Physiotherapy and Fibromyalgia

By Ron Ayalon

Physiotherapy is mostly over-looked when compared to medical or surgical regimens in the management of less-debated health issues like fibromyalgia. However, according to the research report presented by W. Smith, almost 3 to 6 million people are currently suffering from fibromyalgia in the United States alone. The actual pathogenesis of fibromyalgia is not very well understood, so it is a syndrome of unknown etiology. However, just recently a number of research studies have proven that physiotherapy can manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia without necessitating the need of any additional therapy.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by a multitude of symptoms affecting muscles and skeletal system. It is marked by moderate to severe unprovoked pain, stiffness involving muscles and joints, tenderness involving joints and other parts of the body, numbness or tingling sensation in the limbs and other nonspecific symptoms that include fatigue, tiredness, psychological issues and sleeping issues.

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Fibromyalgia is considered a syndrome of unknown etiology and little is known about the primary patho-physiologic event that may lead to fibromyalgia; however, a few risk factors that are commonly reported in the setting of fibromyalgia include individuals living a stressful lifestyle and patients who underwent surgical procedures or suffered soft tissue trauma.

Various clinical trials and research reports published in renowned medical journals revealed that currently, the best therapy for the management and treatment of fibromyalgia is physiotherapy. Regular physiotherapy session helps in decreasing the pain attacks and resolving tenderness along the muscles and other soft tissues. Offenbächer discussed in his research report that physiotherapy in fibromyalgia patients is helpful in treating the consequences of fibromyalgia (that are also the potential triggers of pain) like sleeping issues, fatigue syndrome and de-conditioning muscle weakness. Muscle stiffness is another complication that limits the day to day functioning of individuals. Physical therapy is helpful in improving the muscular activity and stiffness thereby improving the range of motion.

Left untreated, fibromyalgia progressively deteriorates muscle functioning and flexibility. Physiotherapy treatments may be a little uncomfortable in patients with moderate to severe fibromyalgia; however consistent and regular sessions can improve the outcome.

MN Joshi compared the treatment efficacy of antidepressant amitriptyline with physiotherapy in patients of progressive and chronic fibromyalgia. The study results indicated that physiotherapy is as effective as amitriptyline in the management of fibromyalgia; however with less complications and therapy induced side effects when compared to amitriptyline.

There are different physiotherapies for fibromyalgia including TENS therapy which helps in relieving localized pain, tender spots and musculoskeletal pain syndromes. Massage is another great option that is helpful in promoting optimal healing by improving the circulation of blood across the tissues to enhance recovery and provides symptomatic relief. Physiotherapy exercises are helpful in improving the muscle functioning and mobility. To relieve post exercise tissue damage and exercise induced muscle sores, cold compresses, hot compresses and whirlpool bath therapies are very effective.

Most patients suffer muscle weakness due to de-conditioning damage. For such patients, weakness of muscles can be managed by low electrical currents, which is also known to improve the range of motion.

The physical therapist will help you in maintaining the appropriate posture that offers less strain on the aching tissues. At the same time, stretching exercises improve the flexibility of connective tissue and soft tissues of the body.

Other benefits of physical therapy in fibromyalgia patients include learning about the self-management skills to manage acute symptoms and prevent pain attacks. Regular physical therapy exercises increase muscular strength and offers resistance against the fatigue and pain syndrome.

Speak to your physiotherapist regarding the appropriate treatment options as research indicates that physiotherapy is not only helpful in relieving muscle weakness but also helpful in alleviating the symptoms.

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