With chronic opioid use being viewed by the American Medical Association as risky and leading to other chronic, potentially life-threatening problems such as opioid addiction, many sufferers of chronic pain are frustrated. So are their physicians. It’s impossible to optimally complete day-to-day tasks such as working, cleaning, parenting, and even simple activities like bathing and dressing while in extreme amounts of all-over-body pain, but many physicians have basically tapered opioid prescriptions in patients with fibromyalgia and are left with not many viable treatment options.
Scientists don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, the condition that involves severe muscle pain at various areas around the body, particularly the head, neck, spine, arms, and hips. In fact, since there are no blood tests or imaging that can be done to diagnose fibromyalgia, doctors rely on patient presentation and their tenderness at 22 different points in their bodies, as well as their self-reported pain and inability to perform daily activities.
“Physical exercise is an essential component of any treatment for fibromyalgia, and plenty of studies have demonstrated that low-impact aerobic exercise offers the most benefits. However, not everyone likes or is able to do the same kind of physical activity, so our group decided to test alternatives.”
The study’s control group included walkers, who each completed 50 minutes of brisk walking three times a week for 12 weeks, and their experimental group was women who swam at the same intervals for the same amount of time. Women were all diagnosed with fibromyalgia and between 18 and 60 years old. Dr. Natour said the results of the study show promise.
“Swimming has not been evaluated with proper scientific rigor. The results of this trial show that swimming is just as effective as walking for those who suffer from fibromyalgia.”
Some limitations of the study included the fact that patients reported their pain prior to the exercise regimen and afterwards, and that pain is a subjective experience. Before starting the exercise program, both groups reported the severity of their pain as a “6” on a scale of one to 10. After the study, the walking group rated their pain at an average of 3.4, and the swimming group rated their pain even lower, at 3.1.
[Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]