What exercise works for fibromyalgia?

What exercise works for fibromyalgia?

This article explains the best exercise for fibromyalgia. It has evidence to back it up. It may also be that it is my favorite activity for reducing muscle tightness and helping me maintain my muscle strength. 

Exercise is often the last thing we feel like doing when living with fibromyalgia and many people find that walking, which is often suggested, aggravates the pain for days after. 

Walking in warm water or water aerobics may be the solution if it is accessible to you.

Physical therapy in warm water has been effective and highly recommended for people with fibromyalgia. The natural buoyancy of the water is what makes it easy to do. The warm water is comforting and relaxes the joints and the muscles. Many studies have shown that walking in water is one of the most popular interventions used which significantly lowers ratings of fatigue after exercise and reduces the delayed onset muscle soreness that many of us with fibromyalgia get.
If you have fibromyalgia pain, you're likely clenching right now.
"Clenching is an involuntary reaction to stress," says Doris Cope, MD, director of Pain Management at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "People tense their muscles, and probably don't even realize they're doing it. That reduces blood flow to the muscles, which causes pain."
That's why moving in warm water is great for reducing pain as it relaxes the muscles and gets blood flow to the muscles and tendons.

Hydrotherapy is a recommended course of treatment for patients with any type of chronic pain condition. Hydrotherapy reduces pain by promoting normal movement, increasing muscle length, and increasing muscle strength and control. Conditions that may benefit include fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, and longstanding musculoskeletal conditions. ~ Hydrotherapy India

You don't need to be a swimmer to join in a water exercise class: at the group I joined many people stood in the shallow water and hung onto the railing to do the movements and there was no swimming or floating involved.  There was even a hoist to lift some people, who could not manage the stairs, into the water.

I personally find exercises in warm water essential to soothe my pain and turn it down. 
I do weekly classes of hydrotherapy and research has been done to explain the importance of this strategy for managing fibromyalgia, as long as these aquatic classes were maintained. 

hydrotherapy for fibromyalgia

Check out the link above which includes information about studies from Spain done on water aerobics. These studies were done at the University of Extremadura, Spain, and the University of Evora, Portugal, and published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.

The study showed participants experienced an improvement in their fibromyalgia symptoms including 
(1) mobility,
(2) self-care,
(3) daily activities,
(4) pain and discomfort, and
(5) anxiety or depression.

The results of a 2019 study published in Physical Therapy stated that “aquatic exercise produced sufficient muscle activation, intensity, and exertion.” It also noted that aquatic physical therapy showed a reduction of pain compared to regular or “land exercises.” In fact, the pain was noted twice as frequently in patients who exercised out of the water. 

What is hydrotherapy used for? 
According to Michigan Medicine hydrotherapy is used to treat many illnesses and conditions, such as arthritis; depression; headaches; joint, muscle, and nerve problems; sleep disorders; and stress. 

Where can I do hydrotherapy?
Many hospitals, fitness centers, and public aquatic centers have classes of varying levels of fitness. An aerobic-type class would NOT be suitable but many seniors classes or lessons for people with arthritis would address the common physical challenges. 

What are other names for hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is also called water therapy, aqua physiotherapy, aquatic physical therapy, or aquatic therapy. 

What temperature should the water be for hydrotherapy?
The water temperature of a therapy pool is generally between 88 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit (31.11 °Celsius and 34.44 °Celsius) because this has been proven to relax muscles and decrease stiffness, which makes it easier to move. 

Water Exercise and Fibromyalgia Pain from WebMD
Research Article in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.


  1. That is great but some people find the hot water actually brings on fatigue

  2. Yes I have heard this about fatigue and hot water for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and some other autoimmune diseases. I'm not sure about this and fibromyalgia but everyone is different.


Thanks for your input