To determine whether massage helps reduce fibromyalgia pain or not, first, we have to define what fibromyalgia is. I believe that this “illness”, is misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated more than we realize.
Definition from Wikipedia:
“Fibromyalgia (FM) is a medical condition characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure. Other symptoms include tiredness to a degree that normal activities are affected, sleep problems and troubles with memory.”
In this definition, fibromyalgia is defined as a medical condition. It includes symptoms like widespread pain and heightened pain response to pressure. Fatigue, sleep issues, memory problems, mood swings, depression and emotional distress are also common symptoms for fibromyalgia patients.
Benefits of Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia Patients
Reducing chronic pain and tension — Massage therapy is probably first thought of for it’s effectiveness in reducing chronic muscle tension, aches and pain, thus helping to relieve the “widespread pain”, suffered by fibromyalgia patients. When muscles are overused, underused or constantly in a state of contraction, they will be tense and painful. When they get to this state, it takes manual manipulation by a skilled therapist to release the muscle fibers and remind them how being relaxed feels. This is a huge relief to fibromyalgia sufferers, as they are in a constant state of tension and pain.
Muscle tension is often worse in the neck and shoulder areas for fibromyalgia patients. Most headaches are a result of tension in the neck and shoulders. By releasing the muscles in these areas, the patient is also relieved of frequent headaches.
Increased Circulation -- Massage therapy is one of the best things you can do to increase the circulation of your blood and lymph. This is important because blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your entire body, including muscle fibers. The better our circulation is, the better those nutrients and oxygen can get to where they need to be to help your body. Also, if the muscle fibers are too tight, they won’t be able to accept the blood and oxygen in the first place, so the more supple the muscle fibers, the healthier and stronger they are. The lymph system is the cleaning up system. It is responsible for carrying away waste and toxins. Unlike the blood system, the lymph system has no pump. When you receive a massage, the gliding strokes get the lymph system moving, thus removing toxins and wastes away from the muscles.
Relaxation -- Massage is a very popular choice for achieving deep relaxation, thus slowing the heart rate, reducing stress in the muscles, the mind and spirit. When someone experiences pain on a daily and often hourly, basis, as fibromyalgia sufferers often do, trying to relax can seem an impossible task. Using a massage in this way can have a powerful effect on a client’s overall well being, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Rest and Sleep -- Massage therapy is a great way to relax enough that a good night’s sleep is the norm, rather than the exception. When a person is in pain (a main issue with fibromyalgia patients), REM is difficult to attain. When you don’t have REM, you wake up feeling tired, not rested; feeling anxious, depressed and exhausted. All of these emotions simply add to physical and emotional pain. A good, restful night’s sleep is vital to our health, and especially to a fibromyalgia patient’s daily state of well being.
Depression and/or Anxiety -- Due to the relaxing effects of massage, the increase in circulation, the release of the feel good hormones, endorphins, massage is a powerful tool against depression and anxiety. Regular, relaxing and soothing massage has been shown to help tremendously with depression and anxiety.
What type of massage should fibromyalgia patients ask for?
Since chronic pain, and pain as a result of too much pressure is a major symptom for fibromyalgia patients, your therapist should begin with a very light, Swedish massage. This is a very light, soothing touch and gentle stroking of the muscles, not going deep, as this will typically cause more pain to the client. Tell your therapist if their touch is okay, too deep, or too light. They should listen and respond to your preferences. Other modalities can also be used. There are a variety of energy techniques where the practitioner does not touch the body, or touches it in a very light fashion. The client may even tolerate modalities such as reflexology, trigger point, myofascial release, or others. Most importantly, the therapist and client should be in close contact regarding pressure and pain. As the client becomes accustomed to massage therapy, the sessions should get better, the touch can be a little deeper, as the muscles relax more and more, and the client can have more relief on a daily basis.
Obviously, the pain meds will probably relieve the back pain … temporarily. The problem is … unless the CORE problem that is causing the back pain is RESOLVED, the pain WILL come back. Another trip to the doctor. Another round of Rx, and so on and so on.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) is now recommending more exercise, yoga, and specific modalities of massage, before taking a prescription or medication for acute low-back pain.
