Fibromyalgia and Exercise: What Kind, How Much, How Often?

If you’ve decided to do what you can to reduce your fibromyalgia pain, you’ll want to look at ways to include exercise.

You’ve heard that more physical activity is proven to reduce pain and improve your physical and emotional well-being.  For people who have made exercise a part of self-care, after about a month, it changes from something dreadful, into something to feel proud of, and an important part of your ability to function better in other parts of your life.

The key is to start small, and consider activities and places to exercise that give you the support you need to start and keep working at it.

So, here are some tips to help you begin.

How Much Exercise To Start With

If you’re very reluctant to start, start small. You can benefit from sessions as brief as 10 minutes, a few times a day.  Try this to start:

  • 10 minutes before work
  • 10 minutes at lunch
  • 10 minutes before or after dinner

Here are some of the most common activities that work as exercise for people with fibromyalgia:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Golf
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Water exercise
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Rowing/kayaking

Going to the gym may be your preference, especially if you want to work with a trainer, or a friend.  Having someone to encourage you and to check in with often helps keep your promises to exercise.

If you go to a gym or use a home gym, here are good ways to exercise:

  • Stair climbing
  • Elliptical rower
  • Stationary bicycle
  • Treadmill walking
  • Doing light weight-bearing exercises with 1-2-pound weights

Weight-bearing exercises are particularly good at helping you increase strength and build bone.

Exercises That Address Mind, Body and Spirit

Several traditional forms of exercise blend breathing, stretching, fluid motion and mental focus.  These practices often provide a great benefit for people suffering with pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

 

  • Yoga helps increase flexibility, strength, and brings your attention to deep breathing and relaxation.  The combination of stretching and moving helps lift anxiety, depression, and improve sleep.
  • Qi gong (pronounced “chee goong”) is a traditional Chinese practice of movements that combines balance, slow and quick motion, and breathing.  It helps you increase energy, lessen fatigue and pain, and promote healing
  • Tai Chi is a form of Qi Gong.  It emphasizes meditation, relaxation and passive concentration.

How Often Should You Exercise

It is important to talk with your doctor if you are beginning your exercise program, physical therapy, or weight training.  In most cases, your medical treatment and exercise plan can work together well.

You will want to avoid muscle strains and sprains, so start slowly.  Your doctor can help you find good activities recommended for the particular challenges you face as you start.

  • For example, I may advise patients who want to begin exercising to try:

    2-3 times per week for weight-bearing exercises

  • Resting 48 hours between weight training sessions if training the whole body
  • Do upper body one day and lower body the next day for an alternating training program

Here are some more resources that patients at the Optimal Wellness Center find helpful to make exercising more enjoyable and something you feel good about doing:

It takes commitment to overcome feeling like the pain is too bad and you can’t exercise right now.   You can take heart and find a way to start that works for you.;

If you enjoy this health tip please share it or print it for your use. It comes to you from Dr. Betty Keller, an integrative therapy and fibromyalgia specialist, practicing in Franklin Lakes New Jersey at the Optimal Wellness Center.

Treating Fibromyalgia Naturally: How Exercise Matters

With fibromyalgia, you experience pain and stiffness in your muscles and joints.   This pain can be very discouraging and may make movement and exercise a very unwelcome idea at first.

But there is something important to know about fibromyalgia and exercise.  Study after study shows that exercise helps significantly to reduce pain.  It also improves other difficult problems you face with fibromyalgia, like chronic fatigue and depression.

Exercise helps your body release more endorphins, which are natural painkillers.  It also increases the hormone serotonin – known as the happy hormone.  It relieves stress, decreases anxiety, and elevates your mood.

When you become more physically active, the quality of your sleep improves. These are just a few of the many proven ways that exercise reduces fibromyalgia pain scores and gives you more control over healing your body.

Does Soreness Mean Fibromyalgia and Exercise Don’t Mix?

