Fibromyalgia is a subject I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time. I have been in the personal training realm for almost fourteen years now and have come across and worked with several cases dealing with Fibromyalgia of individuals seeking answers for questions that still arise in the medical field. Does a cure exist for Fibromyalgia? No cure has been developed yet for this unique condition, but the medical realm has made some advancements in testing for this condition. Now I’m not a doctor and I’m not looking to get into the finding the cure but as a personal trainer I come across many individuals diagnosed with this and I have a heart to help anyway I can. So what do I look for as a trainer when I come across an individual diagnosed with Fibro?
The first thing I try to establish as a personal trainer is a level of comfortability in our studio. In most cases, individuals have a high level of stress and nervousness when they enter into a new environment, especially when it’s an appointment dealing with their body. Usually with Fibromyalgia clients they are so use to limiting themselves in breathing, movement, and everyday normal life activities because everything causes pain. They live in a little box shielded from true fulfillment of living without boundaries. I have even dealt with clients who have been bed ridden and locked themselves in their house. One thing that I have really established for myself being in this field for so long is being relaxed and confident inmy abilities. Over the years I have really established my best knowledge by working in the trenches with various individuals because each person comes into the studio with a unique case. Clients with Fibro never feel the same each day they come in. It changes often. I look for physical signs. How they move, what is the expression on their face when they move, how they are breathing, and how they are holding their posture. I talk with my clients. I ask them how they feel, what they did today physically, what point in their body hurts the most, did you eat, and did you get much sleep the night before. Communication and collecting data from your client is very important. That will help you to determine on what they can handle program wise for that particular day. Communication also helps your client understand that you actually care. So what are somethings I implement with clients who have Fibro?
I want my clients to move well and if pain limits that then we have a problem within the structure. I have had clients that keep themselves very immobile for long periods of time because they don’t want to feel pain. They keep their movements very limited and do the bare minimal. As a trainer, I strive to unlock people’s true potentials and find ways of helping them move better which in turn allows them to move often. I’m a big fan of the FMS, Functional Movement Screen, because it is a baseline protocol for trainers to use to pinpoint structural asymmetries to reduce injuries and increase functional performance. This allows to see what or even where the root of the problem is originating from. My clients just want to be able to move again without paying the price later. I’m a big proponent to corrective exercising and myofascial release. Clients who come in with trigger points flare ups usually come in with great pain. Think about when you are in a stressful situation, what usually happens? You tense up and body becomes very contracted and you go into panic breathing, short breaths into your chest. It is called the fight or flight reaction. My clients come in very tense with pain and have a hard time breathing. This is a great time to reconnect them with there normal breathing patterns again. Teaching them how to breath into the belly and not into the chest gives them a sense of reconnecting with the body again and initiating a level of calmness. Once we have normal breathing established again, then we can finally address some of the hot spots with myofascial release using tennis ball or a softer ball. I always allow the client to control the rolling and the amount of pressure. This establish a safe zone for them and makes them feel more comfortable. I also try to keep clients breathing properly through this whole process because this is important for the release of binded fascia. If these areas are not addressed and released, fascia tends to bind even tighter and affects anything above and or below the affected area and more issues arise in the future. Proper coaching is important in this drill because your clients have no inclination of whether this will be beneficial for them or not. This is a true story. I had a brand new person come in for a first session walking with a cane and very hesitant in my process. I took her through my normal set up to establish a starting point and to see what we needed to really focus on. I had her talk to me for a good amount of time and you could definitely tell she was nervous. She had short shallow breaths. First thing I wanted to do was to get her her calm. So I worked on her breathing pattern and getting that normalized. She didn’t want me to touch her so when we went into the myofascial release, what I did was demo for her on how I wanted her to roll with the tennis ball on her hot spots and she followed. She went from being very panicked in the beginning to be relaxed at the end. She came in for another session and we worked on a little more compared to the first session and she even allowed me to touch and stretch a few key spots. After those few sessions, she stood up straighter moved a lot better. She went from being very sedentary to going back to work and joining up at a gym and working out on her own. She is moving better and moving more! Once that is established you can get more into stability, balance, and strength.
Taking subtle steps doesn’t mean you are being inefficient and just means you are taking a smarter approach to creating a stronger foundation. This is what I believe in when I work with individuals with Fibro. I’m not saying this is the how to guide to implement with Fibro clients but what I am saying is this is what works best for individuals I come across. Everyone is definitely unique so each case might be addressed a little bit differently. Proper program planning is very important for the success of achieving specific goals.