Massage for Fibromyalgia
By Lubna Sheikh on 10th November 2019
Fibromyalgia is one of those diseases that modern medicine cannot cure and cannot even understand.
Table of Contents
- 1. How massage treats Fibromyalgia
- 2. Risk factors for Fibromyalgia
- 3. The severity of Fibromyalgia
- 4. Does Fibromyalgia kill?
- 5. Massage and other treatments
- 6. How massage helps
- 7. Fibromyalgia & hypersensitivity?
- 8. Specialist therapist training
- 9. Different types of massage
- 10. What to know before your massage
- 11. Drugs to treat Fibromyalgia
- 12. References
One can live with the disease, but not cure it.
Fibromyalgia reduces the quality of a person’s life, and it is difficult not to have one’s happiness destroyed by the disease.
One who knows little about Fibromyalgia might think it is rare, but the condition affects more than four million Americans .
Since it affects about 2% of the population, many people know more than one person who has Fibromyalgia.
The disease is not a death sentence, but it can ruin lives. It is a disease of chronic pain.
Those who experience Fibromyalgia will experience pain and stiffness all over their bodies due to the blood flow in the musculoskeletal system working incorrectly.
Chronic pain often leads to depression and anxiety, as well. The disease has a large number of different effects on the body and mind. Sleep problems are commonplace, which, if severe enough, are not much better than chronic pain and stiffness.
The disease is also capable of reducing a person’s mental abilities and not only their mental health and happiness. The concentration, memory, and mental acuity of a person with this disease will gradually deteriorate.
Painful headaches are also frequent with this disease, and chronic physical and emotional pain leads to chronic fatigue and tiredness.
As dangerous as the disease is, it does not wholly condemn a person to misery. Some people manage to live with it better than others.
The condition is poorly understood, but certainly has something to do with serotonin, a chemical that affects a person’s happiness and well being.
Since Fibromyalgia significantly decreases serotonin – more of a chemical of well being than a chemical of pleasure – one can effectively treat the disease by doing things that raise serotonin.
Raising serotonin will not cure the disease, but it will weaken it and make one able to live relatively well in spite of it.
How massage can treat Fibromyalgia
Since the disease is poorly understood, the exact mechanism by which massage treats the condition is not well understood. Massage does not always work, but it often works very well and makes a significant difference to the lives of people who suffer from this disease.
Since Fibromyalgia results in chronically high levels of stress hormones and chronically low levels of hormones that deal with relaxation and happiness, massage therapy can treat the disease.
Undoubtedly, massage is enough to raise serotonin and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. A person can often get quality sleep after a massage in spite of frequent insomnia associated with the disease.
After getting a good night’s sleep, the body can repair itself as opposed to weakening further. The physical symptoms of the disease appear to cause the mental symptoms of the disease, and the reverse may be true as well.
Not only does musculoskeletal pain cause poor sleep, but poor sleep prevents the body from being able to repair itself, which damages the body further. It is possible to (at least partly) reverse this damage through massage because proper sleep allows the body to heal.
Different types of massage can work better for various conditions.
A massage that is intended to treat Fibromyalgia should combine kneading and pressure with heat, which works very well to treat the disease.
These massage techniques do not only increase mood but also loosen muscles that become tight as the condition damages the body.
With looser muscles, a person can return to physical tasks that they had temporarily lost the ability to do.
Being able to take on more physical tasks and get more exercise is also suitable for a person’s mood, which prevents the disease from doing further damage.
Massage for Fibromyalgia should be doctor approved and gentle; this is because more vigorous massage can be harmful to the delicate muscles of a person who has Fibromyalgia.
Not everyone who has Fibromyalgia can afford regular in-person massages. Massage chairs are more effective than one might think.
Massage chairs are not as effective as massages by another person, but artificial massages have been proven to have benefits.
A person with Fibromyalgia might purchase a massage chair and frequently use it without having to leave their home.
Since people with Fibromyalgia should receive massages regularly, they might both have a massage chair and receive in-person massages.
What are the risk factors for Fibromyalgia?
What causes Fibromyalgia is still mostly a medical mystery.
For such a severe and widespread disease, not much is known about it.
Fibromyalgia can affect people of all ages, but it is more likely to strike in middle age than in youth or old age. Women are twice as likely to suffer from the disease as men are.
Injuries may sometimes lead to the disease, especially repetitive stress injuries.
The condition may be associated with excessive stress (those who have post-traumatic stress disorder may end up with Fibromyalgia) and with inflammatory diseases (arthritis is another factor). Repeated exposure to viral infections makes the disease more likely.
Women are more likely to get the disease than men, although about a third of the disease’s victims are men. Probably genetics affects the risk of the disease because it runs in families. Avoiding becoming obese is one way to reduce one’s risk of the disease.
However, the disease strikes people of all ages, sexes, and health conditions. It is not comparable to lung cancer or any other disease that is usually caused by a single avoidable factor.
How severe is the disease?
A person with the disease is three times more likely to suffer from major depression than a person without it .
