Physical therapy has a variety of techniques that can help patients with fibromyalgia. It is often a hands-on approach although most patients with this medical condition have tender points throughout the body. Tender points or trigger points are specific places on a patient’s body that are acutely sensitive to touch. There are eighteen tender points on the body running from the neck down to the knee.
In addressing fibromyalgia, a physical therapist can use passive and active treatment methods. Passive treatments can relax the body while active treatments help in addressing core stability, joint movement, strength and stability.
Deep tissue massage is great for treatment of fibromyalgia. Unless the patient is in great deal of pain, this technique can relieve tension in the deep muscle and as well as muscle spasms. Muscle spasms can decrease range of motion since it prevents movement of the affected muscle. This treatment can be combined with cold or heat therapies to boost the good benefits of the massage.
Heat therapy is used in reducing chronic aches that comes with fibromyalgia. Heat can trigger the natural healing process of the body as it relaxes the muscles and speeds up the blood flow to the damaged area. Heat therapy can be used through dry heat or moist heat. Since excessive heat can exacerbate fibromyalgia pain, its application must be done with the supervision of a physical therapist.
Hydrotherapy is another passive treatment that can help fibromyalgia patients. It allows relieves pain, conditions the body without unnecessary stress and relaxes the muscles. Water can help stimulate the skin’s touch receptors that allow the production of electronic impulses. These would then set off the release bodily hormones and chemicals which helps the body to feel soothed and heal.
Electric stimulation of the muscle can help reduce spasms and it generally believed to trigger the release of neurotransmitters called endorphins. For fibromyalgia patients, these endorphins are the body’s pain killers.
Ultrasound is effective in relieving limitations on range of motion especially for patients with chronic pain. Ultrasound reduces pain, stiffness, inflammation and muscle spasms.
Exercise programs are active treatments commonly used with fibromyalgia. Core stability exercises allow the body to have a stable and strong center point. Lean and strong muscles are also developed through strengthening and muscular flexibility exercises. An exercise program can be developed based on the patient’s health history.
There is no one treatment plan that works with all fibromyalgia patients. Individual plans need to be created and tailored fit based on the severity of the condition, specific symptoms and the patient’s pain threshold.