FRIDAY, May 10, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise won't exacerbate the pain associated with fibromyalgia, and it may actually improve it, a new study suggests.
Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., found that engaging in light to moderate physical activity over time could ease symptoms of the condition.
"For many people with fibromyalgia, they will exercise for a week or two and then start hurting and think that exercise is aggravating their pain, so they stop exercising," study senior author Dr. Dennis Ang, associate professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest, said in a Wake Forest news release.
"We hope that our findings will help reduce patients' fears and reassure them that sustained exercise will improve their overall health and reduce their symptoms without worsening their pain," Ang added.
In conducting the study, which was published online May 2 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, the researchers had 170 people engage in individualized moderate exercise plans, such as light jogging or brisk walking, for 20 minutes daily. During the 36-week study, the participants' symptoms and physical activity were assessed in questionnaires every 12 weeks.
The study showed that the participants who engaged in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 12 weeks had greater improvements in their symptoms than those unable to attain higher levels of physical activity.
The researchers concluded that long-term physical activity as recommended in current medical guidelines does not lead to increased pain for those with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia or similar conditions affect roughly 10 percent of U.S. adults. Symptoms include widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep disturbance and memory issues. Experts suggest that fibromyalgia is a pain-processing disorder caused by abnormal functioning of the central nervous system.
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides more information on fibromyalgia.