Fibromyalgia

woman with fibromyalgia having massage therapy

Fibromyalgia

What is fibromyalgia?

The name fibromyalgia literally translates to mean pain in the muscle fibres.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

It is diagnosed by pressing on specific points in your muscles. Having a certain number (11) of tender points on pressure out of a total of 18 points at various places on your body is indicative of fibromyalgia.  The points are located at the back of your head, the tops of your shoulders, in the upper chest, in the hips, knees and outer elbows.  The diagnosis may be made if you have had widespread pain lasting more than 3 months in the soft tissues of your body, such as your muscles.

What causes it?

This is an excellent question and one for which there isn’t a definitive answer. Anything that promotes inflammation in your body could cause muscle pain. This may include food allergies, HPA axis dysfunction, stress, dysfunction of the mitochondria, viral or bacterial infections and trauma.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The main symptom is pain in the muscles or soft tissues. Because of the muscle pain, people who suffer from this disease may also have difficulty sleeping, which then leads to fatigue.

How can massage therapy help it?

Getting better circulation through muscles can help nourish muscles, remove inflammatory cytokines and help relieve muscle tension. Inducing the “rest, digest and relax” portion of the nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, through regular massage therapy may also help.

From our RMT: The treatment approach depends on the individual case. I’ve helped serious cases where only very, very light touch could be handled and some where very deep pressure was preferred. Usually, the extremes are preferred but either may help for pain management and relaxation.

What Does the Research Say about Massage Therapy for This Condition?

  • Most styles of massage therapy consistently improved the quality of life of fibromyalgia patients.(Yuan, SL et al, 2015)
  • Massage therapy with duration ≥ 5 weeks had beneficial immediate effects on improving pain, anxiety, and depression in patients with fibromyalgia.(Li, YH et al, 2014)

Research on Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Man Ther. 2015 Apr;20(2):257-64. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2014.09.003. Epub 2014 Oct 5.
Effectiveness of different styles of massage therapy in fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Yuan SL1, Matsutani LA2, Marques AP2.

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 20;9(2):e89304. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089304. eCollection 2014.
Massage therapy for fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Li YH1, Wang FY1, Feng CQ1, Yang XF1, Sun YH1.

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