Fibromyalgia is a condition which occurs most frequently within women and is characterised by both chronic pain, fatigue and a range of symptoms from sleep disturbance through to anxiety.
Past research has revealed that female fibromyalgia sufferers are affected by lower than average cortisol levels which can heighten both fatigue and stress sensitivity. However, the results of the study showed that after participants underwent two 75 minute hatha yoga sessions per week for eight weeks, cortisol levels in their saliva had increased.
Cortisol is the hormone which is released by the adrenal gland in response to stress and functions as part of what is known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. According to researchers who worked on the study, hatha yoga works by reduced activity of the sympathetic nerve system which in turn lowers heart rate and increases breath volume, all of which is thought to have a positive effect on the HPA axis.
After participants had undergone the yoga treatment they reported reductions in pain, psychological benefits, felt less helpless and saw their mindfulness increase.
Lead author on the study, Kathryn Curtis PHD said: “Yoga promotes this concept — that we are not our bodies, our experiences, or our pain. This is extremely useful in the management of pain,” she says. “Moreover, our findings strongly suggest that psychological changes in turn affect our experience of physical pain.”
View the original Science Daily report here.