What is fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a chronic condition that characteristically causes pain all over the body, including muscle and joint pain, profound fatigue, disturbed sleep and a myriad of other symptoms.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it's thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages carried around the body.
It's also suggested that some people are more likely to develop fibromyalgia because of genes inherited from their parents.
In many cases, the condition appears to be triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event, such as:
an injury or infection
having an operation
the breakdown of a relationship
the death of a loved one
Whilst it is not clear how many people are affected by fibromyalgia, estimates suggest almost 1 in 20 people may be affected, women are around 7 times more likely to be affected and it typically develops between ages 30 to 50 but can occur at any age.
Obviously from a massage therapist's point of view, treating a client presenting with FMS can be very challenging. A client may feel the need of massage to relax them but may be overly sensitive to touch so treatment has to be adapted.
Massage for Fibromyalgia
There are many benefits of massage for fibromyalgia patients, and various types of massage, including myofascial release, Swedish and Shiatsu have been indicated by research studies to help.
Five benefits of massage for fibromyalgia clients:
Relaxation to improve sleep. Sessions in the evening will benefit, allowing the client to get better quality of sleep, thereby helping the body repair and rejuvenate more effectively.
Improved muscle tone. Aiding lethargic muscles and helping restore strength and vitality to the client’s body.
Improve mental clarity. A relaxing session can raise healthy awareness and relieve mental stress. This can improve the client’s cognitive issues.
Headache relief. By improving blood flow to the brain you can relieve the physical source of headaches, while the relief received can further keep the person’s mind in a healthier space.
Diminishing the effects of any anxiety or depression. These effects include hormonal fluctuations, interference with appetite and chronic fight-or-flight mode. Massage can restore homeostasis of the body, thereby diminishing these effects.
I have just touched on the subject of fibromyalgia, it is an extremely complex condition, frequently undiagnosed because no two person's symptoms are alike.
Clients may feel unable to control their symptoms, leading to anxiety; self-help in the form of meditation and breathing techniques, gentle stretching/yoga may help together with a gentle massage if that seems appropriate.