A new way to ease Fibromyalgia pain
Can massage therapy help with Fibromyalgia?
I first learned about Fibromyalgia in the late 1990s — when I first started my practice. The condition was relatively new on the scene and not many medical folks new what it was. Diagnosis varied. I remember hearing that it was “a condition related to depression so therefore it was psychological.” Many people were prescribed anti-depressants and told to seek therapy or counseling. Today, after years of research, we know that Fibromyalgia is more complex than was first realized.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals, I have treated people with fibromyalgia who also have other symptoms or conditions. For example; anxiety, depression, temporomandibular joint disfunction (TMJ), irritable bowel syndrome and tension headaches. Some of these folks had some type of intense physical or emotional trauma in their life that precipitated the fibromyalgia symptoms. Others were in high stress jobs or lifestyles and the issue gradually surfaced over time. The Mayo Clinic’s definition goes on to explain some of the symptoms above. Plus there has been independent research by The American College of Rheumatology where nine corroborating, randomized control trials were reviewed.
In my practice, the patients I’ve treated all had different outcomes. Some felt better some didn’t. Some only came in for one treatment and disappeared. Most complained of intense pain after a treatment.
What I think
According to the research done by The American College of Rheumatology, 404 subjects were reviewed and the results demonstrated that after five weeks of massage treatment the pain experienced by these individuals was greatly reduced. Less than five weeks proffered no significant benefit. Symptoms of anxiety and depression showed similar results. Overall, there was no significant improvement for sleep disturbances in Fibromyalgia patients, regardless of the duration of massage therapy treatments.
For the sake of full disclosure, age may have an impact on results. Apparently the test subjects range from 19-90 years of age and the duration of diagnosis was anywhere from 1-20 years. Not as tight of a control group as I would like, but the world is not perfect. Also, the massage treatments varied from 25-90 minutes total and the techniques used weren’t indicated. The amount of sessions ranged from 1-20 and the study duration ranged from 1-24 weeks. Because so many variables were left to chance, more research will be required. The bottom line is massage therapy can help with Fibromyalgia. This by itself is huge for the community of sufferers with this condition.
What we know
- Massage therapy is safe for people with Fibromyalgia.
- There is not enough evidence to confirm that massage therapy helps Fibromyalgia sufferers with negative sleep patterns.
- Patients may experience improvement in anxiety and depression after five weeks of massage therapy.
- At least five weeks of massage therapy are needed to reduce the pain associated with Fibromyalgia.
- Massage therapy may not help all Fibromyalgia sufferers.
- More research is needed to develop a precise protocol.
What Fibromyalgia patients can expect from me
In those early days when I was treating this issue, there wasn’t any data to suggest that a patient would need five weeks of therapy. Had I known about the five-week standard at that time, I could have developed a protocol and presented it to each potential patient.
Now, I have the opportunity, so I will develop a new protocol based on this and other additional data. It will probably be a six-week protocol that starts with two sessions per week and tapers to one session per week as the patient gets closer to the six-week mark or starts to feel less pain. The cool thing is we continue to progress and discover new non-invasive ways to help people feel better!
peace and love