Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain, fatigue, and cognitive issues. It can be difficult to manage and can severely impact quality of life. Nearly 5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with this chronic condition. It usually shows up between the ages of 30 and 50, and 80% to 90% of the people affected are women. There is no cure, but a combination of exercise, modalities and education can help manage symptoms.
Physical therapists are well known as experts in exercise, so they're an obvious choice when it comes to helping people with fibromyalgia. The right exercise routine can help these patients with pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, and more. A combination of strengthening, stretching and aerobic exercise is the most effective. Patients and therapists work together to find the right type and intensity of exercise to best manage symptoms.
Therapists also have a large choice of other treatments to help people with fibromyalgia. Gentle manual therapy and massage have been shown to help reduce pain and muscle stiffness caused by fibromyalgia. Physical therapists also use modalities to reduce symptoms. Examples include electrical stimulation, laser, biofeedback, and dry needling in states where it is allowed.
In addition to land-based exercise, some clinics also have the option of aquatic therapy. This combines the benefits of exercise with the warmth of a therapeutic pool.
Because physical therapists spend so much time with their patients, they can handle the education component too. They help people with fibromyalgia understand what's going on, and what they can do about it. Research shows that people with more knowledge about their condition have better outcomes, more confidence, and cope better.
Physical therapists help people with pain management, strength, mobility, fatigue and function to relieve their symptoms and improve the quality of their lives. While we still don't have a cure for fibromyalgia, people can move through it with the right help.