When Fibromyalgia Ignites, It Brings a Different Kind of Heat
There's no question that we're in the hottest part of the summer. There's a group of nearly 5 million people in the United States that experience a different kind of heat - those with Fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can cause a wide range of issues throughout the body. It's usually diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50, and 80% to 90% of the people affected are women. One of the most common and debilitating symptoms is burning pain. Other common symptoms include fatigue, memory problems, sleep disturbances, depression, and anxiety.
How is Fibromyalgia Treated?
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown and there is no cure, so treatments are directed at reducing and managing the symptoms. Because of the wide range of symptoms, fibromyalgia requires a multi-faceted approach. First, it's important to have a thorough medical exam to rule out other conditions that might be causing or contributing to the symptoms like an infection, Lyme disease, thyroid problems, metabolic disease or side effects from medication. A specialist like rheumatologist can help people with fibromyalgia with medications.
Another important member of the treatment team is a physical therapist. Physical therapists work to help people with fibromyalgia using several different methods.
They often start by helping people understand what's going on and what they can do about it. Research has shown that people who are knowledgeable about their condition have better outcomes, more confidence, and cope better.
A PT might use gentle manual therapy or massage to help with the pain and stiffness. They could prescribe specific stretches or a simple yoga routine. They might also use modalities like electrical stimulation, biofeedback or in states where it is allowed, dry needling.
Once patients understand the condition and are able to move a little better with less pain, exercise often enters the treatment picture. Research has shown that low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise like walking, biking, or swimming is important in managing fibromyalgia symptoms. It can help with pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression and more. Physical therapists and patients work together to find the right type of exercise and the right intensity to best manage fibromyalgia. They often have to start slow, and make adjustments along the way.
Despite there still being no cure for fibromyalgia, when patients work with their medical team and physical therapist, they can find relief from their symptoms.