Fibromyalgia – What to do When the Fibro Ignites


As we head toward the end of summer, the weather is hot! For the nearly 5 million people in the United States with fibromyalgia, they might experience a different kind of heat – the burning pain that typically comes along with this diagnosis.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can cause a wide range of symptoms 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 are:

  • Chronic pain all over the body
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression and/or anxiety

How Does Physical Therapy Help?

Because of the wide range of symptoms, fibromyalgia can be a debilitating condition. It is not uncommon for people to begin avoiding activities altogether because of pain and fatigue. This begins a cycle of deconditioning that not only impacts the person’s overall health, but also makes the symptoms of fibromyalgia worse. The cause of fibromyalgia is currently unknown and there is no cure, so physical therapy treatments are designed to reduce and manage the symptoms. This requires a multi-pronged approach.

Physical therapists work to help people with fibromyalgia using several different methods. Despite there still being no cure, when patients work with their medical team and physical therapist, they find relief from symptoms.

Firstly though, 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. Therefore, a specialist like rheumatologist can help people with fibromyalgia with medications.

Common Fibromyalgia Treatments Include:


The first step in treating fibromyalgia is often 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.

Decrease Pain and Improve Range of Motion

Also, physical therapists are movement experts. They use a lot of tools and techniques to help with the pain and stiffness caused by fibromyalgia. A PT might use gentle manual therapy or massage, 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. Additionally, physical therapists and patients work together to find the right type of exercise and the right intensity to best manage fibromyalgia. However, they often have to start slow, and make adjustments along the way.

Each physical therapy session is tailored to the needs of the patient. Treatment will vary depending on the severity of their symptoms. Despite there still being no cure for fibromyalgia, physical therapists can help. They will help with pain management, strength, mobility, fatigue and function to help patients find relief from their symptoms.