Fibromyalgia causes significant musculoskeletal pain, as well as changes in the ability to sleep, think, and remember.
Doctors often consider fibromyalgia to be a type of arthritis. As with typical arthritic conditions, it causes pain. Unlike arthritis, however, it does not cause significant damage to muscles or joints.
Fibromyalgia can affect anyone, but it is most common in women aged 40–75 years, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Medications are available for treating fibromyalgia, but there is evidence to suggest that exercise, movement and body awareness, and muscle strength training may also all help.
Yoga combines all of these approaches, and it may relieve pain and muscle stiffness.
Many yoga poses could potentially benefit a person with fibromyalgia, but Shoosh Crotzer’s book ” Yoga for Fibromyalgia” recommends some specific poses.
However, before embarking on this type of exercise, it is best to talk to a doctor. All of these poses have different variations to suit a person’s ability.
1. Standing forward bend, or Uttanasana
To do the standing forward bend:
1. Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
2. Bend forward from the hip joints.
3. If possible, place the fingertips or palms on the floor. People who cannot reach the floor with the hands can place the palms on the tops of the thighs or calves instead.
After staying in this position for 30–60 seconds, slowly roll the body up until standing straight. Anyone with a bad back may prefer to keep a bend in the knees.
2. Bridge pose, or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
To do this pose:
1. Lie on the floor on the back.
2. Bend the knees, putting both feet flat on the floor.
3. Straighten the arms and, if possible, clasp them together beneath the body while exhaling and lifting the tailbone off the floor, keeping the buttocks tightened.
4. Hold this pose for 30–60 seconds.
5. Exhale while slowly rolling the lower back and spine toward the floor.
To protect the neck and reduce discomfort while lying face-up on the floor, place a rolled-up blanket under the shoulders.
Anyone with a history of neck injury should avoid this pose.
3. Cobra pose, or Bhujangasana
The cobra pose can stretch tired legs and open up the chest muscles. To perform this pose:
1. Lie face-down on the floor with the hands under the shoulders and the palms on the floor.
2. Pull the elbows back toward the body.
3. Inhale and push into the palms, straightening the arms until the upper body lifts off the floor. Do not lift the feet or pelvis off the floor.
4. Feel the stretch across the chest and in the lower back.
5. Hold the position for 15–30 seconds, then release the pose and return to the starting position.
4. Corpse pose (Savasana)
Follow the steps below to do the corpse pose:
1. Lie flat on the back.
2. Breathe slowly in and out and visualize healing breath filling the body.
3. On breathing in, imagine the energy coming in to refresh the body.
4. When exhaling, feel the tension and pain flowing away.
5. Remain in the pose until ready to stop.
Practicing these poses daily may enhance a sense of well-being.
As well as being a form of exercise, yoga is a self-care tool because it involves relaxation, meditation, and deep breathing.
It is a meditative movement form in which a person carries out a series of coordinated movements while focusing on breathing, relaxation, meditation, or a combination of these activities. Similar practices include tai chi and qigong.
Researchers have carried out several studies looking at the potential benefits of yoga for people with fibromyalgia.
A 2011 study investigated the effects that an 8-week course of yoga and meditation had on 11 people with fibromyalgia.
Following the study, participants had more days when they “felt good.” They were also less likely to miss work for reasons relating to fibromyalgia. However, the participants did not report a reduction in the incidence of pain and fatigue.
A 2013 analysis of three research studies found that yoga helped reduce sleep disturbances, fatigue, and depression while also improving quality of life. However, the authors noted that there is insufficient evidence to confirm a link between yoga and reduced symptoms of fibromyalgia.
In a 2010 study, researchers recruited 53 females with fibromyalgia and asked half of them to participate in an 8-week program while the remaining participants joined a waiting list for standard care. This program included meditation, breathing exercises, gentle poses, and yoga based instructions for coping with symptoms.
The participants who completed the program reported significant improvements in measures of pain, fatigue, and mood relating to fibromyalgia.
People practice yoga as an alternative remedy for many health issues. How does it work?
Many different types of yoga exist. Some focus on slow, controlled movements, while others can be as intensive as a hard run. The types of yoga include:
Hatha yoga is the most common type of yoga that classes in the United States teach.
Restorative yoga is a low intensity, rejuvenating practice. It incorporates assistive devices, such as blankets, bolsters, and blocks.
Ashtanga yoga is an intense and challenging style that involves practicing a specific series of poses in the same order.
Bikram yoga involves progressing through 26 poses in a heated room.
Vinyasa yoga is a continuous, flowing type of yoga that can be physically challenging.
Doctors have not defined a specific type of yoga that is best for people with fibromyalgia. Anyone practicing yoga should take into account any personal physical limitations, especially if they plan to engage in intense exercise or want to exercise in hot temperatures.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), while research regarding the effectiveness of yoga in relieving fibromyalgia symptoms is “promising,” there is not enough evidence to confirm that yoga can help people with this condition.
Can essential oils help treat fibromyalgia? Learn more here.
According to a review article in Health Psychology Review, yoga appears to reduce the amount of cortisol that the body releases. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a role in the body’s stress response.
Other psychological benefits of yoga may include a more positive affect, greater self-compassion, and increased mindfulness, all of which may help reduce stress.
Tai chi is another movement-related practice that may help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. Like yoga, tai chi combines the practices of meditation, slow and controlled movements, and deep breathing.
According to the NCCIH, people with fibromyalgia who participated in hourly tai chi sessions twice a week for 12 weeks found that their sleep, mood, and overall quality of life improved.
Additional approaches may include the following:
Sleep, rest, and relaxation can benefit a person with fibromyalgia. They can try going to sleep at a regular time and avoiding excessive daytime napping, which can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Regular exercise can help decrease fibromyalgia-related pain. Moderate forms of exercise that may be beneficial include swimming, riding a bicycle, participating in water aerobics, and walking. Overly strenuous exercise may worsen the pain.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles at various specific points on the body to encourage blood and energy flow through the body. While it may help, there is a lack of conclusive evidence that acupuncture will always benefit people with fibromyalgia.
Massage therapy involves using the hands to manipulate muscles and soft tissues, and it can help relieve stress and anxiety in people with fibromyalgia.
As with most medical conditions, healthful self-care measures — such as eating nutritious foods — can help a person with fibromyalgia have a better quality of life.
How can diet help manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia? Find out here.
Yoga and other activities that combine gentle exercise with mindfulness have increased in popularity among people with fibromyalgia in recent years.
There is not enough evidence to prove that yoga works as a treatment for fibromyalgia. However, researchers have concluded that it is a safe intervention that may relieve pain.
What are some common misconceptions about fibromyalgia?