While fibromyalgia pain is certainly disabling and uncomfortable, it does not come with swelling or inflammation. So the good news is that muscle and joint damage is very unlikely to be part of your experience with fibromyalgia.  You can rest assured that you are working to fight back against pain (and fatigue, anxiety and depression), but not muscle injury.

Your Fibromyalgia and Exercise Program: Slowly, But Do Start

I recommend a very gentle but dedicated approach to exercise.  We are not talking about training for the Olympics.  You can start slowly and gently, and you can change your activity level over time as you gain strength and begin to enjoy results.

The activities I recommend include walking, yoga, golf, martial arts – activities involving fluid movement and low impact.  You may want to work with a physical therapist to help you start (a brief video about that is here). More details about exercises to try and how to start is available in upcoming articles.

Have Faith That You Have What it Takes to Get Moving

Getting better with fibromyalgia does take hard work.  And courage.  Trying new movements and exercises, and then doing them is a process, not an instant cure.   With fibromyalgia, I see patients who feel helpless at first, become braver and stronger, and truly inspiring as they overcome a truly daunting condition.

Feeling pain may tempt you to sit motionless in front of the TV and try to take your mind off it.  But exercise is often the best real way to make a real difference in the quality of life you can enjoy in spite of fibromyalgia.

About Dr. Keller

Dr. Betty Keller practices integrative medicine at the Optimal Wellness Center in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.  She is a board certified doctor specializing in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, weight loss, medical acupuncture   and disease prevention, serving Franklin Lakes, Wyckoff, NJ, and nearby areas.

Fibromyalgia Survival Guide: 5 Keys to Making This Your Best Year Ever

Many people see a new year as a time to for new beginnings. People plan to lose weight, get active, and get healthier to enjoy more of what life has to offer.

If you have fibromyalgia, you probably want very much to make pain, stress, and fatigue a much smaller part of your life.  But you worry about how to reach these goals.  You want to eat better, sleep better, and feel happier – with less pain.  But you know that making changes your diet or your activity can lead to painful flare-ups.  Making lifestyle changes seems almost impossible when your muscles hurt, and you’re tired all the time, especially when you try something new.

Let’s pause right now and take an approach to fibromyalgia treatment that’s not based on big promises, but on smaller things you can do to feel a whole lot better despite fibromyalgia.

Instead of resolutions, let’s look at

5 keys to building a better life with fibromyalgia

  1. Setting specific goals
  2. Making small changes
  3. Learning what works
  4. Combining therapies and self- care that make you feel better
  5. Getting support to keep going

1) Setting specific goals

Since there are a number of therapies to try, we set a clear target, such as sleeping better, improving fitness, or reducing pain. First, every patient I see has a detailed, comprehensive set of medical tests and a physical exam. This helps us see where best to start. We may focus one or a few these areas to begin to make changes:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Medication
  • Sleep Quality
  • Emotional Health and State of Mind

Next, we look at how to start moving toward the health goals you’ve set in these areas.

2) Making small changes

What you eat has a lot to do with how you feel. This is especially true for people with fibromyalgia.  Eating a healthy anti-inflammatory diet is a great place to start making modest changes.

Kale, for example, is one of the most nutrition-dense foods known.  Kale’s natural defenses against diseases, insects, and even sun damage also help our bodies heal when we eat it.  You can learn to choose similar healthy foods regularly by remembering they tend to be darker in color, such as grapes, red cabbage, strawberries and blueberries, green tea, walnuts, and tomatoes.

This approach isn’t about cutting out all carbs, eating just protein, or anything drastic. Finding out about anti-inflammatory foods, and planning meals with these – and eating less sugar, refined foods and meats – is one small but powerful change toward forming new eating habits that leave you feeling less pain, and more healthy.

3) Learning what works

Exercise, for example, has a lot to do with health, but you may feel like you’re in too much pain to work out.  If going to the gym doesn’t work for you – then let’s go somewhere else.  It helps to think of exercise as simply things you enjoy that get you moving.  Some patients find that a few 10-minute sessions a day work best.  The most helpful activities include smooth, no-impact or low-impact movements, and have a mind-calming element, like yoga, tai chi, or walking.

