Once you get the green light from your doctor, be sure to slowly incorporate the practice into your life so it will not be overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to do so:
- Do research on different styles of yoga in your nearby studios.
- Talk to your yoga teacher about your issues with fibromyalgia.
- Read some yoga literature to understand the practice more.
- Go at your own pace and listen to your body.
- Talk to your doctor and therapist often to see the effects of yoga on symptoms.
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, its symptoms can definitely be managed. Medication, along with diet, lifestyle changes, and now yoga can make a dramatic difference in the quality of living and pain level for someone suffering from the debilitating condition. Talk to your doctor today and check out your area’s yoga studios to see if yoga will be able to become the key component in managing fibromyalgia symptoms.