(NaturalHealth365) Fibromyalgia, which currently affects 5 million Americans, is a painful condition that can steadily chip away at quality of life and seriously affect productivity. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that fibromyalgia sufferers miss 17 days of work per year – almost triple the average amount of days missed by adults without the condition.
Even worse may be the psychological toll: in addition to extensive pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons, fibromyalgia can cause cognitive problems, insomnia and depression. Alarmingly, but true, it is associated with higher rates of both suicide and accidents.
New research raises hopes of a drug-free (natural) fibromyalgia treatment
In a study performed by researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis and presented in May, 2014, at a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, whole-body vibration exercises were found to reduce painful symptoms and improve quality of life in fibromyalgia patients.
The lead researcher, Tony Kaleth, associate professor in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at Indiana University, noted the potential of vibration exercise as a therapy for fibromyalgia. He said patients reported improvements in strength, reductions in muscle spasticity and lowered pain. However, he pointed out that researchers weren’t sure if the improvements were due to the actual vibrations of the machine, or only to patients being more active.
In any case, the patients saw improvement.
Who gets fibromyalgia, and why?
The face of fibromyalgia is overwhelmingly female, with women eight times more likely to be affected then men. The diagnosis tends to be made in middle age. Although conventional doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, theories include hormonal imbalance, genetic factors, trauma and infectious disease.
Natural healthcare practitioners point to underactive thyroid, as well as vitamin deficiencies caused by a nutrient-poor, overly-processed American diet, as causes for fibromyalgia. Naturally, toxins in the environment may also play a role.
What does a whole-body vibrating machine do?
Whole-body vibrating machines (WVMs) offer a form of passive exercise. As users sit, stand or lie on a platform, the vibrations of the machine transmit energy, making muscles contract and relax dozens of times each second. Originally used as a research tool, whole-body vibration machines are featured in some fitness centers, and can be purchased for home use.
Proponents of WVMs say that the technique promotes weight loss, improves flexibility and decreases muscle soreness after exercise.
As credible an institution as the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that whole-body vibration offers some fitness and health benefits, and reports that the technique can help improve muscular strength, and may assist with weight loss. Mayo Clinic also credits whole-body vibration exercises with decreasing back pain, improving balance and even reducing bone loss.
WVMs can help fibromyalgia patients escape a vicious, pain circle
Aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises have been proven effective at decreasing symptoms, but many patients are understandably reluctant to comply, as any sort of physical activity can be painful.
Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle can cause fibromyalgia symptoms to worsen. Inactivity also paves the way for a cluster of unhealthy conditions – including obesity, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes, setting up a cycle of ever-worsening symptoms and inactivity.
The undemanding nature of vibration exercises may make it more palatable to fibromyalgia patients than conventional forms of exercise, raising compliance.
Good exercise advice for fibromyalgia patients: ‘Easy does it’
In order to relieve fibromyalgia, it seems that activity need not be vigorous or intense. In addition to the new research highlighting the benefits of passive exercise such as that afforded by WVMs, earlier studies have shown that mild exercise can also be helpful.
In a randomized trial published in 2010 in Arthritis Research and Therapy, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported that short sessions of increased physical activity produced clinically significant reductions in perceived disability and pain, as well as in increasing by over 50 percent the number of steps per day that patients could walk.
Thirty minutes a day of activities that fit in with the patient’s daily lives – such as opting for the stairs over the elevator, gardening and simple strolling – was all it took for substantial improvements to occur.
Discuss vibration exercises and lifestyle physical activities with a trusted doctor to find out if either of these therapies may be for you.
The healing qualities of the appropriate physical activity – whether passive exercise or gentle workouts such as gardening – can’t be underestimated when it comes to improving quality of life and alleviating symptoms in fibromyalgia patients. Gently asking our bodies to do what they were designed to do seems to have a beneficial effect that offers relief to both body and mind.
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