The effect of Watsu treatments on pain indices and on the quality of sleep in women diagnosed as fibromyalgia patients

Chen Orly1, Grabarnick Anna2, Pilz-Burstein Rutie3

1Orly Chen, M.Ed. Student in Givat-Washington Academic College of Education
2Anna Grabarnick, Researcher & Statistics Adviser
3Dr. Rutie Pilz-Burstein, Physiologist, Senior Lecturer and Academic Adviser,  Givat-Washington Academic College of Education and the Peres Academic Center
This study is in fulfillment of the academic requirements for M.Ed degree, Department of Physical Education, Givat- Washington Academic College of Education



Background: Fibromyalgia, a syndrome characterized by physical, psychological and social symptoms, is prevalent mainly among women in 2-4% of the population. It is assumed that the symptoms are linked to the mental state of the sick person and that the hormonal system plays a role in the progress of the disease. Physical exercise - both in water and out - are among the various treatments that were found effective in reducing pain, sleep disturbance and depression and improving daily functioning of fibromyalgia patients.

Purpose of the study: To examine the effect of Watsu treatments as compared to aquatic exercise on the severity of pain and on sleep quality in fibromyalgia patients.

Method: Fibromyalgia patients, age 40-75 years, took part in an intervention program. Patients were divided into two groups: women in group 1 (n‭=‬10) were exposed to Watsu treatments, and women in group 2 (n‭=‬10) participated in instructed aquatic activities. Sleep quality was evaluated using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) questionnaire and the severity of pain was expressed using the 1-10 Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). Treatments were applied once a week for 8 consecutive weeks and the patients were instructed to complete the questionnaires before going to bed, as follows: two nights prior to the scheduled treatment, on the eve of the scheduled treatment, and in the evening post-treatment.

Results: Eight weeks of Watsu treatments significantly reduced pain while sitting, walking, driving, standing and lying, and it improved sleep quality in fibromyalgia patients. This beneficial effect was not observed in the group that participated in instructed aquatic activities.

Conclusions: During the Watsu treatments, the patient is lying passively on the water surface supported by the therapist and exercising breathing patterns. These relaxing conditions together with the personal, unmediated connection between the therapist and the patient create a positive physical and mental experience which is unique for the Watsu group. Based on preliminary results of this work, Watsu can be recommended and integrated as part of the protocol for treating fibromyalgia syndrome.

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