About 5 million Americans have fibromyalgia, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMSD). While the symptoms show up differently in different people, all people with fibromyalgia experience some type of pain and/or tenderness. Many people have found that massage for fibromyalgia helps to alleviate symptoms. Here are some of the benefits.
Before we dive into the benefits, though, let’s first talk about why we think massage is good for fibromyalgia patients. The Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine has done extensive research on the benefits of massage therapy. Here’s what they found for fibromyalgia patients:
- Increase in serotonin levels
- Decrease in stress hormones
- Decrease in levels of substance P (a pain messenger in your body)
- Decrease in tender point pain
- Better sleep
- Improved overall sense of well-being
The head researchers of the study on massage for fibromyalgia concluded that massage therapy could have a significant positive impact when used in conjunction with your primary treatment plan, for people with fibromyalgia.
Sharon Muzio, RN, NCBTMB is a full time massage therapist, and has found that an eclectic massage works best for people with fibromyalgia. An eclectic massage is a combination of trigger point therapy and myofacial release technique with relaxation techniques. The massage therapist will use long, soothing strokes with mild rocking. Then, after the muscles are warm, the massage therapist will use a deeper pressure, focusing more on the knots to break down fibers, release toxins and reduce pain.
Benefits of Massage for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can cause pain throughout the entire body, with tenderness in your joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues. I think it goes without saying that this can make it difficult to relax. Massage can help to alleviate the pain and tenderness, making it possible to relax.
When the muscles are warm, the massage therapist can really work the knots, which releases toxins and reduces the pain that they cause. Additionally, a massage is a time when you get to unplug, practice self-care and focus on you. Your massage therapist should play some relaxing music, which will help you to unwind and focus on something other than the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Jane W., a 68-year-old woman with fibromyalgia, noted that she sleeps better on massage days. “Massage therapy helps me to feel less pain, and I sleep better on the days I get therapy,” she said. Jane gets massage therapy every other week combined with a pool exercise program three days a week to help manage her fibromyalgia.
Jane isn’t the only person who noticed that she got a better night’s sleep after getting a massage. Reducing pain in the body allows patients to sleep better, which allows their body to more effectively repair and rejuvenate.
Massage therapy can improve serotonin levels in the body, giving us a great mood boost. Additionally, massage can restore homeostasis of the body, which regulates hormone levels, regulates appetite and reduces stress.
Not to mention, there is just something that feels good about taking a moment to practice self-care. Sometimes it can be hard to get started practicing self-care when you’re used to giving your all to care for others. However, even on an airplane you are told to put on YOUR oxygen mask first. Self-care is imperative for managing fibromyalgia, so be prepared to reframe any guilty feelings that we sometimes experiencing when focusing on ourselves.
When we’re in pain, we might stop using some of our muscles because it hurts. Massage works lethargic muscles, helping to retain their tonacity. This helps to prevent future issues down the road, and improves muscle strength.
Do you use massage therapy as a part of your fibromyalgia treatment plan? Please share your experience with our community by visiting forum.painresource.com.