Massage and Fibromyalgia

Definitions: central nervous system dysfunction causing many complex set of symptoms; Syncrome (Not a disease)

“fibro” – connective tissue of the tendons and ligaments
“myo”- muscle
“algia” – pain
Syndrome – group of signs and symptoms that  make up a condition

“Myo” – muscle
“Fascia” – connective tissue that surrounds muscle fibers.
Syndrome – see above

Also known as or confused with Fibrositis, Fibromyositis, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Epstein-Barr Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Candida Infections

Connective tissue disorder; group of symptoms

Causes: Unknown, Most likely related to sleep disorders, anxiety and depression and hypersensitivity to touch.  Usually precipitated by severe stress like car accidents, big life changes, trauma, Injuries, Adrenal Stress, Anxiety and depression.

May be related to sleep disorder, stress, overexertion, poor diet, lack of exercise, immune system dysfunction, mercury poisoning, Epstein-Barr, candida albicans, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue ,stressful event or cumulative trauma; genetic predisposition? ; sleep deprivation or a lack of deep stage sleep; adrenal stress, thyroid imbalances, hormonal imbalances, poor nutrition (too much caffeine, sugar, white flour and not enough vegetables, fruits and whole grains), lack of exercise, improper posture, hyper acidity of the body tissues.

Signs/Symptoms: nine pairs of tenderpoints, painful muscles usually of the neck, shoulders, lower back, upper chest, TMJ; Also headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, palpitations, memory impairment, skin sensitivities, dizziness, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to heat and cold, lack of concentration.   Fatigue.  More common in Women than in Men.

-Tenderpoints: hypotonic areas that generate local pain with pressure, usually feel soft (mushy) to touch found in all four quadrants of the body.
-usually diagnosed if they have pain for 3 months or more in 11 (or more)of 18 tenderpoints
-found more in females
-Do NOT refer to other areas, no tight bands
Myofascial pain syndrome
– Triggerpoints- tight bands of hyper-irritable tissue usually found in the myofascial system
-TP’s are usually in one region of the body
-found in men and women
-diagnosed by number of triggerpoints
-refer to other areas-create a local twitch response when stimulated

-don’t wake up rested,  no deep stage sleep, sleep apnea
-paresthesia: burning, tingling, pins an needles
-hypersensitivity to smells, sounds, lights, pressure, temperature
-worse in cold, damp weather
-allergies, bruises easily, restless leg syndrome, PMS, hormonal changes, teeth grinding
-depressed immune systems
-reduced mental capacity; loss of concentration, memory loss
-limited or restricted breathing
-improper posture – forward head, asymmetrical body,
-cramps, bloating
-asthma, sinus conditions, post nasal drip
-hypoglycemia, sugar imbalances
-dry, itching skin
-dizziness, clumsiness, motor coordination problems, ringing in the ears
-dry throat, eyes: problems swallowing,
-can’t tolerate exercise
-depression and anxiety
-reduced cognitive function

Coexisting Conditions:
Irritable bowel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Esophageal Reflux
Systemic Lupus
Multiple Sclerosis
Chemical Sensitivities
Restless Leg Syndrome
Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Anxiety Disorders

Indications: Massage for stress reduction, tenderpoint relief, break up adhesions.

Contraindications: Do not use anything that will add to inflammation such as heat; Often over sensitive to touch.  Refer to Naturopath and Acupuncturist for treatment.  Diet and Lifestyle changes necessary.

Massage Treatment Goals:

-reduce stress
-induce relaxation and sleep
-treat tenderpoints (slowly as intense may exacerbate condition)
-Massage for Anxiety and Depression-Massage to help increase mobility and movementWhat works for one Fibromyalgia client, may or may not work on another.  Each one is unique.  Go slow and easy until you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome
– restore function to muscle
-relieve spasms

Other Treatments:  Acupuncture, Naturopathic medicine for nutritional support, exercise, stretching.
Natural Hygiene, Breathing Exercises, Meditation

Web resources:
Fibromyalgia Web Ring
Medline Plus
Fibromyalgia Network
Leon Chaitow articles
Meyers Cocktail IV

Digital Naturopath – Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue
Medline Plus

Articles Online about Massage and Fibromyalgia


Patients with Fibromyalgia Find Comfort in Massage Myofascial Release Therapy.  Massage Today.  Massage Therapy Foundation contributor.

American Massage Therapy Position Paper – Massage Therapy as Beneficial Part of Integrative Treatment Plan for Fibromyalgia.  approved 2012
MedscapeMassage Better Than Relaxation Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice  “The research on fibromyalgia and massage shows mixed results” -some positive and some not so positive.  It is mainly due to not having enough research on the topic.

Massage therapy for fibromyalgia symptoms.   Rheumatol Int. 2010 Jul;30(9):1151-7. Epub 2010 Mar 20.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) : “A review of the research on massage for fibromyalgia notes only modest, preliminary support. Two studies had some positive findings, but two others found either no benefits or only short-term improvements.”

Book Resources:

Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain: A Survival Manual (2nd Edition)

Advanced Myofascial Release Medical Massage Video on DVD – Learn to Free Restrictions, Increase Range of Motion and Balance Structural Distortions From Sean Riehl of Real Bodywork