Fibromyalgia Breakthrough: How Massage Can Help

Pain areas common in fibromyalgia patients.
Pain areas common in fibromyalgia patients.

As massage therapists we’re acutely  aware of the increasing number of people being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in the last 20 years. In fact, it affects approximately 10 million people in the U.S. . 

For too long, Fibromyalgia has been a diagnosis given mostly to women (although a few men were also diagnosed), when they presented with a series of complaints that could not otherwise be categorized or diagnosed as anything in particular.

Symptoms varied, but most had varying degrees of hand, foot, and joint pain that seemed to “move” from one major joint to another. Doctors simply believed that it was a case of something psychosomatic or “in the patient’s head,”until recent years, when some began to focus on stress, anxiety and potential food intolerance as a places to search for answers.

Fibromyalgia Breakthrough

But a recent article by the Wall Street Journal titled, Fibromyalgia Is Not All In Your Symptoms_of_fibromyalgiaHead, discusses new research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. The study, which focused on women, who are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia as men, shows that Fibromyalgia patients with intractable pain, typically have an unusually high amount of a particular type of nerve fiber called arteriole-venule (AV) shunts.

Until now, scientists believed these fibers were only responsible for regulating blood flow, and did not play a role in pain sensation. Using a unique multi-molecular ChemoMorphometric Analysis (CMA) to evaluate nerve fibers within small skin biopsies,  scientists at Integrated Tissue Dynamics LLC (Intidyn) discovered that there is a direct link between these nerves and widespread body pain in Fibromyalgia sufferers.

This discovery explains why so many with Fibromyalgia suffer from extremely sensitive hands that get worse with cold weather. This widespread pain, contributes to an overall pervasive feeling of fatigue.

Fibromyalgia: A Neuroscientist Explains

Neuroscientist Dr. Frank L. Rice states in a recent article in The Guardian, “. . . here we had evidences that the blood vessel endings could also contribute to our conscious sense of touch . . .  and also pain. This mismanaged blood flow could be the source of muscular pain and achiness, and the sense of fatigue, which are thought to be due to a build-up of lactic acid and low levels of inflammation in fibromyalgia patients. This, in turn, could contribute to the hyperactivity in the brain.”

Fibromyalgia Pain
Fibromyalgia Pain

A Massage Therapist’s Perspective

We have been treating Fibromyalgia with medium depth massage for years. We find that if you work too deep, the tissue reacts strongly — too light, and it makes no difference. That’s why it’s important that clients battling fibromyalgia receive regular massage to help clear the muscle tissues. We recommend a massage every 2 to 3 weeks, although ideally every week would be best.

We also advise our Fibromyalgia sufferers to take care to get adequate sleep, eat well balanced whole foods meals and exercise regularly, to help keep muscle tissue clean and flexible. As always, our approach is holistic and relies upon creating a good foundation for your health, to help you better cope with any health obstacles that may come your way.

Traditional allopathic medicine has been treating the symptoms of this baffling condition with the use of pain killers, anti-seizure and depression medications for years, without knowing its root cause. We hope that with this new discovery, advances in the treatment protocol will be just around the corner for the millions of Fibromyalgia sufferers who have patiently waited for a decent treatment to this debilitating condition.

If you have FIbromyalgia and would like to add bodywork to your pain management program, contact us today.

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