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.
SEATED EXERCISES FOR FIBROMYALGIA
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.