What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms. Typically, a person who is experiencing debilitating fatigue, tender areas of the body, changes in mood or muscle pain can be diagnosed with this condition. While it is unclear what causes fibromyalgia, some believe the pain is due to an overactive sympathetic nervous system, the part of the body that activates the fight or flight response. Many people first experience symptoms after a physically or emotionally traumatic event. Others begin having pain after bouts of chronic stress or depression while some have symptoms that build over time. Fibromyalgia tends to affect women more than men and if you have a family member with the condition, you are more likely to experience it as well.
How is Fibromyalgia Treated?
Since it is not a disease but a cluster of symptoms, there is no known cure for fibromyalgia. Instead, medical practitioners focus on treating the symptoms with medication. Often, if the sympathetic nervous system can be regulated with medication, the pain subsides. Doctors typically prescribe a combination of pain medications, antidepressants or anti-seizure medications to achieve this type of regulation and relieve symptoms. However, none of the typical treatments address the loss of function widespread pain often brings.
The Physical Therapy Solution
Even though fibromyalgia cannot be cured, one of the most effective ways of managing your symptoms can be found in the physical therapist’s office. Studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise together with postural strengthening activities not only relieve widespread pain, but also increase energy levels, improve sleep and elevate mood. Through the course of treatment, it is possible to balance the body’s ability to regulate nerve impulses, in turn alleviating your symptoms. Typically, physical therapy services will include four interrelated parts.
One of the best ways to alleviate widespread pain is through low-impact movement. This may include walking on a treadmill, water aerobics, or other exercises aimed at improving blood flow, reducing stress and increasing cardiovascular fitness. Your physical therapist will prescribe an exercise program designed for your abilities.
Muscle Strengthening and Range of Motion
When you are in pain, your natural tendency is to guard the area, or limit its movement out of fear of causing pain. This limited range of motion can weaken important muscle structures that further limit your range of motion and increase your pain levels. This vicious cycle can only be broken by working to strengthen weakened muscles and return range of motion to the area you have been guarding. But, how do you do that when you are in pain? That is when a skilled Physical Therapist is useful. Our physical therapists specialize in chronic pain. We understand how Fibromyalgia works. People with Fibromyalgia cannot perform the same activities that other patients can without flaring up their symptoms… and we get that. We will help you to get on the right program, start out slow and gradually build up your activity level. Best of all, we will teach you how to manage your condition at home. We will help you know what to do on those “bad days” and also what to do (or not do!) on your “good days”.
Pain Relieving Modalities
A physical therapist has a host of tools in their belt aimed at relieving pain without medication. These may include the use of ice, heat, trigger point therapy, stretching, massage, electrical stimulation, or other therapeutic tools that can help limit your pain and retrain your body. Together with targeted exercise and a cardiovascular training program, it is possible to retrain your body to send and receive accurate signals without triggering widespread pain.
Dry Needling and Deep Tissue Laser Therapy Have Both Shown
Great Results for People With Fibromyalgia
Dry needling is a very effective and popular way of treating chronic pain. Dry Needling uses very tiny thin needles that are inserted into the muscles. Unlike acupuncture, dry needles go through the skin and into the muscle to physically change the tissue and break up the pain! There have been several MRI studies on dry needling to show its effectiveness.
It works 4 different ways to eliminate pain, break up muscle knots and spasms and enable the body to heal chronic pain effectively. It is especially good for myofascial pain (including Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Syndrome!)
4 Ways Dry Needling Works:
- Break up muscle spasms and knots.
- Breaks up scar tissue that has formed from the body not healing properly. It also releases the myofascia (a layer of tissue between the muscles and the skin that wraps our entire body. Myofascial pain is a HUGE source of pain for Fibromyalgia sufferers)
- Resets the pain signal from the spine to the muscle
– This reminds the body that muscles should not be tight, they should be loose.
– Helps prevent the muscles from getting knotted again.
- Stimulates new tissue healing
See our Dry Needling section for more info!
Regardless of where you are on your journey, it is possible to have relief from your worst symptoms through physical therapy services. Contact Us TODAY at Total Body Therapy & Wellness in Lillington, NC for more information or to schedule your evaluation and find out how we can get you on the road to recovery.