Two Mind-Body Practices Benefit People With Fibromyalgia

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Feb 18, 2013

Mind-Body-Spirit News


People with fibromyalgia may want to try meditation to help them cope with challenging symptoms like pain and depression, suggests a study published in Current Pain and Headache Reports (2012; 16: 383–87; doi: 10.1007/s11916-012-0285-8).

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread bodily pain, among other symptoms such as fatigue and tender spots. Conventional medicine has not found a panacea for chronic pain, leaving many to seek solutions from complementary practices like meditation. Researchers from the Universidad Federal de São Paulo and the Instituto do Cerebro in São Paulo conducted a review of meditation studies on people with fibromyalgia to determine whether sufficient evidence existed to recommend meditation.

Among the four available high-quality studies, invest­igators found that the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction method had been featured in the most studies with positive results. Benefits of meditation practice included reductions in pain, fatigue and anxiety, as well as boosts in mood. More home practice was associated with more improvement. In one study, subjects sustained positive effects for 3 years after the intervention.

Lead study author Elisa H. Kozasa PhD, psychobiologist and researcher at the Instituto de Cerebro–Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in São Paolo, told IDEA Fitness Journal, “The most important message from this study is that [while] conventional medicine is essential for the treatment of fibromyalgia, patients can [also] help themselves to manage their own symptoms through mind-body practices, such as meditation. The quality of future studies in this field will depend on the improvement of the design and sample size of each study.”

Gentle Hatha Yoga

Another option that people with fibromyalgia may want to consider for pain relief is gentle hatha yoga, according to a study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy (2012; [22], 53–57). The American College of Rheumatology reports that 2%–4% of Americans are affected by this condition, and most are women. A small study of 10 participants, conducted at Saint Mary’s University of Min­nesota, in Winona, explored what symptom relief, if any, occurred when people with fibromyalgia practiced yoga two times per week for 8 weeks.

Researcher Lisa Rudrud, EdD, fitness director at the Winona YMCA, designed the yoga sequence with specific modifications in recognition that participants might not have high levels of strength or flexibility or be able to hold postures (other than restorative options) for long periods. Classes consisted of nostril breathing, gentle standing poses, seated moves and guided imagery.

Rudrud said to IDEA Fitness Journal, “All poses [were] with continuous movement for about 3–5 minutes except for the first few moments in Mountain Pose and the final relaxation. Movements included modified sun salutations and seated or lying postures. One participant did all exercises seated in a chair focusing mostly on her breath.”

After the 8-week program, an analysis of data provided by participants showed that most experienced some form of symptom relief. “While all of the participants continued to report pain, pain was less after participating in the treatment, and other symptoms—such as depression—improved, as noted in their journals,” said Rudrud. “Instructors who want to teach to this specific population should be familiar with the syndrome and understand that people with [fibromyalgia] need to avoid going to their limit and [must honor] their illness. They need to stop short of their maximal ability, or they tend to pay for it later.”

Limitations of the study included the small sample size, the lack of a control group, and self-reporting by subjects, among other factors.

For more information about fibromyalgia, go to For more about the study, contact Lisa Rudrud at yoga

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at