Can Yoga Help Manage Fibromyalgia Symptoms?


September 13, 2022     benefits of yoga | Yoga Research

Yoga may help manage fibromyalgia symptoms as part of a larger treatment plan

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

Can yoga help manage fibromyalgia symptoms?

Type of Study

Case study

Methods

Nine-month yoga therapy protocol

Results

  • Quality of life improved
  • Mobility increased
  • Sleep quality improved
  • Pain decreased
  • Joint stiffness decreased
  • Fatigue decreased

Conclusion

Yoga offers a promising option as part of a larger treatment plan for managing fibromyalgia.

Check out our online courses and workshops

Background

Fibromyalgia is a very common disorder with a variety of physiological symptoms whose causes are poorly understood. The causes seem to be rooted in dysregulation of the nervous system cues for physiological functions. Symptoms are variable and can be challenging to treat. Possible symptoms can include fatigue, joint stiffness and pain, pain sensitivity generally, sleep difficulties, and other things.

Since the exact causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood, treatment has focused on dealing with the symptoms. Specific treatments depend on the particular symptoms someone is experiencing. But common treatments may include things like aerobic exercise protocols, strengthening exercises, alternative therapies like acupuncture, and medications like muscle relaxants. Yoga therapies have been somewhat successful in previous research as well, however only short-term effects of yoga have been evaluated. In this study, researchers chose to look at the long-term effects of yoga on fibromyalgia symptoms.

Research question

Can yoga help manage fibromyalgia symptoms?

Research methods

In this study, researchers evaluated the effects of a long-term yoga protocol on one person’s symptoms of fibromyalgia. This style of research is called a case study. The patient in this case study was a 42-year-old female who did not smoke and was not an alcoholic. Because the research team was developing a yoga protocol for one individual, they began by doing an in-depth assessment with her about her experience of fibromyalgia symptoms. The symptoms causing her the most distress included: joint pain, fatigue, nausea, difficulty walking, sleep difficulties, and trouble with balance.

Based on what they learned in the assessment, the research team developed a personalized yoga protocol for their patient. She was guided through a yoga session in the morning and again in the evening for a total of one hour per day. She completed the assigned yoga protocol six days per week for nine months.

The research team assessed the effects of yoga on her fibromyalgia symptoms by measuring: hand steadiness, grip strength, fatigue, back leg strength, flexibility, musculoskeletal pain, quality of sleep, and overall quality of life. They measured these items before beginning the yoga sessions with the patient. Then they measured them again at three, six, and nine months after treatments began.

Results

  • Quality of life improved
  • Mobility increased
  • Sleep quality improved
  • Pain decreased
  • Joint stiffness decreased
  • Fatigue decreased

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

You may be suffering with fibromyalgia yourself. And if not, this syndrome is so common that you likely know someone who is. Or, maybe you’re a yoga teacher and have students challenged with managing fibromyalgia. If so, understanding the symptoms that are often a part of this syndrome can help you better design a yoga practice that meets the student’s unique needs. This study also points out the importance of maintaining a yoga routine over time. For anyone hoping to support something as complex as managing fibromyalgia symptoms, it’s important that we aren’t expecting instant change. We need to give the yoga time to work.

Signup for our newsletter!

Get the latest articles in your inbox each month.

"*" indicates required fields

Conclusion

Fibromyalgia can often be frustrating to treat due to its variable symptoms and unclear causes. In this case study, the effects of yoga on fibromyalgia were very positive. This suggests that further research could tell us more about how best to develop yoga protocols for those suffering from fibromyalgia.

Reference citation

Verma, A., S.U. Shete, G. Doddoli. 2020. Yoga therapy for fibromyalgia syndrome: A case report. J Family Med Prim Care. 9:435-8.

Comments