Fibromyalgia: How Therapeutic Massage Can Help

Massage Room

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder of the nervous system characterized by widespread pain, heightened sensitivity to pressure, joint stiffness, insomnia, debilitating fatigue, and mental fog. The underlying causes are not yet fully understood and there is currently no universally accepted form of treatment. Symptoms of fibromyalgia are largely managed with pharmaceuticals aimed at reducing pain and inducing sleep. An overwhelming majority of fibromyalgia patients turn to holistic and alternative therapies for more systemic relief.

Research supports the glowing testimonials of fibromyalgia patients who find relief through therapeutic massage. Notable doctors and fibromyalgia specialists such as Mark Pellegrino and Andrew Weil recommend therapeutic massage as an essential part of an integrated treatment plan.

In fibromyalgia sufferers, therapeutic massage is reported to:

  • reduce pain
  • improve health status
  • improve quality of life
  • decrease anxiety and depression
  • increase sleep hours
  • improve quality of sleep over time
  • reduce tender points
  • decrease urinary CRF-LI (biochemical marker of stress-related symptoms)
  • decrease use of analgesics
  • decrease cortisol levels
  • decrease daytime fatigue

Therapeutic massage boosts production of the body’s natural painkillers. It improves circulation and range of motion, relieves muscle tension, and eases pain in the joints and soft tissue. Fibromyalgia patients who receive regular massage therapy report improved mood and boosted energy levels. The University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute reports that a mere 20 minutes of moderate-pressure massage can lessen the flow of chemicals associated with pain and stress while increasing production of serotonin. The crowning result is improved quality of sleep—the body’s most powerful means of restoring itself.

When working with fibromyalgia, massage therapists will begin with light touch and gentle strokes. Due to the pain and sensitivity caused by fibromyalgia, it is crucial to communicate pressure needs and any discomfort during the massage session. Tolerance often builds over time and an application of greater pressure may be welcomed.