Exercises to ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia

Do you struggle with pain management? Fibromyalgia, an often misdiagnosed and misunderstood condition, is a common culprits of chronic pain, with women being the primary sufferers. And while exercise may seem like an unlikely cure for muscle and joint aches, staying active can actually help ease discomfort.

As with any new fitness routine, consult your physician prior to starting exercise. Here are three activities to ease fibromyalgia-related pain.

Stretch
When we experience aches and pains, the natural reaction is to remain sedentary. Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the symptoms. The body is like a car, in need of constant care, fresh oil and tire rotations. Exercise helps lubricate stiff joints.

Light stretching is a great tool for fighting fibromyalgia-related discomfort. Before hitting the gas on these stretches, warm up your engine by marching in place and performing a few shoulder shrugs. Doing so helps promote better circulation and increases the amount of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood that reaches the muscles.

Child’s Pose: Begin on your hands and knees. Push back at the hips until you are sitting on your heels and your arms are extended  in front of your body. Rest your head between your arms. For a deeper hip stretch, separate the legs slightly, allowing your body to fall between your knees. Hold for 45-60 seconds.

Crescent Lunge: Start in a standing position. Take a large step forward with your right foot, keeping both heels planted on the floor. Slowly lean into this stretch until you feel slight tension on your left calf. Once you feel stable and balanced, extend your arms overhead. Hold for 20-30 seconds then switch sides.

Strengthen
A solid strength training routine does not require heavy lifting. In fact, for fibromyalgia sufferers, it is best to avoid overloading the muscles and joints. For a gentle workout that challenges the muscles, start by using a resistance band to target that biceps, shoulders and core.

If you experience discomfort while using this device, ditch it and practice isometric exercises instead. Isometrics work by actively contracting the muscle while the joint stays stationary, such as a plank or wall squat. This type of exercise is beneficial for those who would like to develop muscle definition without putting pressure on the joints.

Try these easy, effective isometric exercises (repeat circuit three to five times):

Quads: Begin by sitting in a chair with your shoulders back and core tight. Elevate the right leg until it is completely straight, keeping the ankle bent at 90 degrees. Squeeze the quadricep (top of the thigh) for 15-20 seconds. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Glutes: Start in a supine position with the knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Push through your heels, elevating the hips until the body forms a straight line from the shoulders through the knees. Hold for 25-30 seconds.

Chest: Clasp the hands in front of the chest. Keep the shoulders back and chest out as you tense the chest muscles. Do not apply pressure to the hands and wrists, this is solely a pectoral exercise. Hold for 10-12 seconds.

Back: Press the shoulder blades together and hold for 10-12 counts. Avoid straining your neck during this move by taking deep breaths and focusing specifically on the muscles between the shoulder blades.

Stride
Aerobic exercise is essential for keeping muscles strong, maintaining range of motions in joints and boosting heart health and mood. When choosing a cardio plan, low impact exercises like swimming, walking and cycling are ideal. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

Don’t let pain prevent you from staying active.

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.

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