Back pain is a common occurrence in people with fibromyalgia. The widespread musculoskeletal pain that characterizes this disorder affects other parts of the body as well. Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by fatigue and mental issues involving mood and memory. Researchers have yet to discover the exact cause of fibromyalgia. It believed that fibromyalgia changes the way the brain processes pain signals causing an amplification of painful sensations in the body. While mental or psychological trauma can sometimes bring on symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, symptoms can also develop over time without any prior incident taking place.
Fibromyalgia and Back Pain
As fibromyalgia is widespread—occurring on both sides of the body, above and below the waist—it can affect the entire back. If there is a pre-existing back condition, fibromyalgia may exacerbate the pain felt in that area of the back. Otherwise, it is common to experience pain along the entire length of the back. The pain felt by people with this condition is often described as a dull ache. As the body tends to be stiffer in the morning, it is common for the pain gradient to be more intense at the beginning of the day. Movement helps to reduce the discomfort caused by fibromyalgia as does stress management.
Yoga and Fibromyalgia
The benefits of a regular yoga practice when living with fibromyalgia are twofold. The physical movement involved in a hatha-style yoga class helps to relieve muscle tension and stiffness in the entire body. The focus on breath and meditation in yoga provides stress relief and relaxation. Yoga offers a holistic approach to pain management and can be of specific benefit to those dealing with related back pain. However, not all yoga is created equal and certain styles of yoga may have a more positive effect on the back pain associated with fibromyalgia than others.
Restorative yoga is a style of yoga that was specifically designed to help people enter states of conscious and deep relaxation. It is used therapeutically with people processing physical, mental and or emotional trauma and may be of benefit for people living with fibromyalgia too. Restorative yoga involves using props—bolsters, blocks, blankets, straps, etc.—to support the body. While the poses are typically held for a minimum of five minutes at a time, if not longer, the stretches are very gentle. Restorative yoga is meant to activate the parasympathetic nervous system— to ”rest and digest”—that allows the body to repair itself. People living with fibromyalgia may find restorative yoga an effective way to help their backs unwind and experience less pain.
Hot yoga involves practicing in a room that is heated using infrared panels to approximately 40°F. The heat allows students to get deeper into stretches and ultimately relieve more tension in the body. For people dealing with the back pain associated with fibromyalgia, the heat can offer welcome relief. With a wide range of styles of hot yoga to choose from, look for a style that offers variations in case your back pain needs extra attention. The heat and humidity of a hot yoga room have the added benefit of opening up the lungs. This allows for deeper, fuller breathing. Deep breathing is another way to relax the body and relieve pain associated with this condition.
A regular hatha yoga class is another option when managing back pain and fibromyalgia. Hatha technically encompasses all body-focused forms of yoga but is often used to describe more gentle yoga classes. Hatha classes are a fantastic option when dealing with the back pain caused by fibromyalgia as they are usually slower paced and offer numerous variations on poses. So regardless of how your body is feeling, you will be able to get through an entire practice in a way that supports the body.
The Added Benefit of Meditation
Some yoga classes will incorporate meditation practices or, at the very least, mindful breathing exercises to help calm the mind. If you can find a yoga class that feels good for your body and your head, stick to it. Otherwise, consider exploring meditation classes as well. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, two things that can have a direct effect on the back pain you feel from fibromyalgia. There are also numerous online meditation sessions you can do if you cannot find a class near you.
While yoga won’t eliminate your back pain caused by fibromyalgia, it can offer both physical and mental relief from the pain. Try out different studios, teachers and classes until you find something that is a good fit. Your back will thank you.