The new guidelines are suggesting a variety of ideas and techniques to speed up healing back pain. This includes heat wraps, certain types of massage, acupuncture as well as spinal manipulation. These techniques relax sore, tight muscles, tendons, and joints, which relieve low back pain much sooner than if they don’t try these options.
It's a great thing that our society is beginning to move away from typical and quick fixes like pills … to a more natural approach that involves simple, but very effective, lifestyle changes.
You want to make sure that your massage therapist understands which muscles to target when assessing and treating a client with low back pain. She will need to assess where you back pain is, which movements exacerbate the pain, and how long you've been experiencing it. It’s also important to tell your therapist what you do, how you move, the activities, or non-activities you engage in, for the majority of your day. This plays a big part in why and how your pain is where it is and how it should be treated.
Your therapist should be asking these specific questions before getting started, getting feedback during your treatment, and helping you to understand why she is working in a specific area, especially if it’s an area of your body that is NOT your low back.
The Quadrates Lumborum (QL) muscle (connects the last rib to the pelvis) is at fault for causing severe low back pain. The QL is responsible for stabilizing and aligning the spine.
A tight QL can cause sharp or stabbing pain the lower back.
The QL becomes can be irritated during the activities such as:
As with the QL, this muscles should be massaged and stretched at the same time, in order to provide the most long term relief.
By treating these two muscles in this way and by spending a significant amount of time just on them in one session, the QL and the gluteus medius will release and give the client tremendous relief long term, perhaps for good.
Exercise to strengthen deep back muscles and abdominal muscles are critical to reinforcing support of the spine and preventing further pain and injury to the low back. As we age, these muscles atrophy, so it’s very important to use and strengthen them regularly.
Which comes first? The anxiety or the chronically tight muscles and pain? It’s a vicious cycle.
What is anxiety?
The dictionary definition from the internet is:
Massage has, for many years, been thought of as a luxury, but society has changed those ideas over the past few years. Many people are using massage therapy as a part of their healthy lifestyle.
In the case of anxiety, massage therapy has been proven to help in tremendous ways. There have been many studies done that have proven that a variety of therapeutic massage does calm anxious clients. Trained professional massage therapists promote relaxation and soothe their clients. Massage can also alleviate pain and muscle tension, which is just one of the physical symptoms of anxiety in many people.
Massage also improves blood, lymph and oxygen flow, which cleanses the blood and the body of impurities, toxins and waste. Anytime you can cleanse those impurities out of your body, you will feel better. Massage definitely addresses headaches, irritability, and fatigue.
You should feel very calm and relaxed within just the first few minutes in the massage room, if your therapist has set it up correctly. The feeling of calm and relax should go with you and last for as long as you allow it. If you get right back into the stress of your life, it may not last as long as you want it to.
Every time you come for a massage, however, you will get better and better at remembering to relax and be calm. Your muscles will remember to relax and let go. The therapist’s job is to create a healing environment, that will last long after you leave the studio. They should also be very good at releasing the muscle tissue in a firm but gentle way, so that you can be relaxed during the massage as well as for days afterward. Each massage is cumulative, and will result in your muscles being released deeper and deeper, which correlates into the muscles staying relaxed for longer periods of time.
Although we cannot eliminate all stress or anxiety in our lives, we can combat it with a variety of lifestyle choices. Whether we choose to exercise, read, visit with friends or family, play a musical instrument, cook, be creative, hike, get a massage, or any other number of things, we can create a more calming and relaxing lifestyle. At least enough that we can deal with the stress and anxiety that everyday life throws at us.
Some studies have shown that massage can lower cortisol, which is a stress hormone, which then increases serotonin, the feel good and anti-pain one. This obviously can and does help increase feelings of self worth and self image, while decreasing feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
There have been numerous studies done on the effects of massage therapy for a variety of symptoms and issues that we face each and every day of our lives. From mental, emotional, to physical and medical. It’s worth looking into and even trying to see if it is a viable option for your life, your situation, your health and happiness.
Make sure that you find a reputable, experienced, thoughtful and kind therapist who is there to help YOU with whatever you need. Each massage should be customized to the client and if you feel like you’re getting one that’s just on a conveyor belt, go somewhere else.
