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Fibromyalgia and Physical Therapy

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, physical therapists teach self-management skills to people with all types of conditions, including fibromyalgia. Physical therapists can show people with fibromyalgia how to relieve symptoms of pain and stiffness in everyday life. These health care professionals teach people with fibromyalgia how to build strength and improve their range of motion. They show them ways to get relief from deep muscle pain. And they can help people with fibromyalgia learn how to make sensible decisions about daily activities that will prevent painful flare-ups.

What Is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy focuses on the treatment, healing, and prevention of injuries or disabilities. Regular physical therapy programs may help you regain control of your fibromyalgia as you focus on lifestyle changes rather than on the chronic problems of pain, stiffness, and fatigue.

Proper posture, which your physical therapist will help you with, allows efficient muscle function. That results in your being able to avoid undue fatigue and pain. In addition, the therapist may use slow stretching exercises to help you improve muscle flexibility. Relaxation exercises that the therapist will show you can help reduce muscle tension.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help my Fibromyalgia?

A licensed physical therapist has a background in anatomy and kinesiology -- the study of movement. If you have fibromyalgia, this allows the therapist to develop specific stretching and strengthening programs to meet your individual needs.

Physical therapists work with all types of patients -- from infants to adults. They provide health services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities. Working one-on-one with people, physical therapists help restore overall fitness and health.

How Can Physical Therapy Help Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain?

While there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, physical therapy may help ease the symptoms of pain. It can also help reduce stiffness and fatigue. In addition to exercise, physical therapists use a wide range of resources -- from deep tissue massage to ice and heat packs for hydrotherapy. With these tools, physical therapists can help people with fibromyalgia use their muscles, stretch for flexibility, and move their joints through range-of-motion exercises.

The benefit of physical therapy is that it allows a person with fibromyalgia to work closely with a trained professional who can design a fibromyalgia-specific treatment program. The therapist documents your progress and gauges whether you're practicing good therapy habits, alignments, and movement patterns when doing "homework" or exercises at home.

The ultimate goal of physical therapy is for you to learn the specific exercises and then do them daily at home.

Why Does a Physical Therapist Use Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy with moist heat or cold packs works by stimulating your body's own healing force. For instance, cold compresses reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels. Conversely, warm, moist compresses on painful areas dilate blood vessels. That increases the flow of blood, oxygen, and other nutrients and speeds the elimination of toxins.

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