Let me briefly describe anatomy related to fibromyalgia and massage therapy will clearly stand out as the most effective treatment for it.
All of our muscles are surrounded by fascia, which is connective tissue. The pathways for blood vessels and nerves travel through this connective tissue. Fascia wraps around almost all body parts. Fascia has so many receptor cells that it generates extensive sensory information with sensory input.
The myofascial system (muscle and fascia) is the largest sensory organ in the body. More so than the eyes, nose, ears, and skin. Connective tissues are sensitive to pain. The fascia determines the extent of the muscle stretch (lengthening) and contraction (shortening).
The constant increase in myofascial tension in fibromyalgia causes a strain on the muscles and tendons. This strain leads to a chronic inflammation condition leading to a change in neurotransmitters and the central nervous system.
More and more research is being done about fibromyalgia and massage therapy has been found to be one of the best overall treatments of the pain and dysfunction of this disease.
Many studies have detected decreased muscle levels of “ATP” (the instant energy of muscles) in fibromyalgia and massage therapy has been shown to enhance the usage of that vital muscle energy. ATP is the energy muscles use to contract. ATP is also needed to relax the muscle.
In the fibromyalgia scenario the local ATP (energy) is used up for the muscle to contract, but when the muscle tries to relax there is not enough energy to do so. Therefore, the muscle gets stuck in a tense state.
The more tension that builds up in the muscles, the more tension builds up in the fascia, tendons, and other soft tissues. This tension also causes a decrease in elasticity and affects localized blood circulation. All of this causes the acid concentration of the muscle to increase (lower pH), causing activation of pain receptors.
Making matters worse, after months of chronic pain the level of “substance P” (a neurotransmitter responsible for pain conduction through the spinal cord) increases and serotonin decreases. Serotonin is responsible for regulating many bodily functions including our wakeful state and excitement.
Clinical depression is also caused by a decrease of serotonin in the brain. Depression is associated with fibromyalgia. All these processes work on the small cellular level. Massage therapy can affect your bodily function on the cellular level. At this microscopic level, your body rids itself of toxins and wastes.
Fibromyalgia and massage therapy go hand in hand. (Weak pun intended!) Fibromyalgia sufferers rate regular massage for fibromyalgia as the top non-drug treatment for their muscle pain.
Because fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, the first couple of massages might aggravate the symptoms a little. This is because of the stimulation and increased blood circulation provided by massage therapy to the starved cells. Increased circulation and stimulation will cause the release of toxins and waste products from the cells into the lymphatic system. Massage will speed up lymph flow allowing the toxins to exit the body. Drinking plenty of water with massage is always a must for that reason! A specific form of massage, “manual lymph drainage” (click to go there) will greatly help this process. The healing process takes time for fibromyalgia and massage therapy will start that healing process.
How else will massage therapy for fibromyalgia help? Studies from the "Journal of Clinical Rheumatology", "Touch Research Institute", "Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners" found exciting results from fibromyalgia and massage therapy studies.
They found that massage therapy for fibromyalgia results in:
• Increased blood circulation
• Increased muscle flexibility and range of motion
• Reduced pain, swelling and stiffness
• Decreased stress, stress hormone levels and anxiety
• Less fatigue and trouble sleeping, with longer sleep times
• Less use of analgesics (pain medicine)
• Less depression
Massage therapy was the top-rated treatment for fibromyalgia in studies done for effectiveness and satisfaction by fibromyalgia sufferers.
After the first few massages the fibromyalgia sufferer will start to see significant positive changes. Massage for fibromyalgia is better done in shorter more frequent intervals. For instance, one half hour twice a week, instead of an hour in one session
Because of the higher pain levels that fibromyalgia sufferers experience, massage should not be deep tissue massage. The effects of lighter massage are much the same as deep. Each person has their own tolerance of how deep or light the massage will feel to them.
The massage therapist must be sensitive to the pain and tension felt by the client, as each client is vastly different in how much pain is felt. Sometimes just a very light massage “feather stoke” is all that is tolerable.
Muscle tension, strain and pain is always associated with fibromyalgia and massage therapy should and will break that tension, strain and pain cycle, which will in turn in turn bring down the inflammation and the associated neurological reactions (pain).
Go to "What Is Fibromyalgia?", from Fibromyalgia and Massage Therapy
To Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
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