Have fun and enjoy your massage!
Can a massage therapy appointment boost immunity? Clinical studies say that it can.
Though massage has previously been viewed as a luxury, massage is fast becoming part of living a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. We use our bodies every day, putting stress on the muscles, our psyche, emotions, heart and other vital organs. (See my previous blog about Massage and Stress). So we know that massage helps relax stressed out muscles, psyche and emotions, but how does it boost the immune system?
Some studies report that massage has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, (a stress hormone), and vasopressin (a possible aggressive hormone). Since massage improves blood and lymph flow, massage is beneficial to the entire body, including the immune system.
Some of the benefits of increased blood/lymph flow are:
In addition to alleviating stress, which can cause more sickness than in people who have less stress, regular massage can increase the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity (the body’s “killer cells”), and decrease T-cells. This improves immune functioning throughout the body.
Benefits of Strengthening the Immune System
In a study by Gail Ironson, M.D., a group of HIV positive men were given 45 minute massages for five days a week, over the course of a month. This study showed an increase in their serotonin levels, as well as an increase in certain cells are the first line of defense for their immune system.
How DOES Massage
Help the Immune System?
Well, since our immune systems are compromised when our emotions are high, whether elated or angry, it stands to reason that a massage that calms, relaxes and soothes would in turn, positively affect our immune system, by strengthening it.
The Touch Research Institute, at the University of Miami, did a study on women with breast cancer. After 5 weeks of massage therapy being performed 3x/week, 80% of these women showed improved immune function! This is great news!
It is so much better to prevent illness than to fix it. Just like your car. We drive our car every day. If we don’t want it to stop working in the middle of a long road trip, or on the way to work or home, we make sure it has oil, gas, tune ups, etc. Otherwise, the cost and inconvenience will be much higher. Being late to or missing work completely, calling a tow truck, having emergency fixes done to the car (they always cost more).
We have an inborn ability to heal ourselves (our body). The immune system is the body’s first and natural defense against illness and disease. So, like our cars, it’s so important to address and maintain it. When we choose to take care of our body, then our body will more effectively take care of us.
Thomas Edison once said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
It’t time to schedule your massage today, and make sure you rebook regularly!
Have a great day!
Did you know that STRESS is not ALL bad? We often refer to stress as a very negative emotion that we have to deal with. Sometimes stress is positive stress.
Imagine you're a caveman (or woman), and a saber-tooth tiger is running toward your camp. What would you do? Get up, grab your small children, run to the nearest tree and climb as fast as you can? Good choice. That reaction, fear, jumping up, snatching up a small child, running, climbing a tree, is STRESS. Stress is a a good thing in this situation since it got you away from becoming dinner for that tiger. You survived!
When you're playing a sport, exercising or moving . . . that is creating stress on your body, your mind and even your psyche. If our muscles experienced no stress, they wouldn't be toned and strong. When working out or moving regularly, our muscles NEED to experience stress in order for them to get stronger. The whole "Opposition in all things" concept. Notice the tight rope walker to the left. If the ROPE didn't have STRESS, where would she BE?
College courses can be stressful, but learning is good. Driving is stressful, but we like to get where we want to go quickly. Making dinner can be stressful, but we need to eat. Many things contribute stress to our bodies/minds.
So then why do we have this negative connotation associated with the word "STRESS"?
When stress becomes the rule, rather than the exception, or when we allow stress to affect our daily lives more than we bring in experiences to create calm and relaxation, it becomes a problem.
Stress is different for everyone. Perhaps you're one of those people who do not have a stressful reaction to the things mentioned above. Maybe something else causes stress in your life. Regardless, too much stress, good or bad, can and will affect our bodies/minds in a negative way.
We are all familiar with the body's "fight-or-flight" response, which is simply a chemical reaction in our body to a stressful situation. Your heart will beat faster, breathing increases, you can perspire, tense up and have much more energy. All of these reactions prepare us for that “fight-or-flight". Negative feelings/thoughts create some of these symptoms for us. Being angry, scared, worried, or frustrated are not good for us (and really don't accomplish anything). Obviously, things that happen in life that we cannot control. Death of a loved one, illness, disease, loss of a job, financial difficulties, working too much/hard, bullying, accidents, etc.
