Over three million Americans have been diagnosed with having fibromyalgia annually. This is primarily muscular pain – but not just any kind of pain that is specific to a muscle. The pain is widespread, and there is heightened sensitivity to most, if not all, kinds of stimuli, which often leads to pain, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms. There are also various treatments that can be done that are equally capable of alleviating some of these symptoms.
However, FM is not a simple disorder, which is why dealing with individuals with FM can be more or less similar to dealing with individuals who are diagnosed with chronic or severe health conditions. You will need more knowledge and information on how the condition affects a person, and how massage therapy can positively affect him.
Read on and learn some fruitful results of current studies about fibromyalgia and the role of massage therapy in relieving individuals of their symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that presents with generalized muscular pain and tenderness. Its symptoms also include a tension headache, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and cognitive difficulties. “In addition to chronic muscular pain and stiffness, this ailment can also cause fatigue, sleep disorders, depression, and an inability to think clearly,” says William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR.
Remarkably, current studies on fibromyalgia are revealing that it is, in fact, a condition that is rooted from the central nervous system, despite the evidence that muscular pain is the primary symptom. It has been revealed through more proof that in FM, there is damage to the pain pathways of the central nervous system, as opposed to the explanation that it is an autoimmune disease of the peripheral tissues. “Fibromyalgia may last for years, and slowly but persistently diminish the ability to carry out the normal activities of life,” Judith J. Wurtman Ph.D. notes.
Experts have come to this idea because individuals with FM are hypersensitive to any kind of stimulus, not just to touch or to mechanical pressure. According to Dr. Michael Schneider, Associate Professor at the Pittsburgh University, FM patients do not only present with tenderness to touch and mechanical pressure. They are sensitive to almost all stimuli, including light and sound, and may even have food allergies, chemical sensitivity, and cold and heat intolerance.
Statistics On Fibromyalgia
Women have a higher likelihood of developing fibromyalgia than men, although it is not as simple as that. The probability that a person will have FM is unknown, but there are two elements that appear related – personal trauma and genetics. Genetics is easy to understand. The condition may run in families.
Personal trauma, on the other hand, needs a bit more explaining. Some researchers suggest that there might be a connection between FM and posttraumatic stress disorder. They came up with this theory after doing a study on 600 individuals with FM, where the results showed the presence of FM symptoms on those who have experienced sexual or physical abuse and emotional trauma. They further reiterated the fact that the trauma on these patients may have activated the brain’s limbic system and caused it to overdrive, leading to hypersensitivity.
Sadly, there is no one cure for all the symptoms of fibromyalgia, which is why individuals with FM utilize various methods to relieve themselves of their pain. According to Chad S Boomershine, MD, PhD, “When patients with fibromyalgia fully understand the nature of the disease, they are more likely to comply with treatment and to take an active role in managing the disease.” One of the popular alternative therapies that are non-medical is massage therapy.
Massage therapy, through years of research and studies, has proven to be among the most sought-after approaches that have yielded many benefits to individuals with FM. A 2011 study showed that after a series of massage sessions, people claimed that their sensitivity to pain and their anxiety levels reduced considerably. It also allowed them to get better sleep. A follow-up study in 2014 resulted in FM patients testifying that massage therapy had instantly relieved them from their pain, depression, and anxiety, especially when the approach was focused on the soft tissues. It also improved their flexibility and overall lymph and blood circulation.
The Role Of Massage Therapy
Again, there is not one particular method that is found to be more effective in treating FM compared to other methods, although the myofascial release has shown to be slightly helpful. Seasoned therapists suggest that new massage therapists must not only prepare the most popular techniques but as many techniques that they can arm themselves with. As the saying goes, “There’s no one size fits all.”
For people who have been living with fibromyalgia, they say that the amount of pressure placed during massage is one vital component in the relief of their pain. It is imperative that the therapist and patient should communicate with each other regarding this matter, as some would be more hypersensitive than the others. There are some people who can’t stand even the mildest pressure and just go for ‘light.’ Additionally, the tone of voice of the therapist also affects the patient’s comfort, including the feel of the room (music, light in the room, etc.).
As a massage therapist, you should be sensitive to the needs of your patients – and they do have needs that are different from each other. Meaning that what works for one may not work for the other, so be a good communicator. Listen, speak clearly, and be compassionate in your goal to help them have a better and more comfortable life with fibromyalgia.