Physical Therapy For Fibromyalgia
Those with fibromyalgia know the importance of exploring what best works to alleviate pain, reduce stress, renew energy, and improve flexibility and function.
One of the most beneficial plans of treatment for me as a fibro warrior was a time of physical therapy. Because pain is chronic and severe, we tend to limit our movement which only worsens symptoms.
Muscles knot up, joints become stiff, damaged nerves increase in numbness and sensitivity. The many facets of physical therapy – heat, massage, light exercise and movement, hydrotherapy, and electromagnetic massage all stimulate the body and work out pain while increasing energy and combatting fatigue.
Simply put, exercise can help you manage fibromyalgia pain, and physical therapy is a great and safe way to get the exercise you need.
What Is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy focuses on treatment, healing, and prevention. It helps you regain control of your fibromyalgia as you focus on lifestyle changes rather than on the chronic problems of pain, stiffness, and fatigue.
Physical therapy allows for efficient muscle function, reduce fatigue, pain, and muscle tension.
What Is The Role of A Physical Therapists?
Physical therapists teach self-management skills, show how to relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness, how to build strength, and improve range of motion.
They show ways to get relief from deep muscle pain and help FMS patients learn how to make sensible decisions about daily activities that will help prevent painful flare-ups.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help My Fibromyalgia?
A licensed physical therapist has a background in anatomy and kinesiology – the study of movement. The therapist will develop an individualized stretching and strengthening programs. They provide health services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit physical disabilities.
Traditionally, a physician will diagnose fibromyalgia then refer a patient to a physical therapist for one-on-one treatment.
How Can Physical Therapy Help Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain?
The benefit of physical therapy in easing pain, stiffness, and fatigue is that it allows a person with fibromyalgia to work closely with a trained professional who can design a fibromyalgia-specific treatment program.
The therapist documents your progress and gauges whether you're practicing good therapy habits, alignments, and movement patterns when doing "homework" or exercises at home.
The ultimate goal of physical therapy to learn the specific treatments and exercises and then do them daily or as needed at home.
Dr. Anne Reicherter, a licensed physical therapist and associate professor in the department of physical therapy in the School of Medicine of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, says physical therapy can help fibromyalgia patients “manage their daily living with less pain and generally make life more enjoyable.”
She explains that people with fibromyalgia pain are often caught in a vicious cycle: pain and fatigue prevent them from being active and exercising, but inactivity can trigger more pain and fatigue. The less we move, the less we can and want to move.
Physical Therapy Doesn't Just Focus on Pain
Another benefit of physical therapy beyond a reduction in pain is that it is one way to help you get restful, restorative sleep every night. Working with a physical therapist can help you get the exercise you need for a good night’s rest. Reicherter says physical therapy can also eventually reduce the need for pain medication, and possibly even surgery.
One thing I learned from physical therapy was just how destructive fibromyalgia is on our muscles. After warm-up stretch exercises, followed by time on a stationary bike for cardio, my therapist provided a time of deep heat and electromagnetic stimulus. Lastly, was massage. I could feel the knots in my muscles as the therapist worked out those tight, painful areas in my shoulders, neck, and back. Working those muscles out relaxes the body, reduces pain and prepares the body for better rest.
Fibromyalgia patients may find it hard to start an exercise program on their own because they fear it will make their symptoms worse. Had my physician not prescribed physical therapy for me, I would’ve never taken the plunge on my own to press through the pain with exercise and massage.
Having a physical therapist develop a gentle, yet effective program with your particular pain and fatigue levels in mind, you can eliminate the hard part — getting started.
A recent study found that fibromyalgia patients who participated in an exercise program designed for their specific needs showed improvements in their mood, functioning, and physical abilities even six months after the program ended.