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Fibromyalgia

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How swimming can relieve fibromyalgia pain

31 Aug 2016
How swimming can relieve fibromyalgia pain News image

Fibromyalgia, a chromic disorder that can cause pain and tenderness throughout the body, is often difficult to treat.

Its characteristics include widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue and can lead to depression and social isolation.

Women are 10 times more likely to get this disease than men – most between the ages of 25 and 60. It is the most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis.

Past research has shown that light exercise and walking can alleviate some measure of patients' discomfort.

Now, a new study conducted by experts from São Paulo, Brazil, reveal that swimming can be at least as good as walking at relieving symptoms of fibromyalgia and improving patients' quality of life.

The findings offer patients who cannot walk because of other conditions an alternative activity to help ease their pain.

In 2003, researchers from the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) found that walking was more effective than stretching in enhancing cardiovascular fitness, reducing pain and improving the emotional health of patients with fibromyalgia.

Good option

Three years later, the same group found that deep-water running was also a good option in treating the condition.

“Physical exercise is an essential component of any treatment for fibromyalgia,” says Rheumatology Professor Jamil Natour, a member of the research team.

However, Professor Natour says not everyone is able to perform the same kind of physical activity, so he and his colleagues decided to find alternatives.

The new study included 75 sedentary women who were aged 18 to 60 years old and suffered from fibromyalgia.

Researchers assigned 39 of the participants to swimming, while the remaining participants were assigned to walking.

The participants' conditions were measured before and after 12 weeks of engaging in their respective activities for 50 minutes three times a week.

Decreased pain levels

In the end, the average intensity of pain decreased among patients from both groups, depending on a visual scale that ranged from 0cm to 10cm, with 10 as the worst pain.

Participants in the walking group reported decreased pain from 6.2 to 3.6, while members in the swimming group reported reduced pain from 6.4 to 3.1.

Researchers also discovered that the mental and social health of both groups also improved significantly.

The swimming group showed an increase in social interaction from 56 to 80, while the walking group increased from 52 to 72.

When it comes to mental health, the swimming group's score rose from 55.7 to 68, while the walking group's score increased from 55.1 to 66.8.

Professor Natour concludes that swimming can be an option for patients who suffer from both fibromyalgia and arthritis in the knees.

Details of the report are published in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

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