Background: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic widespread pain disorder characterized by negative affect, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. This uncontrolled pilot study investigated the efficacy of daily yoga-based exercise to improve FM symptoms and explored baseline phenotypic characteristics associated with the greatest benefit.
Methods: FM patients (n=46, with 36 completers) reported psychosocial functioning and a range of FM symptoms using validated instruments before and after participation in Satyananda yoga, which included weekly in-person pain-tailored group classes for 6 weeks and daily home yoga video practice.
Results: Changes in FM symptoms from pre- to post-yoga were variable amongst participants. Group means for pain decreased, as reported by average daily diary and Brief Pain Inventory, with greater home practice minutes associated with a greater decrease in pain. Average daily ratings of sleep and fatigue improved. Pain catastrophizing was decreased overall, with greater change correlated to a decrease in FM symptoms. We did not observe any group mean changes in actigraphy sleep efficiency, Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System-anxiety and the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire. Multilevel Modeling analysis revealed a significant interaction between anxiety and catastrophizing for end-study sleep efficiency, fatigue, and pain, such that patients with higher baseline catastrophizing and lower baseline anxiety reported less pain and fatigue, and higher sleep efficiency after the sixth week of yoga practice.
Conclusion: This pilot study suggests that yoga may reduce pain and catastrophizing, as well as improve sleep, but these changes were modest across study participants. Greater uptake of home yoga practice as well as a phenotype of higher baseline catastrophizing combined with lower baseline anxiety were associated with greater impact. Future randomized, controlled trials comparing different types of yoga or exercise will allow determination of the most effective treatments for FM and allow closer targeting to the patients who will benefit most from them.