Fibromyalgia Syndrome


Q. I’m a 42 year old woman and for the past four years I have had chronic muscle pain and tightness as well as suffering from moderate fatigue and depression. My doctor told me that it could be Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Do you have any advice to help with the symptoms?


A. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been feeling like this but the good news is that there are many positive things you can do to help with the symptoms of Fibromyalgia Syndrome.

As your doctor would have no doubt explained, Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a common and chronic disorder characterised by significant pain and widespread tenderness around the body. Symptoms include insomnia, stiffness (particularly, after staying in a position for too long), difficulty concentrating, tension, migraines, depression and reduced tolerance to exercise.

About 1 in 25 people between the ages of 25 and 55 develop FMS at some stage in their lives and it’s seven times more common in women than in men. FMS is often classified as a functional illness, implying that there is no organic disease. The confusion and controversy regarding the diagnosis of FMS centres on the absence of any defined disease pathology.

There is no antibiotic, medication or surgery you can take to treat FMS, so treatment plans include exercise and manual therapy. In my experience, the best treatment plans find a balance between alleviating symptoms, while not aggravating or causing any more pain to the patient.

While one of the symptoms of FMS is a reduced tolerance to exercise, we encourage clients to try and stay positive and active; after all, you still have to prevent diseases of lifestyle such as cardiac disease and diabetes. Interestingly, a report published in 2010 by the Rheumatology International Journal found that 2% of competitive-sport players have FMS, which shows that you can still get active.

It is suggested that after having completed two weeks of a lower level of exercise or activity that did not exacerbate symptoms, the intensity of exercise should then be increased by increments of 10%. Your physiotherapist can guide you with this. Aerobic, aqua and strengthening exercises are all highly recommended by the Ottawa Panel evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for the management of FMS. In particular, no-impact, strengthening exercises like Reformer Pilates are a great option for anyone suffering with FMS.
Reformer Pilates offers all the benefits of mat work Pilates including overall strength, flexibility, coordination and balance with one additional beneficial feature, namely eccentric muscle contraction. Our Reformer machine parts are adjustable depending on the user’s body size, strength and level of skill, which makes exercising with the Reformer possible for anyone, at any level of fitness, particularly those with injuries or suffering from FMS.
The most important thing is to find your current baseline and slowly and progressively achieve a higher intensity exercise. If your symptoms increase temporarily, acknowledge it and reduce the intensity appropriately but stay active to whatever degree is possible. The main thing that I would advise is to remain positive and get out and exercise. I know it can be difficult, but selecting a class or an exercise that you enjoy will make you feel good and should definitely help long-term.

Move Better, Feel Better, Get Active!

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