Yoga Combats Fibromyalgia Symptoms

A small study has found that gentle yoga and meditation can help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by long-term, body-wide pain and tender points in joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.

In the study, 25 women diagnosed with fibromyalgia were enrolled in a two-hour “Yoga of Awareness” pilot program that met once a week for eight weeks. Each session included gentle stretching and poses, meditation, breathing techniques, lessons on applying yoga principals to daily life and coping with fibromyalgia, and group discussion. Participants were also encouraged to practice at home.

Another group of 28 women with fibromyalgia were put on a waiting list and told to continue their normal routine for handling their condition.

After eight weeks, the yoga group reported improvements in the physical and psychological aspects of fibromyalgia, including decreased pain, fatigue, tenderness, anxiety and better sleep and mood.

Fibromyalgia has been linked to fatigue, morning stiffness, sleep problems, headaches, numbness in hands and feet, depression, and anxiety. It is difficult to treat, and can develop on its own or along with other musculoskeletal conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Lead study author James Carson, a clinical psychologist and pain specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, says the women in the yoga group reported less pain, better sleep and a feeling of increased encouragement. Though researchers were careful to point out that the study had several limitations, including sample size, they noted that the initial findings showed promising support for the benefits of yoga in patients with fibromyalgia.

Check out a Bloomberg Businessweek article on the study, which was released online October 14 and will appear in the November print issue of the journal Pain.