Since last November, I have been working with a client who has fibromyalgia. I had some experience helping people work through this condition in the past, but this was my first long-term client with the disease.
The CDC defines fibromyalgia as is a condition that causes pain all over the body, sleep problems, fatigue, and emotional and mental distress. Previous to working with me, she had started taking Plexus supplements which helped tremendously but felt like something was missing. She decided to reach out to me to start a strength training program.
When creating a program for someone with fibromyalgia, you must consider these basic principles:
1. Start with no weight. Literally. Go through range of motion exercises without weight.
2. Assess balance and flexibility. Be creative in introducing balance exercises.
3. Add weight 1-3 lbs at a time to exercises.
4. Start with one set of 6-10 reps. Increase every 2-4 weeks.
5. Never do an exercise to fatigue. I use the 70-80% rule.
6. Do not completely enter into full extension (locking knees, elbows, etc) with any exercise.
7. Rest between sets. I rarely use supersets.
During our 10 months together, she told me that she feels stronger, sleeps much better, experiences less pain and enjoys exercise more than she had previously. Originally, I had also encouraged her to get a step counter and to start at 4,000 steps per day. That might seem minimal, but with chronic pain, too much too soon can make symptoms worse. She is now regularly walking over 8,000 steps per day!!
If you know anyone who suffers from chronic pain, please encourage them to consider researching the benefits of exercise. Chronic pain can cripple their motivation and subtle suggestions can help if they are fed up with their disease. If you have any questions about developing a program that suits someone with fibromyalgia, please contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.