In 1932, Johan Mezger, a physician in Amsterdam, considered the Founder of Modern Scientific Massage, developed massage techniques for "treating 'nodules' and taut cord-like bands" associated with the condition we now call fibromyalgia.
In 1987 the American Medical Association recognized fibromyalgia as a distinct syndrome. So fibromyalgia, with its widespread muscle pain, is a syndrome meaning a collection of symptoms that fit together to further diagnose and identify the disorder. In 1990 the American College of Rheumatologists (ACR) further defined fibromyalgia syndrome with the now familiar 18 tender points and a "history of widespread pain for at least three months".
In 1992, at the Second World Congress on Myofascial Pain and Fibromyalgia, held in Copenhagen, a document was produced on fibromyalgia which added a number of symptoms to the ACR definition. They are as follows: persistent fatigue, generalized morning stiffness and non-refreshing sleep, headache, irritable bladder, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), extreme sensitivity to cold, restless legs, odd patterns of numbness and tingling, intolerance to exercise, anxiety and/or depression and other symptoms.
Research from The Touch Research Institute, University of Miami Medical School, indicates benefits from appropriate forms of massage in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Techniques such as light touch massage, lymphatic drainage, soft tissue manipulation, deactivation of myofascial trigger points, and myofascial release, all have been shown to effectively relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia. Also noteworthy, one of the greatest benefits of massage for fibromyalgia clients is in areas of mood and depression. Massage can greatly increase a sense of wellbeing and mental calm.
Nearly half of all people with fibromyalgia have disturbed sleep (specifically the delta stages of sleep). Delta stage sleep involves immune system repair functions and growth hormone being released by the pituitary gland. Eighty percent of growth hormone is produced during delta stage of sleep. This has a direct effect on the quality of repair and regeneration of muscles. When this hormone is deficient because of sleep disturbances, the end result can be the muscular pain symptoms of fibromyalgia. This can then become a vicious cycle. One doesn’t sleep soundly because of muscular pain. Then, lack of sleep creates more muscle pain. Massage can be a great enhancer of a good night’s sleep because it reduces muscle pain and, also, because massage can release endorphins that result in a sounder night’s sleep.
Those who live with fibromyalgia know that muscle pain as well as other symptoms vary from day to day. One day your level of pain tolerance is pretty good and the next day it’s not! Your massage therapist needs to be aware of this. Some days you will be able to tolerate a deeper touch and other days you will not. There’s great benefit for you in receiving a massage on either of those days – or any kind of day in between the two extremes.
Massage for fibromyalgia:
Resource for this article:
Fibromyalgia Syndrome, A Practitioner’s Guide to Treatment By Leon Chaitow, (British Physician)
(As part of my continuing education I’ve attended Dr. Leon Chaitow’s weekend workshop on fibromyalgia as well as other specialized classes on fibromyalgia.)