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.
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.