Fibromyalgia is a condition in which people experience symptoms that include widespread pain and tenderness in the body, often accompanied by fatigue and problems with memory and concentration. Fibromyalgia affects two to five per cent of the population, mainly women, although men and adolescents can also develop the condition. It tends to develop during middle adulthood.
Each person with fibromyalgia will have their own set of symptoms. The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary from mild to severe. The most common symptoms are:
● increased sensitivity to pain due to a decreased pain threshold
● increased responsiveness to sensory stimuli such as heat, cold, light and smell
● extreme fatigue (tiredness)
● problems with memory and concentration (fibro fog)
● problems with sleep.
Each patient’s situation is unique, and a physical therapist will determine a treatment plan customized for you. In addition to hydrotherapy and exercise, your physical therapist may decide you can benefit from deep tissue massage. During massage therapy, a physical therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissues to relieve stress and pain, and increases flexibility by loosening up stiff muscles. Sometimes, hot or cold therapy is used in conjunction with deep-tissue massage.
Another way your physical therapist may alleviate your fibromyalgia symptoms is with a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device. Electrodes are placed on areas of the body experiencing pain, and deliver electrical pulses to the nerve pathways. TENS therapy is usually just one of the components of a multi-tiered physical therapy plan.
Therapeutic ultrasound is another technique physical therapists use to treat musculoskeletal problems that cause pain and stiffness, and may use to give fibromyalgia sufferers relief. A gel is applied to the skin, and an ultrasound probe is placed atop the gel. The probe then is swept over the skin, emitting ultrasonic waves that cause the muscles and tissues beneath to vibrate gently.
Physical Therapy interventions include:
● Manual therapy and massage
● Electrophysical agents (e.g., TENS, ultrasound, heat, ice)
● Exercise (including hydro therapy and pilates)
● Education (teaching patients about pain, self-management)