Kathryn Curtis, the lead author, found that practicing yoga helps reduce effects of the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response – which may be abnormal in women with fibromyalgia.
“Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. We believe this in turn has a positive effect on the HPA axis,” says the study’s lead author.
Specifically, women with fibromyalgia appear to have lower amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. Abnormal levels of cortisol can contribute to pain, fatigue and stress. The study revealed that the women’s cortisol levels increased following 8 weeks of 75mins sessions. (twice weekly)
“We saw their levels of mindfulness increase – they were better able to detach from their psychological experience of pain,” Curtis says.
Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist traditions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of inner and outer experiences.
Presently, there is no ‘Fibromyalgia-specific’ medical test, or cure. Treatments, like anticonvulsants and antidepressants can help control certain symptoms.