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Thursday, March 22, 2018

What Type of Massage is Good for Fibromyalgia?

As a therapeutic practice, massage has had its place as an alternative medicine for centuries. Tactile manipulation of the body’s soft tissues including muscles, tendons, and fascia can relieve muscle tension, loosen joints, trigger neurotransmitter activity, and promote stress relief.

When it comes to widespread pain brought on by fibromyalgia, many sufferers find themselves asking after the benefits of massage and what type is a good fit for their treatment. Don’t miss this quick guide to fibromyalgia and how massage can complement existing treatment plans:

What Causes Fibromyalgia Pain?
In addition to persistent muscle fatigue and sleep, mood and memory issues, widespread musculoskeletal pain is a hallmark symptom of the disorder known as fibromyalgia. Researchers still can’t pinpoint an exact cause of the condition, however, they have been able to conclude that fibromyalgia changes the way the brain perceives pain.

Often triggered by significant psychological stress or an event like a surgery, physical trauma, or infection, fibromyalgia symptoms appear more frequently in women than in men. Researchers have also found that fibromyalgia patients also often suffer from anxiety, depression, temporomandibular joint disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Fibromyalgia pain affects both sides of the body and persists as a chronic, dull ache which lasts more than three months. A handful of factors may play an important role in triggering fibromyalgia including genetics, certain illnesses, and emotional or physical trauma (i.e. from an accident). Researchers are coming to a stronger understanding of how increases in neurotransmitters can amplify pain signals as can the memory of pain in patients with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia pain can also be exacerbated by the accompanying day to day struggles of simply having chronic pain interfere with daily life.

Does Massage Address Fibromyalgia Pain?
In addition to integrative therapies like acupuncture, physical therapy, yoga, tai chi, and stress reduction, massage can definitely play an important role in treating fibromyalgia pain. There are myriad types of massage, however, so knowing which are best suited towards chronic pain can come in handy.

Swedish Massage
A 2017 study published in the journal Complementary Practices in Clinical Practice found that Swedish massage proved beneficial in addressing fibromyalgia pain. Twenty-four female study participants with fibromyalgia who were not taking medicine received two 40-minute Swedish massages a week over a period of three months. Researchers found that the Swedish massage therapy regimen helped to improve overall quality of life and reduce the perceived stress index and pain reported by participants.

Swedish massage is widely popular and involves the use of the hands, elbows, and forearms in gentle, sweeping strokes, kneading, and tapping to manipulate the superficial muscle layers and promote joint fluidity. Even if you have fibromyalgia and can’t book a luxury spa session, you can achieve basic massage techniques at home and improve range of motion with a massage pillow or a massage ball.

Connective Tissue Massage & Myofascial Release

Results from a 2017 study published in the journal Rheumatology International found that routine exercise coupled with connective tissue massages over a 6 week period had superior benefits in improving pain, sleep problems, and fatigue in participants with fibromyalgia syndrome (when compared with exercise alone). Connective tissue massage focuses intense manipulation of myofascial tissue, or the fibrous and thin (but strong) tissue that protects and supports muscles and bones. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release that relieves painful trigger points and can also improve fatigue and musculoskeletal stiffness.

Deep Tissue & Shiatsu Massage
More focused manipulation of deeper tissues in the body may also aid fibromyalgia pain, though deep tissue massage can leave lingering soreness so fibromyalgia patients should check with their doctor first. This type of massage is best achieved by a licensed and experienced massage therapist who is familiar with tailoring therapy for chronic pain patients.

Shiatsu massage, also known as acupressure, is characterized more by forceful manipulation of targeted pressure points with narrower instruments like the fingers, thumbs, knees, feet, and elbows. It is based on the same framework used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (involving meridians and qi) but has been shown to improve pressure pain threshold, quality of sleep, and fatigue symptoms in fibromyalgia patients. Shiatsu massage techniques are also believed to boost the body’s lymphatic drainage system and restore the body’s energy.

This is a guest blog entry.

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