Can Yoga Help Fibromyalgia?

can yoga help fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that is characterized by pain, tender points, insomnia, headaches, and more. There are lots of treatment options that can help you with the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including yoga.

One fairly new study says that women who have fibromyalgia can reduce their symptoms of fibromyalgia and improve their level of functioning and quality of life by practicing the mind-body techniques that characterize yoga.

This study took place in Oregon, and took fifty-three women age 21 and older. The women were chosen to participate in a program called “Yoga of Awareness.” These women all showed a marked improvement in the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

In order to take part in this study, the women had to have received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia according to the criteria set forth by the American College of Rheumatology for at least one year. Additionally, they were required to have been on a regimen of prescription or even over the counter pain medications for at least three full months.

Due to the fact that fibromyalgia is much more prevalent in women than in men, the study only involved women. Twenty-five of these women participated in the yoga awareness program and 28 of the women only received standard care. The women in the yoga awareness program participated in an eight week program of yoga instruction and yoga exercise.

yoga for fibromyalgia

The yoga awareness classes were comprised of:

  • 40 minutes: gentle stretching
  • 25 minutes: meditation
  • 10 minutes: breathing exercises
  • 20 minutes: presentations on how to use yoga principles to cope
  • 25 minutes: group discussion

At the conclusion of the study, both of the groups were tested for symptoms of fibromyalgia as well as function deficits, and for an overall improvement of their pain. Additionally, the women all were required to undergo physical tests in order to identify any tender points. They were also asked about their personal coping strategies for their pain so that researchers could include that in their findings.

Can Yoga Help Fibromyalgia Pain?

Women who were taking part in the yoga program showed significant improvement on the standardized scale that measures fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain levels, mood, fatigue, and other symptoms related to this disorder.

Researchers said that the results of this study suggest that using yoga to intervene brought about a very beneficial shift in the way that fibromyalgia patients deal with their symptoms, including a greater use in their pain-coping strategies- such as participating in activities despite the pain, accepting their condition, using religion to cope with their condition, and finding ways to relax despite the symptoms they’re experiencing.

Additionally, women who were in the intervention group also were reporting that they were feeling more included/less isolated and after the study were less confrontational. They were also much more likely to see things in a positive light (or at least not see them in a negative light) and were less likely to “catastrophize” situations.

Yoga is Helpful for Fibromyalgia

The traditional treatment for fibromyalgia includes medications along with exercise as well as some instructions on how the individual can best deal with the pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

The researchers in this study say that though yoga has been practiced for many years, it is only recently that the effects of yoga on individuals dealing with persistent pain is being exposed. This study is contrasted with the previous multi-modal interventions and integrates a very wide spectrum of techniques based on yoga such as mindful meditation, postures, breathing, applying yoga principles to help cope with symptoms, and finally- group discussions/support groups.

This study offers some promising support for the benefits of yoga for those individuals suffering from fibromyalgia. A training course for the yoga teachers who wish to offer yoga for fibromyalgia has been planned. The course will help these teachers to build their skills for working with chronic pain sufferers.

Did you know that fibromyalgia is an extremely debilitation disorder that currently affects more than 11 million people in the United States alone and has an annual direct care cost of over $20 billion.

Fibromyalgia sufferers are looking for alternative treatments because the truth is that the drug, and other medical therapies, are typically only around thirty percent effective in relieving the pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Though the results are promising, more research is necessary to determine if there are any biological changes occurring during a yoga session.

Tips for Using Yoga for Fibromyalgia

If you do decide that you want to try yoga as part of your personal fibromyalgia treatment program, following are some tips that can help you get the most out of it.

  • First of all, you want to make sure you don’t overdo it. If you’ve been suffering from fibromyalgia for any length of time, you know that the symptoms tend to fluctuate. You may feel great one day and feel horrible the next. It is vital that you take it easy even on those good days so that you can avoid triggering a flare-up of your symptoms.
  • While you don’t want to overdo it, you do want to consider working through your pain. When you’re afraid of causing damage, this may put a stop to your yoga program. While you may think you’re damaging your tissues and muscles, the truth is that your nerves are likely sending out pain signals incorrectly- so it is very important that you understand when to work through it and when enough is enough.
  • Make sure that you track your progress- keep a written journal or an online one. If you notice that you’re having an increase or even a decrease in pain on specific days, try to figure out if you see any links. Try some different poses in order to try to reduce your pain or other fibromyalgia symptoms.

Yoga is a very simple and very safe way that you can reap great benefits that can help you relieve the symptoms of your fibromyalgia. Make sure that you start out slow and stick to your routine.

Further reading:

Yoga Eases Fibromyalgia Pain:

Yoga soothes fibromyalgia pain:

A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia: