Those who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia are happy to finally know what’s wrong, but they’re often depressed when they contemplate living with the condition. There’s no cure for fibromyalgia, but physical therapy is effective in alleviating the symptoms and improving quality of life.
No one knows for sure what causes the disorder, but it’s believed that fibromyalgia amplifies the way the brain processes pain signals. The condition is marked by pain, stiffness and fatigue. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and patients experience flare-ups during which symptoms worsen.
Sleep disorders and poor sleep quality due to restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea are common. Individuals experience mood and memory problems and have difficulty paying attention or concentrating. Other symptoms that individuals may experience include depression, cramping in the lower abdomen and headaches.
More women develop fibromyalgia than men. People who suffer from TMJ disorder, tension headaches, anxiety or depression, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more likely to develop fibromyalgia, as are those with rheumatic diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Some cases of fibromyalgia can be linked to a trigger that includes excessive psychological stress, trauma to the mind or body, or an infection or surgery. Other instances are a collection of symptoms that accrue over time. The disorder tends to run in families, indicating a genetic link.
The heightened stimulation of nerves that’s present in fibromyalgia causes changes in the brain. Certain chemicals are present in higher levels than usual in the brain. Over time, the body’s pain receptors become more sensitive and over react to any type of pain signal. Many fibromyalgia patients also experience an increased sensitivity to touch, odors, noise and light.
Physical therapy is effective for relieving the myriad of symptoms that accompany fibromyalgia. It can help:
- Relieve pain
- Better posture
- Improve muscle flexibility
- Maintain range of motion
- Build strength
- Reduce muscle tension
- Improve balance and coordination
Fibromyalgia is an elusive and chronic disease that’s often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. It takes years for some patients to receive a definitive diagnosis. The combination of symptoms varies widely among individuals and can rapidly change within the space of a single day due to changes in the weather.
You don’t have to face the difficulties of fibromyalgia alone. Your physical therapist has therapies designed to ease pain that also helps keep you mobile. He/she can show you relaxation techniques to relieve the stress of living with a chronic and painful condition.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is obtain a neck and spinal alignment. The spine is the super highway of your body’s neurological system and aligning the spine allows the body to better transmit signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
Exercise is a key ingredient of fibromyalgia treatment to maintain muscle tone, neurological health and mobility. A customized program of exercise and stretching will be developed that factors in your pain and level of ability. The program will be one that can be modified as required to meet your changing needs. Assisted exercise is an option if you’ve lost muscle tone and strength.
Therapeutic massage has an extensive range of benefits that include reducing pain, promoting circulation and alleviating stress. It helps with detoxification and stimulates the immune system. Depending upon your symptoms, cold and cryotherapies can be employed to alleviate pain, swelling and inflammation, along with electrical nerve stimulation or ultrasound therapy.
Aqua therapy may also play a part in your treatment. Water is soothing to the body and mind. It buoys the body, making movement easier and less painful. It offers a type of resistance training that strengthens the body.
You’ll encounter many challenges managing fibromyalgia and your physical therapist will be with you ever step of the way. Together, you can keep your muscles strong and active, relieve pain and get the sleep you need, and improve your level of function for an improved lifestyle.