Keep active to ward off fibromyositis

Fibromyositis is a medical term used to describe chronic inflammation of muscles and connective tissue.  It often results in joint stiffness and intense muscle pain.  An unlikely, but effective treatment for this condition is exercise.

Currently, fibromyositis is used interchangeably with a common and equally debilitating condition known as fibromyalgia.  This latter problem is estimated to affect five million Americans.

Similar symptoms of widespread pain and fatigue are found in both conditions but additional symptoms of sleep disturbances and psychological distress are more profound in fibromyalgia.

Fatigue is a big factor in both conditions. The fatigue is most likely related to the increased exertion required to perform even simple tasks and a disturbance in sleep patterns. This can lead to profound depression.

Non-narcotic medications such as anti-inflammatory medications and anti-seizure drugs have been used successfully. Antidepressants have the advantage of providing pain relief and improving a patient's spirits. It must be emphasized that narcotic drugs should never be used for chronic pain.

Regular exercise provides an interesting adjunctive therapy to medications. Multiple studies have demonstrated that moderately intense aerobic exercise can improve pain thresholds.

A typical regimen should include adequate stretching and a program such as low-impact aerobic dance, tai chi or an aquatic exercise.  Light resistive exercises are also helpful.   Any program should be adjusted to the patient’s pain tolerance to assure adherence to the program.

"I believe exercise programs are beneficial because they help to develop better coping skills to deal with the condition,” states Norwich rheumatologist, Dr. Harjinder Chowdhary, who treats many patients with fibromyalgia. “This may be related to a release of naturally-present brain chemicals known as endorphins that can reduce pain.".

A regular exercise program will build stamina and improve any person's physical appearance despite the presence of a chronic painful condition. 

Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN.  He can be reached at