How Physical Therapy Can Help with Fibromyalgia

How Physical Therapy Can Help with Fibromyalgia

June 4, 2024

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by your body “hurting all over,” which can leave you feeling tired and exhausted. It is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and stiffness.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. It can be difficult to diagnose since there is no specific test for it, but it is usually a diagnosis of exclusion, only made when other diseases have been ruled out by testing. 

Some symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Pain in “tender points” including muscles, tendons, or joints on both sides of the body

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Fatigue

  • Mental and/or emotional disturbances

  • Headaches, dizziness, tingling, and abdominal pain

The severity of these symptoms can be affected by many factors including weather, stress, physical activity, or even the time of day.

Although it’s not a progressive condition, fibromyalgia can lead to other conditions including depression, sleep deprivation, restless leg syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.

It is believed that individuals with fibromyalgia have a lower threshold for pain because their brain’s pain receptors become more sensitive to pain signals.

Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:

  • Gender- Women are more at risk than men

  • Age- most commonly diagnosed in those between 35 and 55 years of age

  • Sleep disorders

  • Family history

  • History of rheumatic disease (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus)

Physical therapy is critical in the management of fibromyalgia. Although there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, physical therapy has been shown to help ease symptoms of pain, fatigue, and stiffness. The most effective approach includes a combination of:

  • Patient education

  • Stress management

    • Ex: Avoid or limit emotional stress, stay active to decrease stress, deep breathing exercises

  • Consistent sleep patterns

    • Ex: Get enough sleep to avoid fatigue, avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime

  • Exercise regularly

    • Ex: Slow, progressive exercise, low-impact aerobic exercises like swimming, cycling, and walking, stretching and maintaining good posture, knowing your limits 

  • Manual therapy 

    • Ex: manual stretching, joint mobilizations, cupping, and dry needling

If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or suspect that you have fibromyalgia, we would love to help you meet your goals through physical therapy. Please reach out to us to set up an evaluation or if you have any questions about how physical therapy can help you manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia.