New Study: Yoga Used as Therapy Lowers Fibromyalgia Symptoms by 30 Percent

Good news for fibromyalgia patients, especially those who aren’t getting relief from prescription drugs and find themselves in too much pain to exercise: a breakthrough new study indicates that yoga can help fibromyalgia patients reduce symptoms like pain, fatigue and stiffness by 30 percent. The study, based out of the Oregon Health and Science University, involved 53 women who had suffered from fibromyalgia for a year or more. Participants either continued their regular treatment routine or added a weekly, 2-hour yoga session. The yoga program used was designed with fibromyalgia patients in mind. Patients spent forty minutes doing low-impact, Hatha poses, and the next eighty focusing on breathing exercises, meditation and group discussion about pain. They were also given instructional DVDs and encouraged to practice at home.

The researchers called the program “Yoga of Awareness” because of its emphasis on the meditative component. James Carson, the study’s lead researcher, emphasized that the non-yoga activities were major components of the program, saying they were “not just add-ons” and that they helped patients “learn to handle pain and fatigue in different ways.”

The results were based on how participants ranked their pain and discomfort at the beginning and end of the experiment. They showed that patients who did yoga decreased symptoms such as pain, anxiety, poor sleep, stiffness and fatigue by 30 percent. The control group’s numbers didn’t change. A larger study is under works to determine exactly how this type of yoga therapy alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms.

Carson thinks yoga may actually rewire the central nervous system’s response to pain signal. These are important findings for both fibromyalgia patients and the yoga community. Fibromyalgia patients are often encouraged to exercise as part of their treatment, but many find it difficult to find a method that accommodates their physical barriers. And the study may build interest in yoga therapy as a treatment for all sorts of ailments

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