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Warm-Water Exercise for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The Benefits & How to Get Started

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Updated October 11, 2012

When you start an exercise routine for fibromyalgia (FMS), the type of exercise you choose can make a big difference.

Numerous studies over the years have consistently shown that warm-water exercise can help people with FMS:

  • Improve pain threshold
  • Reduce tender point count
  • Reduce pain
  • Boost cognitive function
  • Lessen anxiety and depression
  • Perceive their condition as less severe

Studies also show that people with FMS are able to tolerate warm-water exercise better than some other forms of exercise.

Benefits of Water Exercise

Water exercise is easier to perform and more beneficial than the same exercise on land, plus it's gentler on your body.

  • It's non-impact, so it won't jar your muscles and joints.
  • The buoyancy decreases effects of gravity so moving takes less effort.
  • Water provides resistance, which helps you build strength and develop better balance.
  • Immersion in water helps you relax and lowers pain perception.

Why Warm Water?

A warm-water pool is good for therapy because cold water can make muscles tense up. It's especially important in FMS because many people with the condition are intolerant of cold. A warm-water pool is one that's kept around 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius), which is several degrees warmer than most heated pools.

If you tolerate cold well and don't feel your muscles tense in a regular-temperature pool, you can try exercising there. However, watch for signs that your body is reacting poorly to the cold, both during and after your work out.

Most gyms do not have therapeutically warm pools. Your doctor or physical therapist may know of some in your community, or you can check with local agencies and institutions, including:

  • Colleges & universities
  • YMCA or YWCA
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • The Arthritis Foundation
  • Easter Seals
  • The Salvation Army
  • Support groups for arthritis or FMS

Many of these places have scheduled classes for people with FMS or with any condition that limits mobility, where you can learn from a qualified instructor.

Getting Started

  • Check with your doctor before beginning aquatic therapy or any exercise program.
  • Look for a qualified instructor or therapist.
  • Start slowly, with short, low-intensity sessions and then work up gradually.
  • Start with 2 sessions a week, several days apart, to see how your body responds to the exercise.
  • Know your limitations and stay within them. Don't feel like you have to make it through an entire class.
  • Don't try to push through the pain, as it will likely make you hurt much worse later on.
  • Talk to your doctor about the timing of any pain killers you are on. If you take them before exercising, you may miss your body's cues that you're working too hard.

More on Exercise for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Sources:

Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology. 2007 Nov-Dec;25(6):823-30. All rights reserved. "Exercise in warm water decreases pain and improves cognitive function in middle-aged women with fibromyalgia."

Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. 2008 Apr;40(4):248-52. All rights reserved. "Eight months of physical training in warm water improves physical and mental health in women with fibromyalgia: A randomized controlled trial."

Related Video
Simple Exercise Warm Up
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  5. Fibromyalgia Treatment - Warm Water Exercise as part of a Fibromyalgia Treatment Regimen

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