Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain syndromes we see in clinic, but it is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. It is defined as a chronic pain condition characterised by widespread pain and tenderness of the muscles, tendons and joints that lasts for more than 3 months. Usually the symptoms include at least 11 of 18 tender points at specific sites throughout the body, as shown at the figure below:
Other symptoms that are commonly identified in addition to the chronic pain are:
– non-restorative sleep
– morning stiffness
– fatigue and disturbances in bowel functions
All of these symptoms can cause a significant impact on the quality of life of those who suffers from this condition. The chronic pain and fatigue can lead to less enjoyment when it comes to social activities, inability to maintain work productivity and overall decreased physical ability. The emotional stress can also affect social relationships and can lead to anxiety or depression.
The first symptoms of fibromyalgia can occur at any age but it tends to develop during early adulthood. The onset of the symptoms can be developed after physical or emotional trauma as well.
Although Fibromyalgia is considered as a non-inflammatory, non-degenerative and non-progressive disorder, the cause is still unclear. Many factors can affect the severity of symptoms. These factors include environmental stresses as weather changes, physical stresses (prolonged periods of sitting or standing, repetitive movements, traumas) or emotional stress.
The pain is usually described as muscular in origin and can lead to headaches and restriction of the movements. People suffering with fibromyalgia tend to abandon sports and physical activity and start to develop postural imbalances and orthopaedic disorders.
Different massage techniques like trigger points, relaxation techniques, myofascial release and remedial massage can be used efficiently to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. These techniques don’t just work to release knots and adhesions, but promote better muscle tone, help with the circulation and helps to detoxify the body.
The other benefits of massage includes: increase of serotonin (the “feel good” hormone), decrease of the stress hormones like Cortisol, improvement of sleep, decrease in levels of pain messengers, improvement of bowel movements and digestion (through abdominal massage) and promotion of muscle balance.
Based on my professional experience, working as a physiotherapist and massage therapist for over than 15 years, I have seen gradual improvement by using these techniques for most of my clients. Frequent massage usually helps to control the pain and reduce risk of orthopaedic injuries. The soothing and relaxing movements of massage can ease the emotional and physical stress and allows my client to keep a more active lifestyle. The improvement of the sleep is one of the most important benefits from massage as well. With a good night of sleep it is easier to control the fatigue and avoid the excess of stress hormones.
Fibromyalgia treatment overall should be holistic and it’s important to have a good team of health practitioners working together to help with your treatment, like Doctors, Physiotherapists, Personal Trainers, Nutritionists, Naturopaths and Colonic Hydrotherapists. These different treatments combined can lead to a more happy, healthy and productive life.
Written by: Carolina Mori Pinto.
Carolina is a Massage Therapist and Physiotherapist, graduating from her studies in Brazil.