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Physiotherapy for Fibromyalgia
Anne Reicherter, PT, DPT, PhD, a licensed physical therapist and associate professor in the department of physical therapy in the School of Medicine of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, says physical therapy can help fibromyalgia patients “manage their daily living with less pain and generally make life more enjoyable.” She explains that people with fibromyalgia pain are often caught in a vicious cycle: Pain and fatigue prevent them from being active and exercising, but inactivity can trigger more pain and fatigue.
Another benefit of proper exercise? It’s one way to help you get restful, restorative sleep every night. And good sleep benefits fibromyalgia patients, as sleep disturbances are a common fibromyalgia symptom. Working with a physical therapist can help you get the exercise you need for a good night’s rest. Reicherter says physical therapy can also eventually reduce the need for pain medication, and possibly even surgery.
Physical Therapy Options for Fibromyalgia Relief
Low-speed and low-impact activities are best, says Reicherter. Stationary bicycles and elliptical machines are usually less stressful on the joints.
Swimming and other water exercises are excellent for fibromyalgia patients. Says Reicherter, “The buoyancy of the water can lessen stress on muscles and joints and improve flexibility.” A heated pool may be especially beneficial because the heat can soothe sore muscles.
More Ways to Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) stimulates nerve fibers and can decrease fibromyalgia pain. Reicherter says TENS helps:
- Block pain signals to the spinal cord
- Release the body’s own natural pain-killing chemicals
- Improve local circulation and gently contract muscles for healing and relaxation
Dry needling: Treatment of fibromyalgia using dry needling targets muscles with trigger points and helps to relax muscles that are causing the pain. Research suggests dry needling has an affect on the pain signals that come from the brain.
Manual therapy :
Some fibromyalgia patients say they feel worse after starting therapy, but Reicherter says this should not happen if you are getting good therapy and are going slowly. Overdoing exercise or activities after you start to feel better can make you feel worse. Reicherter also points out that exercise soreness is different from fibromyalgia pain. Once you get used to the exercise, you should start reaping its benefits: less pain every day.