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Exercise Eases Fibromyalgia Symptoms: Study
Date:11/12/2007

Biggest beneficiaries were women who also received training to manage the condition

MONDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise may seem best at preventing illness rather than treating it, but a new study suggests that low-impact physical activity could make an immediate difference for people with one tough-to-treat condition: fibromyalgia.

Women with the little-understood chronic pain syndrome who exercised moderately for four months reported feeling better in a number of ways.

The study didn't say how much more likely the women were to feel better after adopting an exercise regimen, and it's not clear how long the effects last. Still, the findings are promising, said study lead author Daniel S. Rooks, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"Exercise should become a part of the treatment plan for people with fibromyalgia," Rooks said. "Basic, simple walking, starting slow and gradually improving, as well as basic flexibility training should be part of what people do to help themselves."

Fibromyalgia causes intense pain and can produce fatigue, insomnia and other symptoms. An estimated 3.5 percent of U.S. women suffer from the syndrome, compared to 0.5 percent of men.

There has been much debate about fibromyalgia, particularly over the role that mental health may play in its progression. Treatment options include pain medications, antidepressants and counseling.

Doctors often recommend exercise as a treatment, but it hasn't been clear exactly what kinds of physical activity should be recommended, Rooks said.

Enter the new study, in which researchers looked at the experiences of 135 women with fibromyalgia from 2002-2004 who were assigned to one of four groups, three of which consisted of exercise regimens.

The researchers gave questionnaires to the women about the state of their fibromyalgia, both before they began the four-month exercise
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