The condition is also severe enough to increase a person’s odds of suicide significantly.
Many people who have the disease for a long time do not want to be alive any more.
The combination of mental and physical pain becomes too much to tolerate over time, and sometimes a person will not want to be alive anymore.
The disease also causes a higher chance of death due to injuries and accidents. Frequent hospitalizations are common in those with Fibromyalgia.
Does Fibromyalgia kill many people?
One of the better things about the disease is that it does not significantly increase the death rate among those who suffer from it and may not even increase the death rate at all .
The low death rate may mean little to a person who still has their life ruined by the disease.
However, if one manages to have a reasonably good quality of life in spite of their condition, they can realistically outlive most of the rest of the population.
It is better to have a chronic disease that one may be able to live with than an illness that is likely to kill.
Should massage therapy be used in addition to other treatments?
Yes, multiple approaches are the best way to fight the disease. Since the condition is not well understood, there is no single treatment.
A variety of different drugs can help the situation, and these are often combined with therapies such as acupuncture and yoga.
Anything that a person might do to reduce stress and to sleep better can also help to treat the condition.
How much does massage help the disease?
Massage can help the disorder in ways that go beyond improving a person’s mood or helping the body heal by assisting them to sleep better.
Massage increases blood circulation, which is damaged by the physical effects of Fibromyalgia.
Therefore, massage is particularly well suited to the disease. Massage is more likely to help those who suffer from
Fibromyalgia than those who suffer from other chronic pain disorders. Those who have Fibromyalgia also end up with a buildup of toxins in the muscles, which massage can help clear.
Ordinary stretching can also help those who have Fibromyalgia for similar reasons. Swedish massage is one of the best types, as is sports massage. Massages that are not gentle can do more harm than good.
Does Fibromyalgia cause hypersensitivity?
Yes, Fibromyalgia makes it difficult for a person to tolerate many different types of stimulation.
They might become hypersensitive to heat and cold, or become hypersensitive to light instead.
They may find many kinds of touch and pressure to be painful or uncomfortable.
This hypersensitivity suggests that Fibromyalgia may be a disorder of the nervous system instead of a disorder of the muscles.
While pain is present primarily in the muscles, the disease might involve the central nervous system overreacting to all sorts of stimuli.
Should massage therapists be specially trained for those who have Fibromyalgia?
A massage therapist doesn’t need to possess any specific training, but they should be aware that a person who has Fibromyalgia needs special and not general treatment.
There is no exact list of massage techniques that benefit those with Fibromyalgia.
For this reason, a massage therapist can usually succeed in creating an effective massage by merely talking to their patients.
They do not need specialized training because different techniques work for different people.
One thing that those who have Fibromyalgia have in common is that they prefer gentle massage. Deep tissue massage is not recommended for Fibromyalgia. The right amount of pressure is crucial. One must determine the right amount of pressure with each patient.
An excessively careful massage is ineffective even if a more vigorous massage can hurt a patient.
Communication must be very clear. The depth of pressure used on an ordinary patient is likely to be too much for one with Fibromyalgia.
One must start with a low level of strength and carefully increase it if the patient believes that a deeper massage would be ideal.
Even the mood that the room evokes can affect whether or not a person with Fibromyalgia benefits from the massage.
The room should be dimly rather than brightly lit, and there should be relaxing music playing in the background. Remember that their disease makes little things challenging to tolerate.
Even a brightly lit room can make a person with Fibromyalgia uncomfortable. They are suffering from a disease with no cure, and which doctors have relatively little scientific understanding.
What are the different types of massage used to treat Fibromyalgia?
While a good Fibromyalgia massage is created over time with the help of a regular patient, many massages and techniques provide good starting points for the treatment of the disease.
1. Sports massage
This is one of the best starting points as long as the massage is done gently, especially gently before one knows how much pressure a patient can tolerate.
This type of massage is excellent for stress and muscle tension, which is what a person who has Fibromyalgia needs to recover.
An athlete puts their muscles under strain during heavy exercise, a person with Fibromyalgia ends up with strained muscles as a result of their condition.
Sports massage can also lower the heart rate, which is necessary for helping a patient sleep.
The lymph nodes are also affected by sports massage, which can help a patient recover from the buildup of toxins in the body.
Flexibility can be improved by sports massage as well, helping the patient recover lost physical abilities.
2. Hot stone massage
Heat is beneficial in the treatment of Fibromyalgia, perhaps more so than any other technique.
Stones are heated and then placed on the patient’s body, where the therapist moves them around as a massage technique.
The method is only useful if the patient is not hypersensitive to heat. Some patients are hypersensitive to heat and cold, and in these cases, a hot stone treatment should not be attempted.
If the patient does not mind the heat, however, then they can benefit even more from a hot stone treatment than from a typical manual massage.
3. Trigger point therapy
Trigger point therapy is a type of massage that focuses on specific points where the patient experiences pain.
Since a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia occurs if the patient feels pain at particular points in the body , it can work well to target these particular points.
Both trigger point therapy and a more general massage should be experimented with to determine what is best for each patient.
Often, focusing on specific locations is more and not less effective than focusing on the body in general. With gentle finger pressure, the pain experienced at each point may disappear.
4. Swedish Massage
Swedish massage is much more general than trigger point massage but is often more effective.
It may treat the patient better due to its more significant effect on stress hormone levels.
Swedish massage involves kneading and friction with an emphasis on restoring blood flow.
Blood flow is often severely reduced by Fibromyalgia. By restoring blood flow, vital nutrients and minerals can reach parts of the body that were previously deprived of them.
Blood flow is essential to health, and the use of nicotine can damage blood flow and reduce health in this way. Fibromyalgia has a similar effect on non-smokers.
5. Passive stretching
Passive stretching is not the same as a patient merely stretching when they are by themselves.
Instead, it is a massage technique that involves the therapist stretching the patients’ joints.
Chronic joint stiffness is part of the condition, and the right massage techniques can alleviate it.
What should a patient know before seeking massage therapy?
First, they should know that massage is one of the most effective treatments for the condition.
The symptoms of the disorder (depression, musculoskeletal issues, anxiety, insomnia, joint pain, blood flow problems) are all treated well by massage.
The lack of any drugs or surgery that clearly work very well for Fibromyalgia makes massage therapy an essential part of its treatment.
Massages can reduce the high levels of stress hormones and increase the low levels of positive chemical signals that a patient is likely to be suffering.
Substance P is a neurotransmitter that can be present in excessive quantity in those with Fibromyalgia.
The substance will become less prevalent under massage therapy. Sleep improves, pain at specific points decreases, and the overall quality of life improves.
A person with Fibromyalgia may gradually learn to hate the feeling of touch in general, which can further harm their quality of life. With gentle massage, the ability to enjoy the sensation of touch again recovers.
Massage has always relieved pain.
While more technologically advanced treatments have partly replaced traditional practices such as massage, massage is still the best option we have for some disorders that defy modern science.
As well as treating pain, massage can restore some of the lost physical abilities of those suffering from the disease.
If you have a Fibromyalgia diagnosis, you may be able to receive massage therapy for free in some cases. Health plans may be able to cover such treatments in may countries.
Before beginning a massage, you should talk to your therapist for a while first. A therapist should know about your condition beforehand, especially about how sensitive you are to touch.
Do not receive massage therapy from a therapist that is not aware of your condition.
Sometimes, in about a tenth of cases, the first few massages can do more harm than good and worsen your symptoms. Some of those who have Fibromyalgia might not benefit from the massage treatment.
Usually, a person will feel relaxed after the first session and will experience reduced pain after a few sessions. Massage may or may not be enough to increase physical mobility.
Should drugs be used to treat Fibromyalgia?
While drugs can harm as well as heal, the disease is severe, and one may be able to improve their quality of life by using pharmaceuticals in addition to natural treatments.
Two medications that have been developed specifically for Fibromyalgia are pregabalin and duloxetine, which can be effective even though they are nowhere near cures for the disease.
Major depression is not always something that one can live with or psyche themselves out of. It may appear as a result of a physical condition after all.
One cannot psyche themselves out of chronic inflammatory or nervous system disease.
Major depression is also serious, sometimes enough to eventually reduce a victim to suicide.
For this reason, antidepressants should generally be used by those suffering from Fibromyalgia.
If one cannot sleep as a result of the disease, physical damage will get worse over time.
The body needs sleep to heal, and with antidepressants, one can reduce their sleep problems.
Sometimes, antidepressants can have a negative effect on those with the disease .
Antidepressants are nowhere near a cure, but can still do more harm than good in most cases.
2. Anti-Seizure medications
While Fibromyalgia does not normally cause seizures, anti-seizure medication can nonetheless have a positive effect in many cases.
An anti-seizure medication such as gabapentin will reduce pain. It also has negative side effects on many of those who use the medication and is not one of the best treatments for the disease.
The use of opioids, in general, is controversial as these drugs are highly addictive and have the potential for overdose and abuse. However, they may do more harm than good in some cases.
A person with a particularly painful and debilitating case of the disease may want to take a risk and use opioids.
While some doctors prescribe opioids to people with Fibromyalgia, most others do not. The FDA does not recommend low doses of opiates for Fibromyalgia because there is not enough evidence for or against their effectiveness.
Further studies will be required before we can determine whether or not opiates in relatively safe doses are worth the risk for this disease.
4. Other pharmaceutical treatments
Injections of growth hormone might be effective, although this treatment is not yet commonly used.
According to a 2007 study, many of the musculoskeletal symptoms of the disease reduce if growth hormone is taken .
Drugs that raise the natural production of growth hormone may also be effective.
About the author of this article
My name is Lubna and I am a Holistic Food Coach, Natural Chef, Massage Specialist & Yoga teacher. I am passionate about your health and well-being. Now, health and well-being is my life! I practice yoga every morning. I attend and support my community fitness centre and I have recently learned how to swim.