Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain LIFE Spring 2015, Issue 11 - Page 16

Complementary and Alternative Programs for People with Fibromyalgia by Scott D. Mist, PhD, MAcOM Schools of Nursing and Medicine Oregon Health & Science University Many patients with fibromyalgia have been told to exercise as one part of the treatment regimen. However, many are concerned that the risks of exercise --particularly soreness and safety-outweigh the possible benefits. These are real risks that have to be considered. Complementary and alternative medicine exercise – particularly those with a mindfulness based component – appear to address these two risks. The most thoroughly studied of these include tai chi, yoga and qigong. W hat is tai chi? Tai chi – also spelled t’ai chi or taiji – is a Chinese martial art that is practiced for self-defense and for its health benefits. It is a slow and gentle moving meditation that coordinates breathing and awareness. There are many different styles like Chen, Wu, Yang, Wu Hao, and Sun styles. Often times teachers teach long and short forms. While the dif- 16  Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Life ferent styles of tai chi have not been individually studied for fibromyalgia, it would be good to inform the instructor that you have a chronic pain condition and to be gentle with yourself as you become accustomed to the movements. B enefits of tai chi. In studies of tai chi for fibromyalgia, historically they have had a very high level of retention – much higher than other exercise programs indicating that most participants found the movements to be gentle and easily accomplished. In a recent review of complementary and alternative medicine exercise for fibromyalgia (Mist, Firestone, & Jones, 2013) found that tai chi was effective for pain relief with a very broad number of patients reporting clinically meaningful pain improvements. Other benefits that are being reported include reducing sleep disturbances, fatigue, depression and improving quality of life and self-confidence. Sp r i n g 2 0 1 5 W hat is yoga? Yoga is a mind-body practice that was developed in India. With the proliferation of yoga, one can find many different styles of yoga with names like hatha, vinyasa, kundalini, bikram, power, Iyengar and more. As with tai chi and other forms of exercise, it is important to practice one that emphasizes mindfulness and gentle movement. With this in mind, Iyengar – a subtype of Hatha yoga – is often a very good practice in that it emphasizes correct posture and alignment rather than working up a sweat. Iyengar also involves correct breathing (often called pranayama) and uses props to aid the proper alignment. B enefits of yoga. There have been three studies of yoga for fibromyalgia. (Carson, et al., 2010) (Curtis, Osadchuk, & Katz, 2011) and (Hennard, 2011). Each showed improvement in pain with most participants having small but consistent reductions. While these studies were small,