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Hydrotherapy and Fibromyalgia

Hydrotherapy Exercise and Fibromyalgia Symptom Management

Fibromyalgia (FMS) is an autoimmune disorder which causes musculoskeletal pain, extreme fatigue, and disturbances of sleep, mood, and memory. The syndrome most commonly affects women and, like other autoimmune conditions, tends to present in clusters of symptoms or in tandem with other autoimmune disorders. Tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression and anxiety disorders can accompany FMS.

Many doctors believe that FMS is triggered by emotional or physical stress. Although there is no cure for the syndrome, doctors recommend exercise and general stress-reduction therapies. According to multiple research studies published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hydrotherapy exercises assist patients in managing pain, stress, and mood.

Rheumatology Research

Research reported in 2008 (Rheumatology International) saw patients' overall health status and "tender points" improved as a result of hydrotherapy exercises. Other published research (1990-2006) reported by Medline (The National Library of Medicine), EMBASE, Science Direct, ProQuest, and others said that hydrotherapy (also known as pool, water, swimming, spa, physical, rehabilitation therapies, or balneotherapy or hydrogalvanic therapy) has been found to assist patients suffering with musculoskeletal symptoms related to FMS.

Researchers used randomized controlled trials to evaluate how effectively hydrotherapy exercises helped FMS patients to manage or control their physical or emotional symptoms. In conclusion, studies strongly correlate the positive outcomes of hydrotherapy in FMS management.

Hydrotherapy Exercise Studies

According to "Fibromyalgia: A Practical Clinical Guide," (2009) stretching or traditional soft tissue (myofascial) therapies do not help the FMS patient in managing soreness, stiffness, or pain. Researchers report that, while stretching helped FMS patients to gain flexibility after three months of training sessions performed twice weekly, symptom improvement was modest and short-lived. Hydrotherapy, in comparison, significantly reduced symptoms for 446 patients diagnosed with FMS. The patients used balneotherapy treatments (approximately 240 minutes in duration), bathing and performing gentle exercises in water from thermal or mineral springs, to obtain relief.

Another study demonstrated the effectiveness of hydrotherapy exercises in patients already receiving pharmaceutical treatments for FMS. The control group using medication did not participate in hydrotherapy treatments. Researchers instructed patients in the study sample to perform gentle hydrotherapy exercises, including walking or paddling, in thermal waters. Mud packs and daily thermal bath treatments were given to the patients over a two week period.

Though the control group reported no change in symptoms, the study group reported (in response to the FIQ/Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire) an approximate 20 percent reduction in symptoms and tender points. The researchers concluded that, in comparison with drug treatment, study group participants benefited from hydrotherapy exercises. Specifically, respondents said they felt less "disability" after hydrotherapy.

In a third study, 63 FMS patients were instructed in "aquatherapy" or a regular "land" exercise routine. The patients in both groups trained every other day for one hour of exercises. After three months of exercise, both groups were assessed. At six months of exercise, the aquatherapy group reported a 37 percent reduction in symptoms vs. the land-based group's 16 percent improvement. Researchers in the study conclude that both forms of exercise helped FMS improve symptom management without additional medicines.


Functional medical experts and medical researchers predict a rise in autoimmune disorders over the next two decades. According to author Donna Jackson Nakazawa, approximately 24 million people suffer with autoimmune disease disorders. The number of diagnosed patients is predicted to double by the year 2050. FMS sufferers can obtain relief from symptoms with a complete treatment program at treatments centers of America.

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