By Stephen Borkowski PT MPT MTC CEAS

What is Fibromyalgia?

Do you experience widespread pain and tenderness to touch that tends to come and go and move about the body? Do these issues result in fatigue, affect sleep, impair memory, or create mood issues? What you may be experiencing can be as a result of a condition called fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a broad musculoskeletal condition that often results in widespread pain, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, and loss of sleep. If diagnosed with this condition you may feel tired throughout the day and drained of energy. Sleep patterns are often disrupted by pain, restless legs syndrome, or sleep apnea. A feeling of mind “fog” is a common report amongst fibromyalgia patients. The pain associated with fibromyalgia is typically dull and aching, lasting for at least 3 months. This condition also often co-exists with other conditions such as migraines, TMJ disorders, anxiety, depression, IBS, and more.

Illustration of the different symptoms someone with Fibromyalgia will experience. JOI Rehab

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Causes of Fibromyalgia

The true origin of this condition is not yet known. However, researchers believe that fibromyalgia occurs as a result of related nervous system stimulation. This repetitive stimulation causes changes in the spinal cord and brain in patients with this condition. This leads to an increase in chemicals that act as pain signals to the brain. This process can lead to hypersensitization. This means that the body will react to nonpainful stimuli as if they were painful and dangerous.

Other Factors in Fibromyalgia Development

There are other possible factors in the development of fibromyalgia, such as genetics, infections, and physical or emotional events. It can be traced through family lines, meaning there may be certain genetic markers that make you more susceptible to fibromyalgia. Certain illnesses seem to inflame or even trigger this condition. This condition may even be triggered by a traumatic emotional or physical event such as a car accident or prolonged stress.

Risk Factors and Complications 

Research shows us that there are certain risk factors for developing fibromyalgia like your sex, your family history, and other preexisting disorders. Women are reported to be twice as likely to develop fibromyalgia when compared to men. Reasons for this large disparity is due to hormonal changes that do not affect men. In addition to, higher stress potentials related to menstruation, menopause, or pregnancy. You may also be more likely to develop fibromyalgia if a close family member has the condition, such as a parent or sibling. Lastly, other diseases such as lupus, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis can increase your chances of developing fibromyalgia.

Rehabilitation for Fibromyalgia

If you are dealing with symptoms related to fibromyalgia such as widespread pain and fatigue, your fitness level may be decreased. There is a vast amount of research supporting the use of aerobic exercise, strength training, and education to improve patient’s symptoms. The fear of pain often keeps people from moving, but with a trained and skilled movement expert such as a physical therapist, you can manage your symptoms with a physical therapy exercise plan tailored to your needs.

Exercises for Fibromyalgia

Possible options for exercise include but are not limited to:

yoga pose as an exercise to help with fibromyalgia. JOI Rehab

Yoga for Fibromyalgia

With the help of your physical therapist, you can make sure to pace yourself, set achievable and realistic goals, and modify your exercise program as appropriate. When seeking treatment from a physical therapist for this condition, you may want to consider a therapist who is experienced with fibromyalgia or musculoskeletal problems. In addition to, seeking a clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy or occupational therapy.

Written By: Stephen Borkowski PT MPT MTC CEAS

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