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Fibromyalgia Basics

Warm Water Improves Breathing

Feeling short-winded and hungry for air? This symptom may frequently occur in people with fibromyalgia, but a study shows that two different water therapies can reduce the strain in your chest in just three weeks.* As a bonus, these nondrug treatment approaches were also shown to significantly relieve fibromyalgia pain.

A research team in Turkey divided 56 fibromyalgia patients into three different treatment groups that all received standard physical therapy (i.e., TENS, ultrasound and infrared laser). In addition, two of the groups also received a form of water therapy. One consisted of hydrotherapy, similar to a whirlpool with jets, with lukewarm tap water. The other involved warm water containing minerals, but lacking the jets used in the hydrotherapy group.

All patients in the study were treated daily for three weeks, except for Sundays. Pain scores and lung function tests were measured before the start of the study, after three weeks of treatment, and then at a follow-up period six months later.

Physical therapy by itself, and when combined with the two different types of water therapy, all led to improvements in pain scores at the end of three weeks. However, lung function tests and the perceived ease of breathing were only improved in the two water therapy groups.

The greatest treatment benefits were achieved in the warm mineral water group in which fibromyalgia patients continued to show improved lung function up to six months after the therapy ended. Only short-term (not long-term) benefits were observed in the hydrotherapy group when it came to enhancing lung function and reducing the strain of breathing.

If you are always struggling to catch your breath, especially during the winter cold and flu season, take comfort in knowing that you do not need a fancy whirlpool to ease your breathing difficulties. Soak in warm water for 20 minutes each day, perhaps using Epsom salt if you wish to simulate the mineral water used in this study. Within three weeks you should reap the benefits of easier breathing and significantly reduced fibromyalgia pain.

* Kesiktas N, et al. J Back Musculoskel Rehabil 24:57-65, 2011.