Fibromyalgia Physiotherapy Treatment Options

How can we propose a definitive treatment or cure for a chronic pain condition, such as Fibromyalgia, when we don’t fully understand what causes it? The answer is we can't be definitive but Physiotherapy can offer effective pain relief. 

With numerous medical drugs available, some of which may be just as likely to harm as they are to help, it’s no wonder sufferers are seeking non drug alternatives such as exercise, acupuncture and gentle forms of manual therapy.

Fibromyalgia sufferers experience widespread pain affecting the muscles and fibrous tissues throughout the body. Symptoms may result in disturbed sleep, general fatigue and sometimes depression. The exact cause is unknown and as yet there is no cure for the condition. We do however have an understanding of how the body’s physiology may change with Fibromyalgia in a manner which results in heightened pain sensitivity.

Efficacy of drugs

In a recent article over on sciencedaily.com which references a review from The Cochrane Library, it is suggested that two commonly prescribed drugs for Fibromyalgia are just as likely to cause unpleasant side effects as they are to help relieve pain. 

Fred Wolfe, M.D. of the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases, suggests there is a big discrepancy between the success claims by the drug advertisers compared to the research data that shows minimal improvement. 

The advice given was that treatment for fibromyalgia should not rely solely on medication only but rather take an integrated approach including selective and carefully prescribed drug and non-drug alternatives. 

Therapeutic exercise

Exercise is important for everyone to sustain and promote general well being. In an article from specialistpainphysio.com, exercise as part of treatment is reviewed in relation to the autonomic nervous system profile in fibromyalgia patients. 

Their study concluded that exercise does have a definite role in the treatment of fibromyalgia and needs to be tailored to each individual as appropriate. 

Acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia

I'm always on the lookout for acupuncture related news. I sometimes forget how 'new' acupuncture still seems for many people. By this I mean there are a great many, probably the majority, who have not yet experienced an acupuncture treatment. 

Of course acupuncture is not a new treatment at all. The majority of mainstream media articles referencing acupuncture relate to the ancient Chinese medical philosophy of energy, or Qi, flow in the body. This treatment has been around for thousands of years. 

It was only more recently, in the last 40 years, that the western medical and scientific community started researching the efficacy of this needling technique. Appropriately termed 'medical acupuncture' or 'dry needling', is a technique with a growing body of evidence-based research to support its use and therefore becoming an increasingly popular complementary treatment in the modern medical setting. 

See here for more information on the medical acupuncture technique

Current literature on medical acupuncture tends to be very technical in nature and geared towards the practitioner rather than the patient or casual internet reader. 

In a recent article I came across at healthcmi.com I found many citations of research concluding acupuncture's effectiveness in reducing pain, fatigue and anxiety in fibromyalgia sufferers. 

These findings support our own results here in our clinic where we have been successfully helping fibromyalgia sufferers cope by offering gentle medical acupuncture treatment often combined with therapeutic exercise for pain relief. 

Hands on treatment

For those who would prefer a more ‘hands on’ approach we have been achieving very good clinical results using a gentle form of manual therapy known as NST. This involves careful manipulation of the muscle and soft tissue structures in a systematic manner which has been proposed to assist in ‘winding down’ parts of the central nervous system which become dysfunctional in Fibromyalgia sufferers. During the course of treatment, muscle tenderness and pain may reduce and general mobility, function and energy levels may improve significantly.


It is very important for Fibromyalgia sufferers to be properly medically assessed and to have an integrated and tailored treatment plan put together taking patient preferences into account. This may include drug therapy if required, which may be supplemented with treatments such as NST, medical acupuncture and therapeutic exercise either alone or in combination.

by Simon Coghlan

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