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Hydrotherapy improves pain, knee strength, and quality


of life in women with fibromyalgia
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Summary of Gusi N, Tomas-Carus P, Hkkinen A, Hkkinen and slow eccentric contractions. Maximal torque of the
K, Ortega-Alonso A (2006): Exercise in waist-high warm shoulder abductors and adductors was recorded during
water decreases pain and improves health-related quality of slow concentric contractions. Quality of life was assessed
life and strength in the lower extremities in women with using the overall EuroQol-5D score and its five domains:
fibromyalgia. Arthritis and Rheumatism (Arthritis Care & mobility, self care, daily activities, pain, and anxiety/
Research) 55: 6673. [Prepared by Mark Elkins, CAP Co- depression. Subjects also reported a visual analogue score
ordinator.] (VAS) from 0 (no pain) to 100 (worst possible pain). All
outcomes were assessed at baseline, immediately after the
Question: For women with fibromyalgia, does a hydrotherapy 12-week training period, and 12 weeks later. Results: In the
exercise program produce improvements in muscle hydrotherapy group, slow concentric knee extensor torque
strength, quality of life, and pain? Design: Randomised improved significantly more than in the control group, by
controlled trial. Setting: Participants were recruited from 0.2 Nm/kg (95% CI 0.15 to 0.25). Similarly, slow concentric
a fibromyalgia association in Spain. Participants: Women knee flexor torque improved significantly more than in the
with fibromyalgia confirmed according to American College control group, by 0.1 Nm/kg (95% CI 0.05 to 0.15). No
of Rheumatology criteria. Women who attended other other muscle torques differed significantly between groups.
psychological or physical therapies, who exercised regularly, Improvement in overall quality of life was significantly
who were pregnant, or who had significant co-morbidities greater in the hydrotherapy group, by 29% (95% CI 24 to
were excluded. Nine eligible patients refused to participate. 34). All subdomains also showed significant benefits due
The remaining 35 were randomised to hydrotherapy (n = 18) to hydrotherapy, except daily activities. Improvement in
or a control group (n = 17). Interventions: The hydrotherapy the pain VAS was significantly better in the hydrotherapy
group trained in waist-high warm water, three times per group, by 19 mm (95% CI 15 to 23). Most of these between-
week for 12 weeks. Each one-hour session included slow group differences were no longer significant 12 weeks later,
walking and mobility exercises, aerobic exercise at 6575% apart from the self care and anxiety/depression domains.
of maximal heart rate, and overall mobility and lower-limb Conclusion: For women with fibromyalgia, a 12-week
strength exercises. At the end of the 12-week training period, hydrotherapy exercise program improves knee strength,
the group was instructed to avoid physical exercise training quality of life, and pain, although few of these changes are
until their next evaluation. The control group was instructed maintained 12 weeks later.
to follow normal daily activities, which did not include any
form of regular physical exercise. Outcomes: Maximal [Between-group effect sizes calculated by the CAP Co-
torque of the knee flexors and extensors was recorded with ordinator, with those for muscle torque based on averages
an isokinetic dynamometer during fast and slow concentric of right and left knee data.]

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Although there are now close to 40 published, randomised in this exercise program. Because it is probable that the
trials examining the effects of exercise training for participants were deconditioned on entering the study, one
individuals with fibromyalgia, this is the first to compare the would expect initial outcomes consistent with adaptation
effects of an exercise-only water-based training intervention due to overload. However, unless the researchers progressed
to an untreated control group. These results are consistent the exercise program in the 12 weeks, one would expect to
with results of other randomised clinical trials that explore see a plateau in the adaptation and less than optimal gains
the effects of water-based exercise combined with education overall.
(Gowans 1999, Mannerkorpi 2000).
Although most threats to internal validity appear to be well
Unfortunately inadequate description of exercise protocols controlled, we do not know if assessors were blinded, and
is pandemic in the body of research examining the effects of a possible increase in the probability of type one errors due
exercise on individuals with fibromyalgia. Similarly, in this to alpha inflation is a concern. Nevertheless, this research
study there is a problem related to poor quantification and provides limited evidence that a mix of aerobic, strength,
optimisation of the intervention. Due to the physical effect and mobility exercise performed three times a week in
of buoyancy, it is difficult to quantify the strength training waist-high warm water for 12 weeks may result in important
stimulus of the knee flexion and extension exercise used benefits for women with fibromyalgia.
to achieve strength gains. Other than the knee flexion and Angela Busch
extension exercise, the researchers do not provide any other University of Saskatchewan, Canada
exercise designed exclusively for strength training. While the
aerobic component of the program may provide a strength 3FGFSFODFT
training stimulus, at least to the lower extremities due to
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the resistive effect of water turbulence, again the strength
training stimulus is difficult to quantify. Furthermore, the .BOOFSLPSQJ, 
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researchers do not seem to address the need for progression

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