SEATED & STANDING EXERCISES FOR FIBROMYALGIA
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
The following exercises are designed especially for those with fibromyalgia, who are just beginning an exercise program. Gentle range-of-motion exercises can provide the foundation for a more active exercise program down the road. Initially, only a few repetitions (not more than 5) of any one exercise should be done at a time. It is not important to perform all the listed exercises at one sitting—only do what you feel is easy for you in the beginning. You may feel better if you repeat a few of the exercises at several different times throughout the day. Movements should be slow and gentle, with a high degree of body awareness. As you become accustomed to the exercises, you may increase the range of movements. Muscles should be gently stretched, not overstretched. Stay well within your comfort zone. If you have soreness and fatigue lasting more than 6 hours following any exercise program, don’t stop exercising, but only do half what you did the previous exercise session. Allow yourself the time during and between sessions to really notice how your body and muscles feel as you move.
All of the following exercises are done seated in a straight-backed chair, feet flat on the floor. You may use a small pillow for back support. If your feet do not reach the floor, place them on a book or other firm surface. Check your posture and body alignment frequently. Your shoulders should be over your hips, and your earlobes over your shoulders, gaze directed straight ahead.
1. Sit with good posture. Touch your chin with fingertips of one hand. Gently pull the chin straight back, away from fingertips, keeping chin level. This gently stretches the muscles on the back of the neck, and properly aligns the head over the shoulders. Relax, and repeat slowly 2-3 times. (The movement should be quite small.)
2. Sit with good posture. Bend your neck to the side, gently bringing your right ear toward the right shoulder; pause for 2-3 seconds. Slowly return to the upright position. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.
3. Sit with good posture. Look slowly over one shoulder, pause for 2-3 seconds, then return to center. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.
1. Shoulder Circles: Circle your shoulders slowly—shrug them up toward the ears, back, down, forward and up around again. Circle 2-3 times, ending with shoulders back and down.
2. Pendulum Warm-Up: Sit tall with your spine straight. Place the left hand on the right thigh for trunk support. Lean to the right side, and allow the right arm to dangle from the shoulder. Move the arm forward and back several times. Initiate the motion from the shoulder. Relax the arm as much as possible and let it move freely. Move the arm in a circle several times. Reverse the circle.
3. Cross and Open: Arms straight, reaching toward the knees, palms down, wrists crossed. Uncross wrists, turn palms up, and bring the hands even with the front of the chair seat. Cross wrists again, BUT this time, open and bring the hands even with the middle of the chair seat. Cross wrists a third time, BUT this time, open and bring hands toward the back of the chair. Squeeze the shoulder blades together.
4. Forearm twists: Elbows bent at sides, palms up. Turn palms down then up 2-3 times.
5. Wrist circles: Elbows bent at sides. Circle wrists clockwise and counterclockwise 2-3 times each.
6. Thumb Mobility: Rub the pad of the thumb back and forth across the pad of the index finger twice. Repeat the exercise with each finger.
7. Open Like a Flower: Begin with the palm up, the pads of all 4 fingers touching the pad of the thumb. Slowly open the hand 1/2 -way, as though it were a bud opening into a flower. Gently close the fingers, then stretch 3/4 open, close, and finally, gently open the hand all the way up. Return to the starting position. Repeat 2-3 times with each hand.
Sit all the way back in the chair so your back is well supported. Take a deep breath in.
As you breathe out, press your lower back into the back of the chair and tighten the abdominal muscles. (Picture a string pulling your belly button to your spine.) Relax when you run out of air, and repeat 2-3 times.
1. Leg Out To Side: Slowly move the right knee and leg out to the side, away from the left leg. Keep the right ankle directly below the knee. Move the knee back to the center. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.
2. Buttock Stretch: Place the left ankle on top of the right knee. Straighten the spine. Lean forward from the hip, keeping the spine straight. Stretch gently without bouncing for 10 seconds. Repeat 1 to 2 times with each leg.
3. Quadriceps Strengthener #1: Straighten the left knee. Flex the ankle, pointing the toes toward the ceiling. Tighten the muscle on top of the thigh above the kneecap. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Relax and lower foot to the floor. Repeat 2-3 times with each leg.
4. Quadriceps Strengthener # 2: Sit at the front of the seat of the chair. Straighten the right knee, and rest the heel on the floor. Tighten the muscle on top of the thigh above the kneecap. Hold for 3-5 seconds, relax, and repeat several times with each leg.
5. Hamstring Stretch: Sit at the front of the seat of the chair. Straighten the right knee and rest heel on floor. Place hands on left thigh to support the weight of the upper body. Keeping the back straight and the head up, gently bend forward at the hip. You should feel a gentle stretch in the back of the right thigh. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 1-3 times with each leg.
The following exercises are done standing with “soft” knees—straight, but not locked. Use the back of a chair or other stable object as needed for balance.
Hips Side to Side
1. Stand with feet about shoulder width apart, keeping knees “soft” throughout the exercise. Shift weight to the right foot, then the left. Move the hips to the right and left as you shift weight. Both feet remain flat on the floor. Repeat several times.
2. Shift the weight to the right foot, BUT this time, lift the left heel so only your left toe is on the floor. Alternate several times from the right to the left.
Place feet about shoulder width apart. Keeping the knees “soft”, move the hips in a clockwise circle several times. Reverse, moving the hips in a counter clockwise direction.
Toe Around the Clock
Stand with the feet together or slightly apart. With weight on the left foot, touch the right toe in front (12:00), center (starting position), to the side (3:00), center, to the back (6:00), center, return to stance position. Repeat several times with each foot.
Stand with feet together or slightly apart, knees soft. Bend both knees slightly then straighten. As you straighten knees, tighten the buttock and abdominal muscles and the muscles on front of thighs (quadriceps). Repeat several times.
(Do not allow knees to turn in–keep them aligned over the feet.)
Stand with feet together, holding on to the back of a chair. Take a big step back with one foot. Keep both feet flat on the floor, toes pointing forward. Bend the forward knee as though you are lunging. (The knee should be directly over the ankle, not in front of it.) Straighten the back knee. A stretch should be felt in the upper part of the calf muscle. Hold for 10 seconds. Lift the back heel to release the stretch, then stretch again. Bring the feet together and repeat on the other side.
Stand with feet together, holding onto the back of a chair. Take a large step back with one foot, as in the calf stretch above. The toes of both feet should point forward, and the trunk should be upright. Lift the back heel off the floor. Tuck the seat under (pelvic tilt). You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip of the back leg. Stretch gently for 10 seconds, 1 to 2 times on each side.
Trunk Rotation / Shoulder Stretch
Stand with feet about shoulder width apart. Cradle right arm in left arm, left fingertips behind the right elbow. Raise arms up to shoulder height. Slowly rotate trunk to the left, lifting the right heel as you turn. Apply gentle pressure to the right elbow with the left fingertips, and feel the stretch in the right shoulder. Return to starting position and repeat 2-3 times on each side.
For more information contact:
The Fibromyalgia Network, P.O. Box 31750, Tucson, AZ 85751-1751, Telephone: 1-800-853-2929.
The National Fibromyalgia Research Association
P.O. Box 500, Salem, OR 97308
Dr. Sharon Clark’s Stretching Video
(available for $19.95 plus $5.00 shipping) through:
Oregon Fibromyalgia Foundation
1221 SW Yamhill Suite 303
Portland OR 97205