How can massage help with fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition. It can affect the whole body, especially causing pain to the muscles and skeleton.
It is often accompanied by other functional symptoms such as fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Although the cause is unknown, there is some agreement on three main factors that come together to trigger it. These are genetics, trauma (Physical or Emotional), and infections.
Researchers have come to believe that fibromyalgia results from repeated nerve stimulation. This causes the brain to have abnormally high levels of certain signalling chemicals (neurotransmitters).
This, coupled with the memory and increased sensitivity that the brain’s pain receptors can cause, lead to a higher and longer reaction to pain signals.
The main risk factors for fibromyalgia are female gender (more women than men are affected).
Having a family history of the condition or rheumatoid arthritis also pose a threat.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be difficult. Someone may have multiple visits to a doctor first.
The doctor will first assess any symptoms lasting more than 3 months, before doing a physical examination.
In the physical examination, the doctor will generally assess up to 18 specific points to see if they elicit pain when pressed firmly.
No blood test or scan is required instead the doctor will rely on a combination of symptoms, the physical examination and predisposing factors.
Treatments for the condition
Treatment is a multidimensional approach that involves physical, cognitive and pharmacological tools, and like every other condition, compliance with treatment is vital to effective treatment.
Pharmacological treatment has so far centred on antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, and even herbal medicines.
Cognitive tools include talking to someone such as a counsellor or therapist.
They can help you to understand the condition better and help you to cope with the symptoms. They can also give you strategies to deal with the stressful situations.
This is particularly helpful as fibromyalgia can be quite disconcerting due to its chronic nature.
Physical therapies include massage therapy, acupuncture, lifestyle therapies including those designed to reduce stress and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Other alternative therapies include yoga and tai chi.
Massage therapy can play a major role in reducing pain and relieving stress. and it has been shown to have a positive effect on the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Massage uses manipulative techniques to relax your muscles and improve range of motion in your joints.
In addition to this direct effect, massage therapy can also reduce your heart rate, increase your body’s release of its own natural painkillers and help reduce stress and anxiety.