Fibromyalgia is a disease for which medical science still has many unanswered questions. For instance, it’s not yet completely understood exactly how it initiates. What scientists do know, however, as well as anyone who suffers from the disease, is that it causes widespread pain. There are several different approaches to managing symptoms of fibromyalgia. Treatment options are varied, ranging from medications to chiropractic care and a whole host of others in between. Today we will focus on physical rehabilitation and how it can help to improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that some experts estimate effects up to one in every fifty people in the Unites States alone. It’s also estimated that women are effected by the disease as much as ten times more than men. While scientists aren’t completely certain what causes fibromyalgia, they do know that it seems to somehow influence how pain is perceived and processed by the brain. Pain is perceived at a higher level than normal, and often occurs widespread throughout the body, rather than in focused, targeted areas.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary somewhat from person to person. They often include memory loss, fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and widespread pain. Tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and TMJ are other conditions from which many people with fibromyalgia suffer. Sometimes, the disease comes on suddenly where other patients can see a gradual path of increasing symptoms over the years.
Traditional medicine usually treats fibromyalgia with medications to decrease and manage the symptoms. These may include pain killers, anti-depressants, muscle relaxers, and anxiety medications to name just a few. Many patients also choose to incorporate a more wholistic approach, either going that route entirely, or choosing to combine several treatments in conjunction with one another. One treatment option that has proven very effective in managing fibromyalgia symptoms is physical rehabilitation.
Physical rehabilitation, sometimes referred to as physical therapy, focuses on the treatment and healing of injuries or disabilities. A physical rehabilitation professional helps fibromyalgia patients manage and treat symptoms. They focus on lifestyle changes and utilizing a combination of tools and resources at their disposal. For instance, they may teach patients proper posture which helps with increasing and maintaining muscle function. This in turn helps to decrease pain and fatigue. Stretching and relaxation exercises can also be used effectively. The former improves flexibility while the latter can help reduce muscle tension and other symptoms such as headaches.
Physical rehabilitation teaches self-management skills. This allows people with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia to relieve their own symptoms, including pain and stiffness, that they may experience on a daily basis. They increase the patient’s quality of life by teaching them how to increase and improve their range of motion as well as build strength. Perhaps most importantly, they can teach them how to get relief from muscle pain and different actions they can take throughout the day to help prevent fibromyalgia flare-ups.
Often, fibromyalgia patients are hesitant to start an exercise program because they worry about making their symptoms worse. They worry that they might cause even further damage, experience higher levels of pain, or other debilitating symptoms that might make it even harder to make it through the day. Working with a qualified physical rehabilitation therapist can combat this because the therapist can devise an effective, but gentle, program that slowly increases in intensity and addresses individual symptoms and needs. Recent studies show that patients who participate in these programs show improvements in functioning, mood and physical abilities up to six months after completing the program. Patients who continue a maintenance program at home may experience even longer lasting results.
Physical Rehabilitation therapists have a wide variety of techniques they can use to treat fibromyalgia. There is currently no known cure for the disease, but physical rehabilitation can at least help to manage the pain, stiffness, and even fatigue. The following are some of the tools therapists might use:
Through these techniques, physical rehabilitation therapists work with patients to use their muscles more frequently, as constant pain often prevents them from doing so. They also encourage stretching for increased flexibility and range of motion exercises to increase mobility. Working directly with a trained and licensed professional allows the patient to have a program designed specifically for their individual needs and tailored to their unique fibromyalgia symptoms. The patient is able to spend some time practicing techniques and working with the therapist to build and improve. Eventually, after spending some time working with the therapist, the goal is for the patient to be able to continue a maintenance program at home on their own.
If you would like to try physical rehabilitation as a treatment option for your fibromyalgia, you can start by checking with your medical provider. They may be able to provide a referral. You can also check with your chiropractor, or any other allied health care provider. Many chiropractors work in conjunction with physical rehabilitation therapists and sometimes even offer the service from their offices. You can also ask friends and family for referrals to providers they may have successfully worked with. Lastly, you can check with your insurance company. Most insurance programs do cover physical rehabilitation services and might have a list of eligible providers to choose from.
If you are interested in learning more about seeing a physical rehabilitation therapist to treat your fibromyalgia, please contact Epic Healthcare & Physical Medicine at (972) 355-0083 today. Talk to our experienced staff to determine if physical rehabilitation for your fibromyalgia is the right choice for you.