The Rehab Approach

Are you tired of waiting for your health care provider or medical team to come up with a diagnosis for your pain? Are conventional medical treatments, such as sleep medications and antidepressants, just not helping to ease your fibromyalgia symptoms? If so, then you are not alone. Many fibromyalgia sufferers become frustrated with the way the medical profession handles their illness. For this reason, some fibromyalgia patients turn to a self-management approach for their fibromyalgia. Known as the rehab approach, this treatment puts you in control of your own health and allows you to reduce your fibromyalgia symptoms by becoming more involved in your own treatment.


What is the Rehab Approach?

Sometimes termed the "self-management" approach, the rehab approach is a treatment methodology used to treat a number of chronic illnesses, including fibromyalgia. Formally introduced at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in 2002, concepts central to this approach have existed for centuries. The approach focuses on the belief that people can help to reduce pain and other symptoms of chronic illness by becoming positively and actively involved in their own treatment regimens. It also contends that those people who believe that they can get better will empower themselves to heal faster than those who hold negative attitudes about their health.


How Does the Rehab Approach See Fibromyalgia

The rehab approach has specific beliefs about fibromyalgia as a chronic illness. Most rehab approach programs see fibromyalgia as an illness that will go away when treated correctly. The program believes that people with fibromyalgia still have cells that are in proper working order. The body is merely experiencing an imbalance in hormones which need to be rebalanced in order to keep symptoms in check. This approach feels that, through the reduction of medications and the participation in certain self-help techniques, fibromyalgia patients can achieve this hormonal balance and get rid of their fibromyalgia.

What Does the Rehab Approach Involve?

The rehab approach involves a number of different treatment options, which individuals must participate actively in, in order to get better.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

One of the main aspects of the rehab approach is the physical therapy and exercise segment of treatment. In a rehab approach program, fibromyalgia patients are taught about the importance of physical therapy and exercise, and work together with professionals in order to develop an exercise regimen that they can perform at home. In particular, students are taught:


  • how to stretch their muscles
  • how to relax their muscles
  • how to maintain proper posture
  • self massage
  • deep relaxation and breathing


Sleep Training
Patients involved in a rehab approach program are also taught the importance of proper sleep when it comes to treating fibromyalgia. The approach believes that disturbed sleep patterns contribute directly to daytime fatigue and pain symptoms. Therefore, it focuses on teaching patients to sleep better in order to reduce these symptoms. Participants are advised to go to sleep before ten o’clock at night, and are asked to get up in the morning between seven and nine o’clock. This is thought to help reestablish your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock), which helps with the release of certain hormones throughout the day. Sleep training also involves exposure to the sun when you first wake up, which is believed to block the production of melatonin and can contribute to fatigue during the daytime.

The rehab approach views nutrition as an essential part of recovery from fibromyalgia. This approach focuses on eating a high-protein, low-fat diet in the mornings, while gradually incorporating carbohydrates towards the end of the day. This type of high-energy diet improves mental alertness during the day, and prepares you for sleep later on at night.

Managing Fatigue
In order to help patients manage fatigue, the rehab approach again focuses on the importance of nutrition. This approach believes that fibromyalgia patients experience fatigue due to a high intake of refined sugars.

Fibromyalgia patients tend to have low glucose levels when they are at rest. When you eat products high in sugar, such as sweets, breads, and colas, this can cause a severe reaction in the body, which triggers fatigue. In order to manage this fatigue, fibromyalgia patients are asked to refrain from eating sugary foods and instead focus on eating raw vegetables and whole grains for snacks.

Cognitive behavioral therapy forms a large part of the rehab approach. This type of psychotherapy helps to train fibromyalgia sufferers into believing that they can recover from their disease. This type of counseling works to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and may involve:


  • group therapy
  • relaxation training
  • coping methods


Does the Rehab Approach Work?

There has long been evidence that those who believe that they can recover from an illness are much more likely to do so than those who don’t believe that they can recover. This has been witnessed in arthritis patients, breast cancer patients, and others suffering from chronic illnesses. The first rehab approach program, located in Los Angeles, California, enrolled 145 participants with fibromyalgia. After the six-week treatment program, all of the participants reported a 20% to 30% decrease in fatigue and pain symptoms. Others also noted:


  • decreased muscle stiffness
  • decreased fibrofog
  • decreased depression


Additionally, the program reported that those patients with stronger confidence in their ability to control their recovery experienced better results than those who had less confidence in their ability to self manage their fibromyalgia.

Finding a Rehab Approach Program

Rehab approach programs for fibromyalgia are available at some major hospitals throughout the United States. Alternatively, you can learn about this approach from books that are available at your local bookstore or on line. Your health care professional can also advise you on ways that you can incorporate some aspects of the rehab approach into your traditional treatment regimen.


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