Fibromyalgia is a condition that’s as complicated to diagnose as it is to deal with.
It’s a chronic condition for which there is currently no known cure.
Currently, 2-8% of the American population are living with the disease.
Fibromyalgia causes a range of debilitating symptoms which can significantly impact your day to day activities.
For instance, people living with fibromyalgia typically experience pain throughout their whole body as well as chronic fatigue.
If you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you already know how significantly living with chronic pain and fatigue can impact on your quality of life.
But the most important thing to know is that you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Through medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes, you can work to decrease the frequency of fibromyalgia flare ups and get back to living your life.
Physical therapy is one of the most important aspects of this treatment.
That’s where we come in.
At Capitol Physical Therapy, we offer pain management physical therapy aimed at improving symptoms of fibromyalgia and preventing flare ups.
Let’s learn more about this condition before looking at the ways in which physical therapy could work for you.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic (long term) condition that causes pain all throughout your muscles and bones as well as areas of tenderness throughout your body.
Fatigue, cognitive issues, and even depression may also occur.
Unfortunately, there isn’t currently any single test that can definitively diagnose fibromyalgia.
In fact, it wasn’t until recently that the disorder became widely accepted by the medical community.
If you have had widespread pain for a period of three months or longer, you may find yourself diagnosed with this condition.
Widespread pain is defined as pain felt both above and below the waist and as well as on both sides of the body.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia look remarkably similar to those in other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis, so your doctor will rule out these conditions before diagnosing you.
A fibromyalgia diagnosis is considered a “diagnosis of exclusion”.
This means that after ruling out other possible causes of your symptoms, only then may your doctor settle on a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
What Are The Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia generates what are termed “regions of pain”, which feel like a dull, constant aching pain throughout the body.
These multisite areas of pain are often accompanied by other symptoms, including:
- Headaches and migraines
- Lower stomach pain
- Fatigue or insomnia
- Depression and anxiety
- Brain fog
- Issues with thinking, memory, and concentration
- Dry eyes
- Bladder issues, such as interstitial cystitis (inflammation of the bladder muscle)
In the more recent years, fibromyalgia has been more widely accepted as a condition and has been diagnosed in patients with pain in four out of five areas of pain in the body.
Common trigger points for pain include:
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
The painful symptoms of fibromyalgia are a result of your brain and nerves overreacting to normal pain signals.
In the past, healthcare providers questioned whether fibromyalgia was real, as its symptoms mimic those of so many other conditions.
Today, the condition is much better understood and more widely accepted as a condition in its own right with its own set of symptoms and causes.
While more research is still needed, many experts believe that fibromyalgia often occurs due to brain and spinal cord changes following repeated nerve stimulation.
These changes prompt your brain to begin producing an abundance of brain chemicals which cause you to feel pain.
The factors that lead to such changes are plentiful and may include:
- Genetic predispositions
- Infections, such as Hepatitis B or HIV/AIDS
- Physical trauma, such as a car accident
- Emotional trauma, such as prolonged childhood abuse
Additionally, certain risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing fibromyalgia.
- Being assigned female at birth
- Having a parent or sibling with fibromyalgia
- The presence of other disorders, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus
If you’re facing a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, you can benefit from the lifestyle changes and therapy that we can offer at Capitol Physical Therapy.
How Can Physical Therapy Help With Fibromyalgia?
Physical therapy is the study of movement and focuses on the treatment and healing of injuries and disabilities.
Working with our physical therapists, you can learn how to relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness, build strength, and improve your range of motion.
Correct posture, for example, allows for more efficient muscle function.
In fact, a 2019 study published in Rheumatology International, recommends postural stability exercises and spine posture training for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Muscle flexibility is another important factor.
Slow stretching exercises, which you will learn by working one on one with a physical therapist, help to improve your muscle flexibility.
Physical therapy also teaches you relaxation methods to release muscle tension and relieve your pain.
Your practitioner will work with you to gain an understanding of the underlying source of your pain and put together a plan to apply the appropriate strategies to manage it.
By working with a licensed physical therapist, you will learn new skills and exercises needed to manage your pain at home.
A typical physical therapy appointment will give you access to a variety of resources and methods that help manage chronic pain.
Next, we’ll take a look at some of the strategies your physical therapist might use in treating your fibromyalgia.
Types Of Physical Therapy Treatments Used For Fibromyalgia
Physical therapy has been shown to ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia through a variety of techniques.
- Dry needling
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Hot and cold therapy
- Pain relief exercises
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Low impact water aerobics
So how do some of these methods relieve chronic pain?
Let’s look at two examples: hydrotherapy and hot and cold therapy.
Hydrotherapy utilizes water to ease pain and muscle stiffness.
It involves a variety of methods, including water aerobics and sauna therapy.
A 2008 study by McVeigh et al. found that hydrotherapy can help provide relief for fibromyalgia pain and reduce the number of tender points.
Hot and cold therapy can also work wonders.
Alternating between hot and cold treatments works to stimulate your body’s own responses to ease the pain.
On the one hand, a cold compress helps to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation by constricting the blood vessels.
On the other, heat dilates your blood vessels and provides benefits from increased blood flow, oxygen, and other healing nutrients.
Your therapist will teach you techniques to use at home, and will document your progress as you work together.
The most effective method of treating fibromyalgia, however, seems to involve a mixture of different techniques.
A 2000 study by Offerbacher and Stucki suggests that a multidisciplinary approach, including physical therapy, is the most promising strategy for treatment of fibromyalgia.
So, if you’re suffering with this disorder, there is hope.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
Come to Capitol Physical Therapy, where our licensed physical therapists have experience and success working with chronic pain.
Working with a physical therapist will help restore function, relieve your pain and teach you how to manage your symptoms in your day to day life.
Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today to explore the variety of physical therapy services available to help you manage your fibromyalgia.
Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today and regain your life tomorrow.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC