Massage therapy may help soothe the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia typically causes tenderness throughout the body (especially in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs) and can also trigger sleep troubles, headaches, memory problems, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Massage therapy can help to address most of the symptoms of fibromyalgia:
- increase blood circulation
- increase flexibility
- increase range of motion
- decrease stress and anxiety
- reduce pain, swelling and stiffness
- improve sleep
Several massage techniques found to be effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia are:
Myofascial Release is a technique developed by a physical therapist to gently relieve restrictions and tightness in connective tissue (fascia). When properly performed, it may decrease connective tissue’s pull on bones, allowing muscle fibers to relax and lengthen and organs to expand.
Swedish Massage techniques are gentle, but deep enough to be effective in reducing the pain associated with fibromyalgia
Reflexology is another suitable massage technique to address both acute and chronic conditions associated with fibromyalgia. Reflex areas on the feet and hands correspond with all of the areas and organs of the body. Gentle enough to use for all ages and conditions, this approach encourages the body to naturally restore its own healthy balance.
Passive stretching, alternatively called relaxed or static-passive stretching, is another approach to relieving muscle tension and spasms associated with FMS. A massage therapist can assist with this stretch by moving the limb or head to its restricted barrier, then maintaining the stretched position while the client fully relaxes.
Energy healing is considered noninvasive, subtle, highly relaxing and effective, prompting many fibromyalgia sufferers to seek energy healing practitioners. Energy techniques can promote tissue change without the application of pressure on tender areas. While there are many energy techniques to choose from, two of the most highly respected and researched forms are Reiki and Therapeutic Touch.
Cranial-Sacral Therapy (CST) resets and normalizes the rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid, bringing about physical adjustments to the myofascia. Emotional release often accompanies the release of myofasical tension, requiring active listening skills and a focused presence on the part of the therapist. Emotional releases are capable of reducing or eliminating physically-based chronic pain.
Before seeking any treatment for fibromyalgia, consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate program of care.
For more information on massage therapy as a treatment for fibromyalgia, please contact Emma Nicholson, CMT in Charlottesville, VA.
Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies
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Field T, Diego M, Cullen C, Hernandez-Reif M, Sunshine W, Douglas S. “Fibromyalgia pain and substance P decrease and sleep improves after massage therapy.” J Clin Rheumatol. 2002 8(2):72-6.
Kalichman L. “Massage therapy for fibromyalgia symptoms.” Rheumatol Int. 2010 30(9):1151-7.