Yoga has Potential to Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain, Study Says
Yoga is proven to have a significant impact on managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia patients. Research conducted at Oregon Health and Science University indicates that a regular practice of Hatha yoga, combined with meditation, breathing exercises and the development of coping skills, relieves the severity of the widespread pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Though it is still undetermined if fibromyalgia is a syndrome primarily manifesting from physiological causes or stemming from psychological factors, it is characterized by muscle pain and fatigue. Other symptoms include morning stiffness, tingling or numbness in the extremities, headaches, memory problems, issues with balance and trouble sleeping. Fibromyalgia is a disorder that predominantly appears in women over men to a ratio of 9:1.
For the study, 53 women previously diagnosed with fibromyalgia were divided into two groups. The study group participated in an 8-week program which included Hatha yoga, guided meditation and breathing exercises. The study group participants also attended group therapy in which they developed skills to mitigate the stress of living with the disorder. The second half of the women acted as a control group for the study and received typical treatment for fibromyalgia in the form of medication. The yoga group continued to receive medication as well.
Following the 8-week study – which consisted of a weekly guided session of poses and at-home practice along with DVD instruction for the yoga group – pain was reported to be reduced among the yoga participants by an average of 24 per cent, fatigue by 30 per cent and depression by 42 per cent.
Hatha yoga is an exercise regimen accessible to chronic pain sufferers because a personal practice can be easily adapted to accommodate symptoms. In addition to building strength and encouraging weight loss, yoga poses can increase circulation to extremities. A regular practice will also improve range of motion through flexibility and joint mobility. Joint stiffness can be reduced as well.
The study does not, however, determine whether or not the Hatha yoga sessions were specifically responsible for improvement on a musculoskeletal basis. It is possible that as body awareness and mindfulness increased through yoga, meditation and breathing exercises, symptoms appeared more specific and less chronic. It is also possible that the learned coping techniques contributed to the manner in which pain and discomfort was interpreted.