Physical Therapy for Fibromyalgia: A Comprehensive Guide to Pain Management

Physical Therapy for Fibromyalgia: A Comprehensive Guide to Pain Management

By Professional Physical Therapy

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue, and tenderness in the muscles and soft tissues of the body. It can be a debilitating condition that affects the quality of life of those who suffer from it. Physical therapy can be an effective way to manage the pain associated with fibromyalgia. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the benefits of physical therapy for fibromyalgia and discuss how physical therapy treatment can improve overall quality of life.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that affects the way the brain processes pain signals. It is a disorder that is characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and tenderness in certain areas of the body, known as tender points. These tender points are located in specific areas of the body such as the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs. Fibromyalgia is also associated with other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, headaches, and cognitive difficulties.

Fibromyalgia is often difficult to diagnose and affects almost five million people in the United States; 80% to 90% are women. This condition usually is diagnosed in adults between the ages of 30 and 50, but the symptoms – such as widespread chronic pain and fatigue – can show up earlier. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is believed to be a result of a combination of factors, including genetics, physical traumatic events like a car accident or emotional trauma, and infections.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

People with this condition often describe their symptoms as aching all over, but there are other symptoms you may have, including:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Headaches including migraines
  • Digestive problems such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Pain in the face or jaw, including temporomandibular joint syndrome, also known as TMJ
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Physical therapy can be an effective way to manage the pain associated with fibromyalgia and can provide numerous benefits for individuals with this condition. It can help reduce pain, improve physical function, and increase quality of life. It can also help reduce reliance on medication, which can have side effects and may not be effective for all individuals with fibromyalgia.

Physical therapy can also help improve mental health. Individuals with fibromyalgia may experience anxiety and depression as a result of their condition. Exercise and manual therapy can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, which can improve mental health.

In addition, physical therapy can help improve overall physical health. Exercise can help improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and improve immune function.

Physical Therapy Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to help relieve pain and improve mobility, including:

  • Exercise: Exercise is a crucial aspect of physical therapy for fibromyalgia. Research has shown that it can enhance physical function, reduce pain, and improve overall quality of life. Starting with low-intensity exercises and gradually increasing the intensity and duration over time is important. The goal is to strike the right balance between exercise and rest. A personalized program designed by a physical therapist can help improve muscle strength and flexibility, ultimately reducing pain and stiffness.
  • Manual Therapy: Manual therapy plays a vital role in physical therapy for fibromyalgia. This hands-on approach involves techniques such as massage, myofascial release, and joint mobilization. Manual therapy helps alleviate pain, improve circulation, and increase range of motion. Additionally, it can effectively reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation.
  • Education: Education is an essential part of physical therapy for fibromyalgia. Physical therapists can provide education on proper body mechanics, posture, stress reduction techniques and healthy lifestyle habits. They can also provide guidance on how to perform daily activities such as lifting and carrying objects, and how to avoid aggravating tender points.

Physical therapy can also provide education on sleep hygiene, which is important for individuals with fibromyalgia. Sleep disturbances are a common symptom of fibromyalgia, and poor sleep can exacerbate pain and other symptoms. A physical therapist can provide guidance on how to improve sleep quality, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.

  • Pain Management: Physical therapists can use a variety of techniques to manage pain, including heat and cold therapy, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound.

Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that can be challenging to manage. However, physical therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment option. If you are experiencing chronic pain from fibromyalgia our certified therapists at Professional Physical Therapy can help. Get started today and make an appointment for a consultation so you can feel better and get back to doing the things you love.

American Physical Therapy Association: Physical Therapy Guide to Fibromyalgia
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Fibromyalgia

Let’s Be Social