Physical Therapy and Fibro – What I learned in 5 Weeks

28 Jul

I’ve finished my 5 week physical therapy session! My primary care doctor referred me to the orthopedic sports medicine center for PT in an attempt to help with my FMS symptoms. I was happy to do it, because if I can avoid taking more medication, and learn new ways to manage my pain, I’m all for it. Luckily, my mom has gone to PT a few times over the past several years, and I’m familiar with the staff at OSM. So, my therapist was already a little familiar with me and my symptoms, and that always helps in any health related situation.

There are some exercises I really love (not because I’m excited about exercise, necessarily, but because they do seem to help,) and there are some exercises that seem to exacerbate my symptoms. Here’s what I learned in my 5 weeks of PT:

1. You don’t have to do all of the exercises all at once. My therapist helped me figure this one out. She essentially gave me permission to spread out the exercises, and listen to my body. She suggested that if I had used my upper body more one day, or had more pain in my upper body, to just concentrate on core or leg exercises, and vice versa. This helped me not be so hard on myself. I tend to overdo when I have a little energy, so it kept me from causing myself more pain, and feeling guilty for not being able to do all the exercises I wanted to.

2. You can do the resistance exercises without the resistance. For me, the resistance exercises (with the band,) were more harmful than helpful. I have a reoccurring pain/knot in my right neck and shoulder area that causes a lot of pain down into my arm and hand. Nearly every time I used the band, I’d hurt for a week. So, I started doing some of those exercises without the band. I told my therapist, and she was totally fine with it. Of course, it’s not going to give the exact same results, but you’ll at least be mimicking the motions.

3. I’m stronger than I thought. Thankfully, I lead a relatively active life, and was active before the fibro symptoms started, but I’d been down on myself lately for not being as active as I want to be. It turns out, my core is pretty darn strong. My therapist was surprised, probably because I’d mentioned how I’m not as active as I want to be, and let me know that my core was stronger than I thought. When you have fibro, it’s especially important to have a strong core, because it affects the way the rest of your body moves, and can give you better posture when sitting and standing. That means you can sit and stand longer, which may not sound like a big deal to those without fibro or chronic pain or fatigue, but it’s a big deal! Sitting and standing for long periods of time are two of the biggest issues with FMS, and cause a lot of pain.

4. My left side really is weaker than my right side. I’ve always said that I tend to have more pain on my right, and more weakness on my left, and now I have proof. My left side is wobbly, y’all, but that’s ok! Now I have specific exercises to bring that side up to speed. It’s not uncommon for one side of your body to be more <insert adjective here> than the other. Our bodies are asymmetrical, our brains work differently for each side, and most of us have a dominant side, so it’s something everyone experiences. It may just be a little more obvious when you’re doing PT.

5. I shouldn’t have donated our exercise ball. Why, oh why did I get rid of that bouncy thing? Some of the most effective exercises can be done on an exercise ball, and just sitting on one can strengthen your core, lower body, improve posture, and balance. Time to find a new one!

6. I still needed to increase my meds. The main reason my doc referred me to PT was to avoid giving me more medication. Unfortunately, after several years, the Tramadol I take for pain doesn’t last as long. I started waking up in the middle of the night in pain, and experiencing breakthrough pain during the day. She and I agree on taking a whole body approach, and avoiding medication whenever possible. After a few weeks of PT, though, it was clear to me that I needed the one extra dose a day I asked for at my appointment. I don’t need to take more every single day, but now my prescription allows for me to take that extra dose if I need it. It’s not a failure, though, it just means that my body is changing, so I have to honor that.

I hope that you’ll consider adding some physical therapy to your pain management routine. The stretches have been the most helpful for me, but you may find that another kind of exercise helps you. You will have to take things slowly, and that’s fine. Allow your body to adapt to the new activity – it’s a challenge in and of itself.  Talk to your doc and see if PT is something that could help lessen your pain and possibly increase your energy level.

Gentle hugs,



One Response to “Physical Therapy and Fibro – What I learned in 5 Weeks”

  1. Monique"s FM/CFS Blog July 30, 2013 at 3:05 am #

    I have taking PT three times since being diagnosis in 2011, and each time was awesome. I learned so much and was able to find and learn some techniques to use on really bad days. Glad that you had a good experience…

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