  • Acupuncture might not be a treatment you would have thought to try.  But studies and patient experience reveal several healing responses to this painless treatment.  Endorphins increase, and stress hormones decrease.  While it deserves its own discussion, the overall effects of acupuncture help improve sleep, reduce stress, and even relieve anxiety and depression.
  • Your state of mind has a lot to do with how you feel physically, with fibromyalgia.  Mental stress, physical tension and pain tend to trigger each other and can start a whole downward spiral.  A positive frame of mind helps all of us choose better foods, activities and rest periods especially when we have old negative habits to overcome.

4) Combining fibromyalgia treatments and self-care that make you feel better

Your doctor may prescribe pain medication and over-the-counter nutritional supplements.  By themselves, they may provide some relief, but not much, or not for long.  But when you start taking care of your diet, get moving, and get better sleep, your body’s own healing processes and your medications gain more power over your fibromyalgia symptoms, and you feel well for longer and longer periods.

5) Getting support to keep going 

Finding the right doctor is an important part of finding the right blend of therapies for long-term relief.   You need someone who understands the pain you describe is real, and who has experience observing the effects of different therapies, and can help you find a number of safe treatments you can use in combination.

Understanding friends, and support from others with fibromyalgia can help a lot too. Good friends can challenge the negative thoughts that we may jump to automatically.   Being around positive people can help us find more joy, peace and gratitude in every day life.

Fibromyalgia can be difficult to treat because doctors are not always familiar with how to diagnose it and treat it — and no one single treatment works.

Each person responds differently to therapies. Some medications work better than others.  Specific foods, forms of exercise, and techniques for getting better sleep work better for some people than others.  A successful treatment plans combines a number of approaches from different disciplines.

An integrative approach – which I practice at the Optimal Wellness Center – combines traditional medicine with complementary therapies – such as diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, acupuncture, exercise and stress management.   It also combines the doctor’s efforts with your self-care efforts to find the most effective treatment for you.

About Dr. Keller

Dr. Betty Keller practices integrative medicine at the Optimal Wellness Center in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.  She is a board certified doctor specializing in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, weight loss, medical acupuncture and disease prevention, serving Franklin Lakes, Wyckoff, NJ, and nearby areas.

Can Acupuncture Help You Lose Weight?

Acupuncture and Weight Loss Works by Reducing Stress and Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle

Summary:  While acupuncture isn’t a cure-all, it can help make your weight loss plan work for you.  Acupuncture — an ancient medical treatment using small needles at precise points — stimulates the nervous system.  One result is pain reduction, by triggering the body’s own hormones that stimulate a sense of well-being.  You feel more energetic and mobile, which makes it easier for you to exercise and enjoy being more physically active.  Following a healthy eating plan is an important part of successful weight loss.  Acupuncture has been shown to reduce cravings and stress levels that can make it harder for you to follow healthy lifestyle changes.  Many people looking to lose weight and keep it off find that acupuncture is just what they need to over come  cravings, boost  energy, decrease  appetite, and reduce  stress.  It may be the little extra help you need to succeed.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a medical treatment to encourage the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting small needles into precise acupuncture points.

The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in patterns through the body.  These channels are called meridians. Acupuncture helps restore the natural flow when there is an obstruction in these energy channels.

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in muscles, the spinal cord, and the brain.  These chemicals can decrease or eliminate pain; they can also trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones, which influence the body’s own internal healing system.

The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body to heal itself and promote physical and emotional wellbeing.

How can acupuncture help me lose weight?

