How Physical Therapy for Fibromyalgia Can Improve Chronic Pain and Fatigue
sponsored post by Sarah Ross
Fibromyalgia, like other chronic pain conditions, can cause severe limitations in your quality of life. You might find yourself planning your days around your pain, or even canceling important events because you simply cannot manage them. Physical therapy, either alone or in tandem with other pain management treatment options, is a proven treatment for all kinds of chronic pain.
Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that includes characteristic widespread pain throughout the musculoskeletal system, as well as fatigue and sleep disorders. Many people also experience “brain fog,” a condition that makes it difficult to recall facts and perform tasks that require focus. Other symptoms include headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression. Although it is not clear exactly what causes Fibromyalgia, researchers believe that it affects the way the brain processes signals it receives from throughout the body.
Physical therapy focuses primarily on the chronic pain of Fibromyalgia, which can range from moderate to excruciating. Many people report that when their pain is under control, the majority of the other symptoms are much more manageable.
How physical therapy works
Physical therapy focuses on the prevention, treatment, and management of injuries and some physical disabilities. A licensed physical therapist is an expert in anatomy and kinesiology, or the science of movement. This background provides a deep understanding of the muscles and joints, and how they work together to create a normal, healthy mobility.
When you find a physical therapist who focuses on individualized treatment solutions, your therapy will begin with a thorough assessment of your current condition and your goals for treatment. Your physical therapist will then work with you to design a customized plan to help you reach your goals.
This individualization is crucial in the treatment of Fibromyalgia because no two people with the disorder are the same. Everyone experiences different trigger points, different levels of pain, and different subjective sensations.
Choosing a physical therapist to treat fibromyalgia
Finding the right blend of exercise and other treatments can do wonders, even changing some sufferers’ lives, but it is only the beginning. Treating Fibromyalgia is especially tricky. The condition requires special management because its symptoms can easily flare up without warning, even from simple touch, and flare-ups can be long lasting. Physical therapists who have successfully treated Fibromyalgia in the past have the knowledge and hands-on skills to touch sufferers without causing a flare-up.
Physical therapy for fibromyalgia and chronic pain
Your physical therapist will carefully assess your condition and design the treatment plan that is just right for you. Fibromyalgia treatment uses a combination of techniques and methodologies to help you reach your goals. Below are a few that are commonly used, but your individualized protocol might not include all of them, or your therapist may add some that are not on the list.
These treatments are performed in-office, by a licensed physical therapist. They are specifically designed to relieve the painful areas and help you achieve your treatment goals.
- Manual therapy: A great deal of the pain and physical limitation associated with Fibromyalgia comes from spasms deep within the muscles. If you are not actively in excruciating pain, deep tissue massage can yield surprisingly good results. It uses strong pressure to relieve those spasms, relaxing your muscles and improving your range of motion. However, those with intense pain often cannot tolerate the pressure. Your therapist will help you decide whether this technique is right for you.
- Therapeutic exercises: Gentle hands-on manipulation helps to realign your body to minimize tension and pressure. Your therapist will carefully help you elongate your muscles and build up your core, reducing spasms and providing a solid foundation for stabilizing the body. A skilled physical therapist can use just the right sequence of movements to make tremendous improvements without triggering a flare-up.
See also: water-based physical therapy
It is important to practice good self-care between sessions, especially if you are currently in the midst of a flare-up. Your therapist will provide you with specific individualized instructions for managing your symptoms at home. Below are some common self-management techniques, but not every remedy is right for everyone, so you might not be told to do everything on this list. Ask your therapist before beginning any treatment that was not prescribed.
- Stretching and strengthening: Your physical therapist will prescribe a series of at-home stretches and exercises for you to perform between sessions. These exercises help to maintain the gains that you make during treatment sessions and help to minimize flare-ups.
- Electrical stimulation: TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, sounds much more intimidating than it actually is. Small pads are placed on the skin in the painful area. They emit a small electrical signal that is believed to activate the natural pain blockers in the brain and spinal cord.
- Ultrasound treatment: Often used in conjunction with TENS, ultrasound treatment uses a handheld wand to emit sound waves into the muscles and soft tissue. These sound waves create a gentle heat that can relax the muscles, ease pain, and encourage healing.
- Ice and heat: Sometimes used alone, and sometimes paired with massage therapy or hydrotherapy, ice and heat both play an important role in relieving chronic pain. Heat relaxes the muscles and opens the blood vessels, improving the flow of oxygen and nutrients. Ice reduces swelling by constricting the blood vessels.
- Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is a passive form of treatment that involves immersing the affected areas in moving water. For example, you might sit in a whirlpool bath. The water helps to rejuvenate the body’s natural healing processes, while also calming and relaxing the mind.
Fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain can seriously limit your quality of life. If you suffer from chronic pain, we are here to help. If you are ready to seek relief under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist who has the experience to treat your pain without causing a flare-up, give Connecticut Family Physical Therapy a call today at 203-227-5431. We look forward to being a part of your road to healing!