If you or a loved one suffer from fibromyalgia, you understand exactly how debilitating it is. It is a life-altering condition that leaves you feeling achy all over. Even the slightest movements can cause muscle pain or burning. Because you’re so limited in what you can do physically, you feel drained emotionally.
The fact that many fibromyalgia sufferers suffer from insomnia and depression is completely understandable. While most people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia take prescription medications to combat pain, depression, and insomnia, there is no “magic pill” that will alleviate the symptoms. The best opportunity for relief is to combine the medications your doctor recommends with a comprehensive physical therapy regimen tailored specifically to provide relief from fibromyalgia pain.
How Can Physical Therapists Help Fibromyalgia Patients?
Physical therapists are specialists in anatomy (the body’s structure) and kinesiology (movement). They are trained to assess individual patients’ unique issues concerning movement and pain – and to develop custom therapy regimens to help alleviate that pain. Because physical therapists frequently work with people who are experiencing pain, they understand the need to be gentle, patient, and encouraging. Often, patients come to consider their physical therapists friends.
Temperature Therapy is an Effective Therapy for Most Kinds of Pain
There’s a reason why heating pads and ice packs are often used to relieve muscle pain – extreme heat or cold stimulates the body and spurs healing. Physical therapists use moist heat to dilate blood vessels, which increase blood flow and helps the body to expel toxins more quickly. Cold therapy, on the other hand, constricts blood vessels which reduces painful swelling. Physical therapists will explain exactly how you can get the most benefit from temperature therapy at home (when to use it, whether to use heat or cold in various scenarios, how to administer it, how long to apply the heat or cold, etc.)
Certain Exercises Benefit Fibromyalgia Patients
Exercise can often improve fibromyalgia sufferers’ energy level, ease pain, and loosen stiff muscles. Always talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen if you’re experiencing health problems. Physical therapists help patients identify exercises that will provide the biggest benefit with the lowest degree of risk. A therapist may recommend low-impact aerobic exercises (such as water aerobics and walking), stretching exercises, strengthening exercises, yoga, tai chi, etc. Your therapist will make sure you’re doing exercises with proper form so you don’t injure yourself.
Other Tools in The Physical Therapist’s Arsenal
Each patient’s situation is unique, and a physical therapist will determine a treatment plan customized for you. In addition to hydrotherapy and exercise, your physical therapist may decide you can benefit from deep tissue massage. During massage therapy, a physical therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissues to relieve stress and pain, and increases flexibility by loosening up stiff muscles. Sometimes, hot or cold therapy is used in conjunction with deep-tissue massage.
Another way your physical therapist may alleviate your fibromyalgia symptoms is with a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device. Electrodes are placed on areas of the body experiencing pain, and deliver electrical pulses to the nerve pathways. TENS therapy is usually just one of the components of a multi-tiered physical therapy plan.
Therapeutic ultrasound is another technique physical therapists use to treat musculoskeletal problems that cause pain and stiffness, and may use to give fibromyalgia sufferers relief. A gel is applied to the skin, and an ultrasound probe is placed atop the gel. The probe then is swept over the skin, emitting ultrasonic waves that cause the muscles and tissues beneath to vibrate gently.
Physical Therapy Can Provide Relief for Fibromyalgia Symptoms
You may have fibromyalgia, but it does not have to ruin your life or rob you of your independence. Physical therapy is a natural approach to addressing your pain. Many patients report that their therapy sessions help them become stronger, provide noticeable relief in the degree of pain they experience, and help to lift the mental fog that often accompanies this condition. Being proactive about your illness is liberating. If you suffer from fibromyalgia and have not tried physical therapy as a way to get relief, we encourage you to call us to schedule an appointment.