If you have a hard time resolving these issues, or living with any kind of negative situation in your life, it can cause a long term issue with stress. And stress will affect you, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well.
There are as many answers to this question as there are people in the world. Not every thing works for every person. For some, travel is relaxing. For others, traveling is one of the most stressful things they could do. Anything I could list here, meditation, reading, listening to music, exercise, sleep, taking to someone, crafting, could be either stressful or stress relieving to anyone.
Relieving stress is considered one of the most popular reasons to get a massage. How does this happen?
Research has shown that a massage can lower heart rate and blood pressure, relieve anxiety, relax your muscles, increase circulation, increase the production of endorphins (feel good hormone), and release serotonin and dopamine. All of this leads to a feeling of relaxation and calm that really helps overcome and deal with the stress that you have experienced. Even a single session has been cited as a significant benefit to all of the above.
Many people still think of massage therapy as a luxury. These ideas and misconceptions have changed dramatically in recent years. Regular massage therapy is an important part of personal health care.
We take good care of our cars. We make sure they are filled with gas and oil. We get new tires and oil changes regularly. We wash and vacuum them. All this to keep them running smoothly and performing well for us when we want to go somewhere.
Most of us are also conscious of our health, we watch what we eat, how much water we drink, how much sleep we get, and we exercise.
How many of us make sure that we have down time? Deep relaxation time? Time just to let go and have someone remind our muscles, that have been working so hard for us, to relax when we are trying to relax.
Your body will thank you.
Massage affects many aspects of our health. Whether you decide to define each one, or just enjoy how you feel when you get one, is entirely up to you.
For those of you who like research, here is some information about specific benefits to your body.
Relaxation Response. We all know that massage helps with relaxation, but how does that appear in the body? Obviously, muscles relax, breathing and heart rate slow down, and stress decreases. This can manifest is so many ways, including heart health, hormone balance, improved sleep and energy.
Mechanical Response can be defined as very specific physical reactions by your body to the touch and flow of massage. I.e., blood and lymph flow are improved, nerves and connective tissues are released, allowing the body to function more efficiently and with less effort.
When muscles contract, often they pinch on nerves, causing pain and discomfort. When the muscles are released, they allow the nerves to operate properly, sending signals to and from the brain, and improving organ and muscle function.
Releasing superficial layers of muscles have a benefit all on their own, but as the therapist releases deeper layers, not only does the body achieve better alignment and balance, but the muscles are able to stay relaxed for a longer period of time.
There is a lot of knee pain out there. And even more loss of range of motion (ROM) in the knees. There IS hope, however, in massage. Knee pain is simply a manifestation of dysfunctional posture, coming from the hips (pelvis), which is also known as the core of your body. When the hips are tipped forward, back, or twisted, it has a direct impact on your knees. As the femur comes from the hip to connect to the knee joint, if it's coming at the correct angle, no problem. But from a tipped pelvis, the femur is then coming toward the knee joint at a posturally incorrect angle. This causes the bones in the knee joint to be crooked, causing wear and tear on the cartilage. Which, as many people know, wears away until the knee is bone on bone and hurts like the devil. That is usually when knee replacements happen.
The goal then, is to get the skeleton back into correct postural alignment. Some people upon hearing the word posture, thinks, "I've got to go to the chiropractor!" That's another blog for another day, but suffice it to say here that bones only do what muscles tell them to do and that the reason your pelvis is tipped or crooked, unless you've been involved in a major accident, is on account of muscles that have become chronically tight and contracted, pulling the pelvis one way or another.
The article that I'm adding here is about knees, not the pelvis. However, as you will see when you read it, the knee joints is positively affected by working which muscles? Oh yeah, the quadriceps and hamstrings. Those muscles attach to what? The Pelvis? And if the pelvis is tipped, it negatively affects those large leg muscles which pull on the knee and voila, there you have it! Pain and ROM issues. So, in the study, when the therapists released the quadriceps and hamstrings, the pain in the knees was relieved.
