Massage can be a wonderfully supportive treatment for fibromyalgia. I have treated dozens of clients suffering from this debilitating condition.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FMS) is a chronic pain syndrome that include sleep disorders and the development of a predictable pattern of tender points in muscles and other soft tissues. FMS also frequently presents with chronic fatigue syndrome, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic conditions.
FMS affects around 3% of the US population, with nearly 90% of those cases being diagnosed in women.
Men are generally less likely to seek medical help for these symptoms, so the link between gender and the disease can not be definitively stated.
FMS is seen in all ages and economic groups, but it does tend to be diagnosed more often in older patients.
Signs & Symptoms
- Insomnia – A disruption in the production of the hormone serotonin not only causes sleep disruption, but also causes minor aches and pains to hurt more.
- Pain – Some patients experience extreme pain that entirely disrupts their life. The pain often feels muscular, but may not actually be generated within muscle structures. Researchers have discovered that the pain may be the result of overactive nerves.
- Fatigue – Poor sleep can cause excessive tiredness, but some research suggests that FMS leads to problems with cellular energy production which can result in inefficient muscle contractions and extreme fatigue.
- Point Tenderness – Fibromyalgia patients eventually develop tender points especially focused around the low back, neck, and shoulders.
There is no definitive test a medical doctor can use to diagnose fibromyalgia. FMS is a “disease of exclusion,” meaning that all other possible diseases with similar signs and symptoms are ruled out leaving no other possibility.
Some of the signs and symptoms that can lead to a medical diagnosis of FMS include:
- Lack of stamina and vigor.
- Low pain tolerance.
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and especially cold, texture, and pressure.
- Widespread, shifting pain, often described as a deep ache or tingling and burning.
- Tender points in a known predictable pattern.
Can Massage Help with Fibromyalgia?
YES, with some caution. It is very easy to over-treat a client suffering from FMS. Because the condition causes hypersensitivity, great care must be taken to use gentle slow techniques that do not cause point-tender pain.