Massage & Fibromyalgia
Massage, properly performed, seems particularly helpful in treating fibromyalgia. Patients consistently report that they find bodywork to be the top therapy for providing short-term relief and long-term improvement.” ~American Massage Therapy Assoc.
 

What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a chronic pain syndrome with a broad range of complex factors, and widely varied experiences among those who have been diagnosed with it. It is estimated that approximately 5 million Americans experience fibromyalgia. Of formally diagnosed cases, about 80% to 90% occur among women.
 
The most common symptoms include: fatigue, pain in the muscles and other soft tissues, and stiffness in the joints. The most severe pain is most often described as affecting many of the specific “tender points” associated with fibromyalgia: the front and back of the neck, just above and inside the shoulder blades, at the inner elbows, just above the inner knees, the outer hips, and the upper buttocks.
 
Other common symptoms include disrupted sleep, anxiety, depression, headaches, in ability to concentrate, soreness in or around the jaw, and gastrointestinal problems. Fibromyalgia can also negatively impact a person’s overall quality of life, as they may find daily tasks painful or impossible.
 
The causes of Fibromyalgia Syndrome are complex and not completely agreed upon, but there may be a number of contributing factors. Though it may occur on its own, the following have been closely linked to FMS:
•      A history of trauma and/or highly stressful events
•      Repetitive use injuries
•      Certain diseases and illnesses (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis) There is also a high degree of overlap with both Myo-Fascial Pain Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Some scientists also believe there may be a genetic component, and those with a family member with FMS may be more likely to have fibromyalgia themselves. The gene may alter the way an individual experiences pain.
 

Treatment
Since fibromyalgia is still not completely understood, it can be difficult to treat. A multi- disciplinary, team approach is beneficial. Your team may include your family, your primary care provider, a massage therapists, physical and occupational therapists, a psychologist or counselor, specialists familiar with FMS (e.g. rheumatologists), or other health care professionals.
 
The following have been shown to be important pieces of a multi-faceted wellness plan:
•      Working closely with your physician
•      Getting regular exercise
•      Eating well
•      Trying to get adequate rest
•      Making changes at work, as needed to reduce stress and fatigue
•      Trying to maintain a positive outlook
•      Receiving regular Massage Therapy!
 
Relaxation exercises, yoga, and Tai Chi have all been shown to have positive outcomes for those with FMS. The primary goal of treating Fibromyalgia Syndrome is relieving pain and other symptoms, and helping you to live fully and function well!
 

Massage Therapy as a Part of Your Regular Self-Care
Massage Therapy has many wonderful health benefits. For those with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, relevant benefits may include:
•      Reduction of stress hormones
•      Less discomfort at tender points
•      Reduction in overall pain
•      Decrease in joint stiffness
•      Decrease in anxiety
•      Decrease in depression
•      Decrease in fatigue
•      Increase in quality and amount of sleep
•      Improve in overall perception of quality of life
 
Having massage therapy one to two times per week, seems to achieve maximum benefit for many people. There are several approaches to massage which may benefit a variety of the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia:
 

Swedish Massage
A great place to start, especially for those who are highly sensitive to touch. A combination of long, flowing strokes, kneading, and gliding along muscles. Pressure can range from very light to very deep, and a light pressure is typically indicated for those with fibromyalgia. (Even those who prefer a deeper pressure massage can experience a flare-up of symptoms afterward, so precaution is advised.)
 

Connective Tissue Massage/Myo-Fascial Release
This type of massage focuses on the fascia (connective tissue) that surrounds muscles. It aims to elongate restricted fascia, improving mobility and decreasing pain. The benefits of this type of therapy seem to come on gradually, within first about the first 15 therapy sessions. Receiving regular fascial therapy has been shown to: reduce sensitivity to pain at tender points, increase circulation, induce muscle relaxation, increase mobility, reduce anxiety, reduce depression, improve sleep quality, decrease use of pain killers, & improve overall quality of life.
 

Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger points are small areas of tightly contracted muscle, which can lead to spasm of a larger muscle area, particularly when we’re under physical or emotional stress. For those with FMS, trigger points often occur at tender points. Releasing the tension at trigger points leads to a reduction in pain, but this type of massage can be very intense. Trigger point release for those with fibromyalgia will begin a gentler pressure, and very slowly build up to tolerance.
 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Fibromyalgia
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is not massage therapy, but is often practiced by massage therapists, and sometimes in conjunction with massage. MLD is a very specific, highly clinical form of body work that aims to aid the body’s lymphatic system. It is slow, rhythmic, and very gentle. Studies have shown that receiving regular MLD may reduce pain, alleviate stiffness, facilitate better sleep, and improve overall health status. Preliminary studies show it to be as effective, or perhaps even more, as massage in alleviating the symptom of FMS.
 
