Fibromyalgia is perhaps one of the most extensively covered topics when it comes to scientific research in the wellness community. This has a lot to do with the ambiguity of treatment options for this complex debilitating illness.
What is Fibromyalgia?
According to Mayo Clinic, Fibromyalgia can best be defined as a disorder known to cause widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, memory loss, and mood issues. (perhaps from lack of sleep and constant pain of fibromyalgia.) The name in itself offers an insight on the condition Fibro meaning fibers, myo meaning muscle and algia, which means pain.
To write about every case study conducted in the name of massage and fibromyalgia would be a dissertation worth of writing, so we will explore just three (for now).
Connective Tissue Massage in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia.
The European Journal of Pain reports on a study with the purpose of exploring the effects of connective tissue massage in the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia. Over a 15 week period a treatment group was provided with 1 massage a week, the reference group was not.
The abstract states that patients who received massages experienced a pain relieving effect of 37% after massage. Also patients reported a decrease in depression, decreased use of analgesics (pain killing drugs), and increase the quality of life in these patients. However, three months after treatment, the effects of massage on fibromyalgia pain decreased about 30% and after six months, pain was back at 90% of its initial value according to patients.
More info can be accessed here.
Fibromyalgia Pain and Substance P Decreases and Sleep Improves After Massage Therapy
The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology reports on a study designed to investigate patient outcomes of massage therapy versus relaxation therapy ( a non-hands on approach to relaxation involving calming music and low lighting), Substance P, and its relation to sleep in individuals with Fibromyalgia.
Substance P is responsible for how pain is experienced in the human body, those who have higher tolerance for pain produce more substance P than others.
The patients received 30 minute massage therapy sessions twice a week for 5 weeks.
Both groups reported a decrease in anxiety and depression immediately after the first treatment, however, the massage group reported an increased number of sleep hours and a decrease in their sleep movements. Furthermore, substance P levels decreased and the patients’ physicians assigned lower disease and pain ratings and rated fewer tender points in the massage therapy group (this could be due to the decrease in trigger points after massage, more info on trigger points here).
More information regarding this study here.
Fibromyalgia benefits from Massage Therapy and Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation Unit (TENS unit)
According to the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, patients with Fibromyalgia were randomly assigned to a massage therapist or a TENs unit treatment session for 30 minutes each, two times a week, for 5 consecutive weeks. The objective of this study was to monitor the different types of non-pharmaceutical treatment options for those who suffer from Fibromyalgia.
The massage therapy group reported lower anxiety and depression; test results revealed lower cortisol levels during each massage treatment. The TENs subjects showed similar results, but only after therapy on the last day of the study. The massage therapy group also reported less pain throughout the week after massage therapy sessions.
Massage therapy hands down has been proven to be the most effective non pharmaceutical therapy for those who suffer from Fibromyalgia. Even shorter 30 min session which are more affordable than full 60 min sessions, have shown significant improvement in patients when used with consistency.