A survey of over one thousand fibromyalgia (FM) patients revealed that regardless of age, gender, or duration of symptoms, people coping with this painful and fatiguing condition prefer massage therapy over other non-drug therapies (Fibromyalgia Network Journal July 2004)
“Fibromyalgia syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that include chronic pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues. It is one of a collection of chronic disorders that often go hand in hand. Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is frequently seen with chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, sleep disorders and several other chronic conditions.”
While Fibromyalgia is seen to be a relatively new condition, at this point we do have sufficient information to discuss its treatment with massage therapy. In 2000 the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) stated: "Fibromyalgia is another pain condition frequently seen by health care providers, and one in which there often is no universally effective treatment. Studies have found that up to 91 percent of people with fibromyalgia use some form of CAM, and up to 75 percent use massage therapy."
What are the results that patients with Fibromyalgia are receiving with massage?
Massage truly is an antidote to the feeling of being a cog in the medical machine. Patients, caregivers, health care workers and others under unremitting daily stress find massage is an oasis of peace in a frantic world.
What type of massage is recommended for Fibromyalgia?
Studies have shown that gentle massage (which does not cause pain) brings the greatest symptom relief over time. Intensity can be increased over time, if desired by the client, however maintaining a pain-free session appears to be important.
One thing that we have noticed at Alchemy with our clients with Fibromyalgia is that their symptoms, pain levels, and responses are quite variable, so there is no “one size fits all” protocol from person to person or even from session to session.
We use a foundation of classic Swedish massage, with added techniques from Lymph Drainage Therapy, Hot Stone Massage and Myofascial Release. Energy techniques such as Reiki can be very helpful during a painful flare-up.
How Often Is Massage Recommended?
Many report that a higher frequency of massage does help in reducing the symptoms more quickly, so weekly or even twice a week is somewhere to start. That said, at Alchemy, we are always looking to move our clients to a place of maintenance, out of a more acute situation. So we will be looking for what a good schedule is for your body. For some, it is weekly, for others massage less frequently still provides major benefits.
Owner Amelia Mitchell, is the primary author on our blog. She is a is a nationally certified and state licensed massage therapist with additional certifications in Lymphedema treatment, Fertility and PreNatal massage.