Fibromyalgia syndrome can have a number of negative effects on your physical body. It can leave you feeling stiff, weak, and sometimes even physically immobile. If you are suffering from painful fibromyalgia symptoms, physiotherapy might be just the treatment you have been looking for. Practiced since the late 1800s, physiotherapy is a medically-based approach to treatment that can help to restore your muscle strength, coordination, and range of motion. Many fibromyalgia sufferers rely on physiotherapy to help improve their physical mobility and overall quality of life.
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a treatment program designed to help people recover from the physical side effects of injury and illness. Also known as physical therapy, it is specifically designed to help decrease pain and increase physical mobility in a wide range of patients. Physiotherapists use a number of different exercises, muscle stimulations, and physical activities to help improve a patient’s overall physical health. Physiotherapy is now one of the largest medical professions in the world.
Who Can Physiotherapy Help?
Physiotherapy can help a variety of people with different physical injuries. People who often seek treatment from physiotherapists include:
- those with chronic illnesses, like multiple sclerosis and chronic fatigue syndrome
- those who have suffered from accident trauma
- those recovering from surgery
- those recovering from neurological injury
Benefits for Fibromyalgia Patients
Physiotherapy can also provide a variety of benefits for fibromyalgia sufferers. Recent studies show that physiotherapy can provide immediate relief to most fibromyalgia syndrome patients. This relief appears to increase with continued treatment sessions. A study performed in Norway found that participants with fibromyalgia that were treated with physiotherapy reported significant decreases in:
- muscle stiffness
- tender points
Participants also reported less muscle fatigue and increased physical mobility.
What Does a Physiotherapist Do?
Physiotherapists are involved in a variety of different aspects of the treatment process. They assess your physical capabilities, pinpointing your specific treatment needs. They can perform a wide variety of physical treatments to help improve your muscle strength, joint function, and overall mobility. Your physiotherapist will choose different exercise techniques depending upon the type of injuries you are experiencing, and, from this, will create a personal treatment program to be carried out at home or at the treatment facility.
Assessment is one of the key aspects of a successful physiotherapy program. In order to design an effective personalized exercise program, your physiotherapist needs to assess your current physical state. When you meet with your physiotherapist for the first time, she will ask why you are seeking treatment and what you hope to achieve through treatment. She will also spend about thirty minutes or so taking your medical history and performing a physical exam. During the physical exam, your physiotherapist will examine your:
- joint flexibility and range of motion
- muscle strength
Types of Treatments
Based on your assessment, there are a number of different types of treatments that your physical therapist can perform to help improve your physical mobility:
- Manual Treatments: Manual treatments are hands-on therapies used to increase range of motion and decrease pain and swelling. Tissue and muscle massage along with stretching exercises are commonly-used manual treatments.
- Physical Treatments: Physical treatments help to increase muscle and joint flexibility while decreasing swelling and encouraging wounds to heal. Common physical treatments include the use of whirlpool or water therapy or the use of deep heating with hot packs or paraffin waxing.
- Electrotherapy Treatments: Many physiotherapists rely on electrotherapy treatments to help encourage healing and to decrease pain and muscle spasm. Biofeedback and electrical muscle stimulation are often available.
- Trigger Point Injections: Many physical therapists are trained to administer trigger point injections. These specialized injections are done on specific points of pain and release either corticosteroids or anesthetics into your system, thereby providing you with quick pain relief.
What To Expect After Treatment
Treatment sessions tend to last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or more. Expect to feel a little sore afterwards; after all, your muscles and joints are being challenged more than usual. This pain should go away within a day or two, and you should begin to feel improvements in muscle strength and range of motion. Physiotherapy treatments are typically ongoing, and you may need to continue therapy for six months or more to achieve long term benefits.
Where to Find a Physiotherapist?
If you are interested in trying physiotherapy, you need to find a good physiotherapist who is familiar with fibromyalgia syndrome. Speak with your health care provider and find out if he can give you a referral. Otherwise, you can contact your state or country’s professional physiotherapy organization – in the United States it’s the American Physical Therapy Association. These bodies help to regulate exams and licensing, and should know of qualified professionals in your area.