Quick Study: Yoga may help ease the debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia
Weekly yoga classes and practice may help relieve debilitating symptoms
THE QUESTION To ease chronic muscle pain and fatigue, people with fibromyalgia often are urged to exercise and develop coping skills, along with taking medication. Might yoga help?
THIS STUDY involved 53 women, with an average age of 54, who had had fibromyalgia for an average of about 12 years. They were randomly assigned to participate in weekly two-hour yoga classes tailored for people with the condition or to be on a waiting list for the classes, which included gentle poses, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga-based coping instruction and group discussion. All the participants continued their normal care as well, which for some included taking medication. Those in the yoga group were urged to practice daily at home, too. After eight weeks, standardized scales showed greater declines in pain, tenderness, fatigue, stiffness and depression, and bigger improvements in sleep, memory, balance, strength and vigor among the women practicing yoga. About 91 percent of the yoga group, compared with 19 percent of those on the waiting list, reported being better at the end of the study than they were at the start. The yoga group also changed to more productive coping strategies for dealing with symptoms, relying on such things as problem-solving, religion, participating in activities despite pain, acceptance and relaxation.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Women with fibromyalgia, characterized by widespread muscle pain and so-called tender points, are especially prone to pain with even slight pressure. Women with the condition are also extra tired and may have headaches, morning stiffness, painful menstruation, tingling in hands and feet, and sometimes trouble with thinking and memory. The cause of fibromyalgia, which affects an estimated 5 million people in the United States, mostly women, is unknown.
CAVEATS Whether the findings apply to men and children, who also can develop fibromyalgia, was not tested. Much of the data came from the women's recorded perceptions of their symptoms. Participants were paid $25 for completing an assessment at the end of the study. The number of participants was small.
FIND THIS STUDY November issue of Pain.
- Linda Searing
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.