We all know weight loss is a complex subject, and a program must be multifaceted to be effective. A good program would include, a healthy diet, exercise, stress reduction and behavioral modifications. As an adjunct therapy acupuncture can help. It is not magic, and is not a substitute for adopting a healthy lifestyle.  However it can be effective in making it easier to lose weight and keep it off in those individuals who are willing to make appropriate healthy lifestyle changes.  Studies have shown that people following a healthy diet and exercise plan can lose more weight when acupuncture is included in their weight loss program. If you need ideas to get started on your weight loss program, call or contact us to learn more about acupuncture as part of a whole-person treatment plan.

Healthy lifestyle and weight loss treatments, Franklin Lakes NJDr. Keller’s treatment plan includes  personal follow up consultations to support you. Find out more about how Dr. Keller helps you choose and reach your weight loss goals.

How does acupuncture help with weight loss?

When acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points in the ear or the body the body releases endorphins.  Endorphins are proteins similar to opioids.   When these proteins are released into the body they cause a sense of well being.  They also act as an analgesic, which means they can reduce pain.  These endorphins have a calming and relaxing effect on the body. When a person is calm and relaxed it makes it easier not to overeat and gain weight.

Acupuncture can relieve stress, a major contributor to weight gain.

When needles are placed in specific point in the ear they stimulate the auricular branch of the vagus nerve. This nerve functions to increase the smooth muscle tone of the stomach, which decreases your appetite by causing a sense of fullness. Stimulation of this nerve also causes an increase in serotonin.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced in your brain. When released it gives you a  ‘feeling of happiness’ and helps to keep you calm.  In addition, serotonin also helps to suppress your appetite.  This may be particularly important in a subset of overweight people who have low levels of serotonin.

What happens at a treatment session?

Needles are placed in specific points in the ear and body based on your particular eating type. There are specific points in the ear that correspond to different eating habits. Depending on your particular needs different points will be used. After the area is clean with an alcohol wipe a small disposable needle is inserted into a precise acupuncture point.  After the needles are inserted they will be left in place for about twenty minutes while you relax.  Before leaving press tags are placed in the area that is best suited for your treatment. These small beads are attached to a small piece of tape and placed in the area most appropriate for you. They can be stimulated for 10 seconds gently when needed to suppress appetitive or cravings or induce a feeling of calm.

How many treatments are needed?

The number of treatments depends on your personnel wellness goals.  Dr.Keller will assess you at each visit and determine the appropriate number of treatments for you.

What happens when the treatments are completed?  Will I gain all the weight back?

Congratulations, if your treatments are completed you have reached your wellness goal.  You now have made permanent healthy lifestyle changes and these changes will help you maintain you’re your new healthy weight.  The positive effects of acupuncture will persist.  This may be because not only does acupuncture release endorphins and serotonin and other beneficial chemicals it may also cause the body to continue to release a higher level of these chemicals even after the treatments have stopped.  Once you have reached your goals you and Dr.Keller may decide to have a treatment every four to six months to stay on track with your wellness goal.

Those who follow a healthy diet and exercise plan in combination with acupuncture should see a boost in their weight loss and energy levels.

What are some of the advantages of adding acupuncture to your weight loss program?

  • Both men and women of all fitness levels can benefit from acupuncture.
  • Patients can help reduce their stress while losing weight.
  • Acupuncture helps suppress your appetite.
  • Acupuncture may help reduce fat, increase lean muscle mass, and improve joint mobility.
  • Acupuncture can also be used to relieve pain, a benefit, which will make exercising easier.
  • You may find that in addition to healthy life style changes that acupuncture is just what you need to over come your cravings, boost your energy, decrease your appetite, and reduce your stress.  It may be the little extra help you need to succeed.

As with any weight loss program, acupuncture treatments for weight loss will not work for everyone. You will need to evaluate your health and fitness goals. Contact us to to learn more about weight control therapies and to decide if trying acupuncture for weight loss is right for you.

Healthy lifestyle and weight loss treatments, Franklin Lakes NJDr. Keller’s treatment plan and personal follow up consultations guide you in making a transition to a  healthier lifestyle, where a lighter weight is one natural outcome. Come see more about how Dr. Keller helps you choose and reach your weight loss goals.