What does it mean to have pain with Fibromyalgia?
At some point in our lives, we have all experienced pain, and because it is an unpleasant experience, it tends to have a bad connotation. Understandably, people don’t want to have to endure pain; the reality is that when our body is utilizing its ability to feel pain the appropriate way, it is an essential tool. It is when this tool malfunctions that we tend to develop problems. One scenario where our body utilizes pain inappropriately is a disorder referred to as fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Mayo Clinic defines fibromyalgia as “a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. The current belief is fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by altering the way your brain processes the signals.” Typically, our nervous systems are very good at determining which inputs are to be perceived as pain as well as creating a proportionate response. Conversely, in patients with fibromyalgia, their nervous system becomes hypersensitive to inputs. Hypersensitivity to inputs results in increased difficulty in creating proportionate pain responses and, in some cases, even creates pain responses to inputs that would previously have not been interpreted as painful.
Along with this abnormal pain response and generalized hypersensitivity, many people may also experience:
- tension headaches
- TMJ disorders
If left unaddressed, persons with fibromyalgia suffer in a constant state of hypersensitivity. This continued state of fight or flight is not only unpleasant but also prevents the body from having the opportunity to heal.
How can you treat fibromyalgia?
Because of the significance and chronicity of these symptoms, recent efforts have been made to find effective treatments. Although there is currently no “cure” for fibromyalgia, there is growing evidence to support interventions that help reduce pain and facilitate a healing environment. Although there are a multitude of interventions that can potentially be beneficial, three interventions that have shown good outcomes in patients with fibromyalgia are:
- dry needling
- myofascial release
- aerobic exercise
Along with helping reduce pain, these interventions have been shown to improve tissue mobility and health-related quality of life as well as impacting anxiety, depression, fatigue, and sleep quality.
Knowing about these interventions and potential management strategies is one thing, but implementing them is another. That’s where physical therapy comes in! Physical therapists are movements specialists and specially trained on how to utilize the appropriate interventions, like myofascial release or dry needling, to break the pain cycle and provide the body the opportunity to remove itself from the fight or flight stage and give it a chance to heal.
Fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain can be very limiting, as well as frustrating. If you or someone you know is struggling with persistent pain, and you think they could benefit from these interventions, we highly recommend trying physical therapy as a resource to help you manage your pain.