Tips for Exercising When You Have Fibromyalgia

Tips for Exercising When You Have Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects some 10 million Americans and 3-6% of the global population. Women are more predisposed to developing it — 75-90% of cases are women — but men and children are also affected, as are all ethnic groups.

At Pinnacle Pain and Spine, our two interventional pain specialists, Dr. Matthew Crooks and Dr. Stuart Rammell, and the rest of our team are dedicated to relieving pain from a wide range of conditions, including fibromyalgia. 

A big question many of our patients have is how they can exercise when dealing with the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia, so we put together some tips.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a hard condition to pin down. It was once regarded as “female hysteria.” Today, we know that fibromyalgia causes pain and stiffness in muscles, tendons, and ligaments all over the body. 

Current thinking is that the condition alters the way the brain processes incoming pain signals, which leads to amplified pain sensations even when there’s no pain trigger. 

Symptoms can develop gradually or be triggered by trauma, infection, or stress.

Pain and other common signs of fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is known for the widespread pain it causes. In fact, it was once considered a form of arthritis, since it can cause inflammation of the joints as well as other tissues. The pain is almost always present, but the severity of the symptoms can change daily, or even hourly. 

In addition to pain, other common symptoms include:

The tender points occur in predictable places on the body and are most commonly located just under the skin’s surface. It’s the fascia, the tissue that surrounds the muscles and joints, that causes the pain, not the joints themselves.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia isn’t an easy condition to diagnose, as it doesn’t show up on any kind of test. Doctors make a diagnosis by eliminating other potential causes. 

But researchers recently discovered that patients with fibromyalgia have abnormally low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine in their brains. This information could lead to specific diagnostic tests.

Tips for exercising when you have fibromyalgia

It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you have continuous pain and fatigue, but exercise actually helps relieve symptoms. It’s just a matter of tailoring the exercise to your limitations while boosting strength and endurance.

Recent studies have shown that for most patients, range of motion, strengthening, and aerobic exercises are safe and necessary.

Exercise helps restore your body's neurochemical balance and triggers a positive emotional state. It increases the levels of natural endorphins, pain-fighting molecules produced by the body, and it can raise serotonin levels to balance both pain and mood.

Look to start a program that focuses on low-impact aerobic exercises, which improve symptoms and restore muscle strength. Suggestions include:


This ancient form of exercise reduces stress and relieves muscle tension and pain by improving range of motion and strength. It may also help you reduce stress and anxiety.

Tai chi

This series of flowing, graceful movements provides a good workout and stretching regimen. It can also increase your balance and ability to accomplish daily tasks.


This form of exercise focuses on breathing and strengthening the torso muscles. An instructor helps you work on postural muscles essential to supporting the spine.

Water therapy

Exercising in a pool strengthens and conditions your muscles as you move against the water’s resistance. Water also supports your weight during movement, reducing the impact on muscles and joints.

Do you want to learn more about fibromyalgia or get more tips? Call us at any of our Arizona locations — Scottsdale, Chandler, or Fountain Hills — or send us an online appointment request.

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