My own experiences with Fibromyalgia have included a variety of treatment options, some of which were more effective for me than others. One treatment that I found to be particularly helpful in addressing the symptoms has been aquatic therapy, or water physical therapy. Regular physical therapy, or “land” physical therapy, was only minimally effective for me, but when physical therapy was provided in the water instead, I started to see meaningful results in a variety of symptom areas.
When to talk to your doctor about water physical therapy –
Water therapy should be part of a comprehensive individualized treatment plan overseen by your doctor. You should talk to your doctor about water physical therapy as a treatment option for your Fibromyalgia symptoms if you have chronic pain and fatigue, difficulty exercising, muscle weakness, stiffness, or other symptoms that persist even with other treatments. If you feel that you may be able to experience more movement in the buoyancy of the water, or pain relief from submersion in warm water, water physical therapy may be worth a try. Some patients find better results with water physical therapy for Fibromyalgia symptoms than with regular “land” physical therapy, so if another treatment like physical therapy has not been entirely effective, you should speak with your doctor about whether water physical therapy may produce more results for you.
What water therapy entails –
- Exercises in water
Getting the needed levels of exercise for fitness is often a challenge for people with Fibromyalgia. Muscle pain, overwhelming fatigue, and sometimes even muscle weakness make it difficult to engage in regular exercise activities. It is very easy to “overdo it” and cause a flare of symptoms if one engages in too much physical activity. Exercising in the water can provide a good alternative because it is a gentler and easier form of exercise. In water therapy, a trained therapist can work with the patient to develop a set of exercises that address individual concerns and meet the patient’s fitness needs. Exercising in the water can help improve muscle strength, physical endurance, and overall physical well-being. Over time, consistent exercise in the water may even help patients become better able to tolerate other physical activities. For some patients, consistent, ongoing water physical therapy that includes exercise in the water can not only help build endurance but can also decrease fatigue.
- Balance exercises
For a variety of reasons, some people with Fibromyalgia experience difficulties with balance. Increasing muscle strength and physical endurance through exercise in the water can help improve balance. In addition, in water therapy a trained therapist can work with the patient on specific balance exercises to address this area. Balance exercises can include tandem walking, standing on one leg, or even backwards walking. These things may be very difficult for a patient with balance issues to accomplish on land, but the water provides buoyancy and resistance that make these exercises easier and more effective.
- Manual physical therapy
Pain is one of the most significant symptoms of Fibromyalgia, and can be difficult to treat. Manual physical therapy is a specialized therapeutic intervention that can be effective for pain relief. With manual physical therapy, instead of relying on equipment or devices, the physical therapist uses his or her hands to apply pressure to muscles and soft tissue and to manipulate and stretch muscles and joints. Some people with Fibromyalgia are so sensitive to touch and pressure that manual physical therapy can be painful rather than helpful. However, some of these individuals are better able to tolerate soft tissue work and other aspects of manual physical therapy in the water, where whole body submersion in warm water may help provide a more comfortable environment as well as sensory input that allows the body to process pressure better.