Mind is the most important part of the healing process.
Use massage and other therapies to help develop a healthy life and lifestyle management.
Set a path to be as healthy as you can be, as you go through the stages of your life.”
Dr. Peter Abaci, medical director of the Bay Area Pain and Wellness Center
 
Written by Sarahlynn M Etta
Licensed Massage Therapist
Certified Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist








 
Massage Therapy – Helping You Live Your Healthiest, Fullest Life!
Receiving regular therapeutic massage can have many wonderful benefits for both body and mind. Massage helps to calm the nervous system, support the immune system, and promote healing in the musculoskeletal system. Massage therapy has been shown to improve one’s sense of well being and quality of life, relieve stress, enhance sleep, reduce pain,
increase mobility, enhance athletic performance, alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and much more!
 
Massage and Stress
 
Massage therapy soothes the nervous system, and helps to induce the relaxation response - “a physical state of deep relaxation.” This slows your breath and heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and allows your muscles to relax. It also decreases the production of stress hormones, while increasing the availability of serotonin - a chemical which contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. Research has shown that the relaxation response may also help to reduce pain, improve sleep, decrease fatigue, increase energy, and decrease the physical symptoms associated with stress, such as high blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, trouble sleeping, persistent fatigue, digestive problems, and psychological issues.
 
Immune Support
 
Getting regular massage when we’re healthy may help us stay that way. Massage therapy supports healthy immune function by increasing the body’s white blood cell activity, which helps us fend off illness and disease. Massage can also help keep the lymphatic system healthy, which is closely tied to our immune system. Lymph collects waste and foreign substances throughout the body, routing them to the lymph nodes where they are eliminated, and then eventually excreted. Receiving gentle Lymphatic Drainage massage helps to clear the lymph nodes, and facilitate improved circulation of lymph throughout the body.
 
Massage and Pain
 
Therapeutic Massage is helpful in many acute and chronic pain disorders, including post-operative pain, chronic neck and back pain, fibromyalgia, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and migraine headaches among others. Regular massage has been shown to help with the following:
•      Low Back Pain - reduces pain and the use of pain medication, increases mobility.
•      Fibromyalgia - reduces pain, stiffness, fatigue, and sleeplessness; lowers stress hormone levels; reduces anxiety and depression.
•      Arthritis - reduces pain and stiffness; improves joint function and mobility.
•      Migraines - reduces head and neck pain, decreases use of pain medications, lessens sleep disturbances; increases frequency of headache-free days.
 
Pre-Natal Massage
 
Expectant mothers benefit from massage therapy in a variety of ways. Women receiving regular massage throughout pregnancy have lower levels of stress hormones, less anxiety and depression, and improved mood and sleep. They also experience less leg and back pain. Regular massage therapy is correlated with fewer complications during and after birth, including reduced prematurity rates, reduced need for pain medications, shorter labor times, fewer days in the hospital, and less postpartum depression.

Cancer Support and Recovery
 
Slow, gentle, nurturing massage can help support mind, body, and spirit for those experiencing or recovering from cancer. Massage therapy during this difficult experience has been shown to:
•      improve sleep and lessen fatigue
•      ease some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation
•      support the immune system, including increasing white blood cell production
•      help alleviate the anxiety and depression that often occur
After experiencing the supportive, mindful touch of a communicative massage therapist, people with cancer have reported that they felt more grounded, connected, whole, lovable, mentally calm, physically energized, and reconnected to their bodies.
 
Incorporate massage therapy as part of your regular self-care program, or use it as a way to help you accomplish your health and wellness goals!
 
 
Written by:
Sarahlynn M Etta, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified MLD Therapist
 
 





Sources:
Benefits of Massage
How Does Massage Work?
How Massage Works at Alleviating Your Nervous System
Massage Therapy can be a Valuable Component of a Wellness Program
Massage Therapy Effects
Massage Therapy May Boost Immune System Functioning
Oncology: Bodywork for Cancer Patients
Relaxation Response