Can Physical Therapy Help With Fibromyalgia?

Physical Therapy

Image: U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Mariah Haddenham

Physical therapy can accomplish some amazing things. It can give people suffering from degenerative diseases years of extra mobility, it can help people who’ve had strokes regain some of the skills they need to live productive lives, and it’s often the first step in helping people who’ve had serious accidents learn to move and even walk normally again.

But can physical therapy help with other conditions like fibromyalgia? To find out, let’s talk about how physical therapy works, whether it might help with treating fibromyalgia, and how you can start looking for a physical therapist near you.

What Is Physical Therapy?

Simply put, physical therapy is a branch of medicine that focuses on restoring mobility and function to people who have medical conditions that limit those things.

If someone were to suffer an injury that damages their spinal cord, for instance, they would probably be referred to a physical therapist. Using a variety of techniques and exercises, the physical therapist would then help that person strengthen the muscles and nerve connections that make walking possible. And with enough effort, that physical therapy might help that person walk again.

But physical therapy doesn’t just focus on the muscles. Someone could suffer from a stroke that damages their ability to write. In that case, a physical therapist would help them learn to use their hands the way they did before and focus on restoring the connections in the brain that make writing possible.

Physical therapists are licensed medical professionals who need post-graduate education in their field and have to pass a rigorous exam. So they get all the training they need to make a serious difference in people’s lives.

But can physical therapists make a difference when it comes to fibromyalgia?

Physical Therapy And Fibromyalgia

We think that fibromyalgia has something to do with the nervous system, but the symptoms seem to be mostly physical. People with fibromyalgia suffer from pain all over the body and often have a hard time moving as well as they did before they developed the condition. So it makes sense that a physical therapist might be able to help.

And according to studies, they can. There are a number of different therapies that do seem to reduce the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms.

TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a process of using electrical current to stimulate the nerves in a way that reduces pain and improves mobility. It’s something that physical therapists often use in cases of chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia. And according to evidence, it can be effective for treating the condition.

Another effective treatment that physical therapists use is something called trigger point injections. In many conditions like fibromyalgia, the muscles develop trigger points, where the tightness of the muscle causes pain that radiates throughout the body. By injecting different drugs like corticosteroids or pain relievers directly into the trigger points, physical therapists can help reduce the amount of pain a patient experiences.

Massage, another technique that physical therapists use, can also help by decreasing the amount of stress in the muscles and releasing some of the tightness that can contribute to pain.

A good physical therapist will combine some or all of these techniques to create a treatment plan that works for the patient. But they will also try to create an overall wellness plan by meeting with a patient and assessing their needs. This might include helping you find exercises that don’t aggravate your symptoms and help you manage your symptoms in the long term. They may also refer you to a nutritionist to help establish a healthy diet that will benefit your overall health.

There are a lot of different ways that physical therapy can help with fibromyalgia. So if you’re interested in trying it out, the next step is to find a physical therapist who is right for you.

Finding A Physical Therapist

One of the best ways to find a physical therapist is to ask your doctor for a recommendation. They may be able to work with you find one in your area who is also covered by your insurance and navigate some of the legal hurdles involved in getting it cleared by the insurance company.

If you’d prefer to find one on your own, you might consider asking friends or family for recommendations. Failing that, you can usually find one online. This gives you the added bonus of being able to consult some reviews to make sure it’s a good fit.

The American Physical Therapy Association offers a great tool on their website that will contain a listing of physical therapists in your area that you can consult.

So have you visited a physical therapist for fibromyalgia? Were you happy with the results? Let us know in the comments.