Physical Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Heat Therapy and Flexibility Exercises to Manage Fibromyalgia

By using safe, gentle, and effective techniques, physical therapy for fibromyalgia can ease your pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms.

There are 2 main types of physical therapy treatments: Passive treatments, such as massage, and active treatments, such as flexibility exercises. Both can help prevent painful fibromyalgia flare-ups.

In-depth Articles on Other Fibromyalgia Treatments

Your physical therapist may use a combination of physical therapy techniques to ease your pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms.

Passive Treatments for Fibromyalgia

  • Deep tissue massage: A massage therapist uses pressure to decrease muscle tension and muscle spasms.
  • Heat therapy: Heat deeply relaxes your muscles and gets blood to flow to the painful area faster. This therapy can be used with dry heat (eg, a dry, hot towel) or moist heat (eg, a moist, warm cloth).
  • Hydrotherapy: This treatment involves reducing your pain using water. For example, you may sit in warm water to relieve pain and muscle stiffness.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This treatment decreases fibromyalgia-related pain by blocking pain signals from reaching your spinal cord. It also reduces muscle spasms and triggers the release of endorphins (natural pain killers your brain produces).
  • Ultrasound: Using sound waves, this treatment produces a gentle heat that enhances blood flow to deep tissues. Ultrasound can help decrease pain, inflammation, stiffness, and muscle spasms.

Active Treatments for Fibromyalgia

  • Low-impact aerobic exercise: This type of exercise is gentle yet highly effective. An example of low-impact aerobic exercise is water aerobics.
  • Strengthening and flexibility exercises: These exercises help build muscle strength and improve your range of motion.

Your physical therapist will design a physical therapy program to fit your needs: It may include a combination of passive and active treatments.

Remember with these treatments—especially active treatments—to go slow. Don't overdo it. Although mild soreness is typical after a physical therapy session, if you have soreness or pain that lasts longer than a few days, call your physical therapist or doctor immediately.

Physical therapy can make pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms more manageable. Talk to your doctor about whether physical therapy is a treatment option for dealing with your fibromyalgia.

Updated on: 11/18/15