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Research: Massage Effective against Fibromyalgia

The Pains of FybromyalgiaOften the process of getting a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is a long hard road.  Many times these patients have endured numerous tests, referrals, dismissals, and in some cases told it is “all in their head”.  After diagnosis, each fibromyalgia patient must work with their unique list of symptoms and create their personal management program. Fibromyalgia syndrome affects the muscles and soft tissue. Symptoms include chronic pain in the muscles, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points or trigger points at certain parts of the body. Fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms can be relieved through medications, lifestyle changes, stress management, and other fibromyalgia treatments such as epsom salt baths and of course, therapeutic massage.
In conjunction with medications, regular exercise and stress reduction are suggested.  All those things are easy enough said but difficult to implement when the patient’s activity amplifies their symptoms.  It is very difficult to determine what type of and how much exercise their body can tolerate without overdoing.  All activity must be approached in levels of intensity while managing symptoms.  Persistence and patience are personal qualities a fibromyalgia patient must call on to get through this trying time.

Research shows massage therapy is an effective treatment to help fibromyalgia patients manage their symptoms. An experienced massage therapist should start with light to medium pressure at only 30 minute sessions. In most cases the patient finds they can gradually tolerate increased pressure and longer session times.  Bi-weekly massages, combined with an exercise program are often the best management steps for fibromyalgia patients.   Massage on the neck, shoulders, and upper back for thirty minutes twice weekly for one month showed a dramatic reduction in tension headaches.  In addition, massage therapy has proven to be the most effective treatment for fibromyalgia patients experiencing low back pain.

Fybromyalgia Stress PointsThe physiological changes induced by massage therapy are believed to be of great benefit for reducing fibromyalgia symptoms.  Increased circulation and the release of pain killers such as serotonin, and

norepinephrine aids in improved muscle function.  Massage has proven to improve sleep quality by lowering stress levels. Considering the benefits previously mentioned, we believe fibromyalgia patients who receive regularly scheduled massages experience higher levels of energy and improved range of motion in joints. Moreover, a tendency to feel depressed is lessened for some patients when massage is a routine part of their healthcare.

A few years back my mother referred a fibromyalgia patient to my office.  Through years of friendship and working together, mother saw her friend become more frustrated with no relief for her chronic soreness and pain.  At her initial visit she was experiencing severe neck, shoulder and back pain.  She had been battling overall joint pain, fatigue, and sleeplessness.  Not to mention she was the primary caregiver of a teenage granddaughter as well as a sickly mother.  Obviously, her stress level was off the chart! When I asked what she would like to get out of the treatments, I received a shocking response-she just wanted to regain the ability to reach behind her back and hook/unhook her bra.  I am proud to say we made that happen in a month of bi-weekly half hour sessions.  During this time she was able to increase her daily exercise time from 15 minutes to an hour of walking.  The benefits of massage therapy were verified through my experience with this fibromyalgia patient.

by Deborah Capotosti

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