‘Exercise to me is a scary word’: perceptions of fatigue, sleep dysfunction, and exercise in people with fibromyalgia syndrome—a focus group study
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a common and complex chronic pain condition. Exercise is recommended in the management of the FMS; however, people with FMS often find exercise exacerbates their condition and causes overwhelming fatigue. The objective of this study was to explore the perceptions of fatigue and sleep dysfunction, and exercise in people with FMS. Three, 60–90 min focus groups were conducted with people with FMS (n = 14). Participants were recruited from patient support groups who had experienced therapeutic exercise in the management of their condition. Focus groups were video and audio recorded and transcriptions analysed for thematic content by three independent evaluators. Fatigue, sleep dysfunction, and pain were universally reported by participants. The over-arching theme to emerge was a lack of understanding of the condition by others. A huge sense of loss was a major sub-theme and participants felt that they had fundamentally changed since the onset of FMS. Participants reported that they were unable to carry out their normal activities, including physical activity and exercise. The invisibility of FMS was associated with the lack of understanding by others, the sense of loss, and the impact of FMS. People with FMS perceive that there is a lack of understanding of the condition among health care professionals and the wider society. Those with FMS expressed a profound sense of loss of their former ‘self’; part of this loss was the ability to engage in normal physical activity and exercise.
KeywordsFibromyalgia syndrome Fatigue Exercise Sleep dysfunction Physiotherapy Focus group
The authors would like to thank Ms Margaret Peacock, Director of Fibromyalgia Support Northern Ireland, and all those who participated in our focus group discussions.
All authors contributed to the conception and design of the study. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the data and participated in drafting and critically revising the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript.
This work was supported by Department of Education and Learning (DEL) Studentship, Northern Ireland.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.
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