Efficacy and Potential Mechanisms of Restorative Yoga in Reducing Symptoms of Fibromyalgia



Efficacy and Potential Mechanisms of Restorative Yoga in Reducing Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

This project is beginning an investigation into whether contemplative mind-body practice - specifically, restorative yoga (RY) - can ameliorate mood, sleep, and pain-related symptoms of fibromyalgia (FM). FM is a common but little-understood condition characterized by chronic widespread body pain, sleep and mood disturbances, increased sensitivity to stress, and decreased health-related quality of life. This condition affects 7.5 million adults in the United States (the majority, women) and presents a significant burden on healthcare resources. Symptom control offered by drug therapies is often inadequate, and such treatments are frequently accompanied by bothersome side-effects. As a result, persons with FM tend to seek out alternative therapies at a higher rate than patients with other chronic diseases. This research team is working to develop an initial set of concrete data and analysis regarding the efficacy of a particular category of alternative therapies. Their work this year represents the first phase in this research. The investigators are testing an 8-week RY intervention for FM patients, during which participants are learning and practicing RY and relaxation poses. This training includes instruction on the importance of correct alignment and support of the body while relaxing, different breathing techniques, and imagery to aid relaxation. A combination of asana (postures), pranayama (breath work) and mindfulness (meditation) are included in the class sequence. Although there is considerable evidence to suggest that such therapies can improve quality of life, enhance well-being, and reduce pain, this project will provide the first rigorous study of such outcomes in FM patients. Analysis of the outcomes will be focused on participants’ subjective reports of symptoms, as well as objective measurements of resting vagal tone and functional MRI scans of brain regions that respond to pain, stress, and negative emotion. This study will be among the first to rigorously assess whether or not a non-pharmacologic intervention (restorative yoga) can offer an efficacious therapy for FM. If proven to be effective in alleviating some or all symptoms, RY will offer a novel, easy to implement, safe, and low cost approach to managing symptoms. More broadly, this research reinforces the Center’s commitment to exploring the diverse influences, mechanisms, and lived realities of contemplative practices.

Key People: From the Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies, School of Nursing, University of Virginia: Ann Gill Taylor, Professor; Lisa E. Goehler, Research Associate Professor; Joel G. Anderson, Assistant Professor; Karen M. Rose, Associate Professor; Tamara G. Fischer-White, Graduate Student; Katharine E. Adelstein, Graduate Student; Alexandra K. Hardesty, Undergraduate Student. Janet E. Lewis, Associate Professor, Department of Rheumatology, School of Medicine, University of Virginia.