It's also good to note that not a lot of pressure or pain was applied to the area to get the relief the client needed. Another one of those mis-understandings that clients have when they come to me. Many think that "no pain, no gain", when the opposite is quite true. The more pain during a massage, the less effective it will be. Click here for the article on massage and knee pain.
I just read an article about neck pain, lack of range of motion and massage. It was very interesting and you can read the entire article here.
The study was based on clients with chronic neck pain. They were trying to determine how many/often massages it would take to relieve the pain. The studies that were conducted included shorter massages (30 min) and a typical 60 min massage.
The conclusion was, that longer massages, more frequently, were more beneficial to long term relief, than shorter, more frequent massage.
Of course, time and money are typically an issue for a lot of people. So, sometimes having 60 min massages 3x's / week is not feasible.
What I advise my clients is this: The massages I give are cumulative. And you can heal. If my clients come in more often at the beginning of their treatment, soon they won't have to come in as often, because the muscles will stay relaxed for longer periods of time after each massage. Thus, fixing the problem of time and money, because as you continue your treatment, your sessions will become further apart.
The method of massage I use is to release muscle fibers layer by layer, rather than going in deep all at once. What this does, is to allow the muscle to relax slowly and completely, without pain. Unlike deep tissue, which typically results in bruised muscle and an unpleasant, painful experience on the table.
As the deeper layers of muscle release, it will take longer for that muscle to tighten to that point again. Thus, the longer periods of time between massages.
I've seen it work time after time. It's amazing, really, how effective it is.
Joints and muscles get stiff and sore when it's cold outside. They get stiff and sore when we are sedentary. It's easy to become sedentary when it's so cold and miserable outside.
Not only will massage get your blood moving and warm up your muscles from the inside out, but at my clinic you will lay on a heated table that will warm you from the outside in.
So in addition to helping with all the other malady's you've heard about, headaches, joint pain, anxiety, anxiety, general malaise, massage is also great for warming you up!! And warming up those muscles will ease the aches and pains in them.
You're probably STILL doing too much. After the holidays, it's time to clean up. And, if you live where there is snow (as I do), then there's the shoveling and moving of all that heavy white stuff, sprinkling the salt or snow melt. And even possibly, slipping on the stuff, which causes those tight muscles yet again!
Getting a massage is more than just a luxury. It's keeping up with the tension and stress we all deal with.
You've had a great massage and feel amazing! You leave the office, get in your car, and go back to your day. Then you think . . . I want to feel this way all the time! What can I do to keep myself from getting back to where I was before the massage?Good question. If you neglected to ask your practitioner what you can do, first of all, schedule another massage! Regular massage is like going to the dentist. Or getting tires rotated on your car. These are maintenance activities we do without blinking an eye. So, we eat every day, brush our teeth every day and go to the dentist regularly to keep our teeth clean from eating all the time. We use our muscles every day, sometimes to excess, or we don't use them enough. (Sedentary people sometimes have more problems than active ones with tight, sore, muscles. Topic for future blog post.)
Drink water. You do not need to drink an excessive amount. Just drink some. It will hydrate you and you will feel better.
Notice how your body feels after your massage and for a couple days afterward. Notice when it starts to tighten up again. Pay attention to what you are doing that causes it to do that. The sooner you get another massage after you feel it tightening up, the more healing can take place. When you get those muscles to relax more often, they will then stay relaxed for longer periods of time between massages. Maybe after your first massage your body starts to tighten up in two days. After your second massage, it might take a week before it starts to get tight. After the third one, perhaps you can go two weeks, and so on. Your muscles have memory and they will remember the relaxed feeling and reward you with longer periods of feeling good. Just be sure to keep a regular schedule, and listen to your body to keep up on it.
Now is a good time to start a better eating program and move your body a little more. Don't go all out if you haven't exercised before. Just started moving around, go for a walk three times a week. Your body will respond well to movement.
We pride ourselves on our knowledge and expertise to achieve immediate and longer lasting results than a typical Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage but with little to no pain during your session. Your experience will be as enjoyable as a relaxing massage with deep tissue results.
M-F: 9 am - 9 pm
Sat: 9 am - 6 pm
(and by appointment)