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Massage and Fibromyalgia

What is it? The term fibromyalgia literally means - fibro-fibrous tissue; my-in muscles; algia - pain. It is a disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue. People with fibromyalgia have pain and tenderness throughout the body.

According to Drs. Janet Travell and David Simons, authors of Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction; "Fibromyalgia is identified by widespread pain for at least three month's duration in combination with tenderness at 11 or more of the 18 specific tender point sights" - also known as trigger points.

This condition is generally associated with achiness in the neck, trunk, and hips.  Stiffness is felt in the morning, followed by fatigue and lethargy.  If you have symptoms that have persisted over three months, it is important to seek out a physician who specializes in fibromyalgia.

Diagnosis is difficult because symptoms mimic other conditions like fibrositis or rheumatoid arthritis.  Specific tests may product no results, and an average of five years can pass before an appropriate diagnosis can be made. Fibromyalgia is a distinct condition that is self-perpetuating. In other words, disrupted sleep leads to fatigue. Muscles become more sensitive to pain which, in turn, inhibits exercise or other activities that may provide relief.

What are the causes?

The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown.  There are a number of factors involved.  Fibromyalgia has been linked to:

  • Stressful or traumatic events, such as car accidents
  • Repetitive injuries
  • Illness
  • Certain diseases

Fibromyalgia can also occur on its own.

Some scientists think that a gene or genes might be involved. That genes could make a person react strongly to things that other people would not find painful.

How does massage help?

Massage is emerging as a very important component in treatment of fibromyalgia.  Below are just a few of the many ways massage positively supports sufferers of fibromyalgia syndrome.

Myofascial release therapy is a gentle blend of stretching using hands-on manipulation of the entire body to ease pressure in the fibrous bands of connective tissue, or fascia, that encases muscles through the body.  Fibromyalgia sufferers can benefit from this technique.

Research indicates that massage therapy and myofascial release therapy decreases pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression, reduces levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), and improves sleep patterns. Massage therapy also assists the body in the removal of waste from muscles while increasing blood and nutrient flow.  This results in a greater availability of oxygen to cells.  Various systems of the body are benefited. The central nervous system responds by relaxing.  This aids the endocrine system; decreasing cortisol levels and increasing serotonin, a neural hormone that directly effects pain sensitivity.

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