What is Fibromyalgia and how can Massage Therapy help?

Fibromyalgia, or Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is just one of many painful illnesses that can be eased by massage therapy.

Fibromyalgia can cause constant pain, each day choosing a different set of muscles to torment

Fibromyalgia can cause constant pain, each day choosing a different set of muscles to torment

What is fibromyalgia, and how can massage help as a form of treatment?

My knowledge of fibromyalgia was not particularly extensive until I had a new enquiry from a prospective client one day, who has had fibromyalgia for five years. My lovely client said she wanted to try out massage therapy as a way of treating the pain she was experiencing.

Since my client’s first treatment I have read a number of articles, and done some research about fibromyalgia, and have also massaged three other clients with fibromyalgia. I have become quite passionate about how massage therapy can help those living with the condition every day. Though my clients and I are still on our journey together of how massage can improve their constant pain, I feel we have made good progress already and can see the true benefits it is bringing, both to their muscles and also their frame mind in helping them to relax. The approach we are adopting is a slow and steady one towards managing the pain. We are all determined to keep positive, committed to improving their condition through massage therapy.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal disorder causing pain and fatigue in the muscles and fibrous tissues all over the body.

Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain, often felt all over the body. For some people the pain is worse in their back or neck, though each day can bring aches and twinges in a different area of the body. Some days, people may feel the pain more severely than others. The pain can vary, from an ache to a burning sensation or even a sharp, stabbing pain.

Fibromyalgia affects seven times as many women as men, and can develop at any point in our lives, though frequently develops in women between the ages of 30 – 50.

FMS can also have other side effects:

* Insomnia
* Headaches
* IBS
* Muscle stiffness
* ‘Fibro fog’ (a difficulty in concentrating)
* Many people may experience depression due to the above effects

In addition, people with fibromyalgia may have increased sensitivity to pressure and pain, so the thought of a deep tissue massage might be out of the question. With one of my lovely clients, we have started off light and are gradually building the pressure each week.

Recommended treatment for fibromyalgia:

For people living with FMS, there is not yet one clear path of recommended treatment. Some medical suggestions are:
* Painkillers (though these are often not enough to ease the pain)
* Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling
* Lifestyle changes, including exercise

Somehow, for me these solutions don’t seem to be enough for people living in constant pain. Massage can be a wonderful and effective alternative therapy choice…

How massage can help people with fibromyalgia:

* Massage can act as a natural TENS machine between the point of pain and our brain, therefore helping to reduce the severity of pain we feel.
* Massage can also create a sense of relaxation, which in turn can help people to have a deep and relaxing sleep. This is often vitally missing for people with fibromyalgia.
* Sleep is vital for numerous reasons, but one worth noting for people with FMS is that in a deep stage of sleep, our muscles repair, relax and renew their energy. By encouraging this deeper level of sleep and relaxation, massage can encourage muscles to heal, also helping people with FMS to end the vicious cycle of sleep depravation.
* Massage helps the body’s lymphatic drainage system. This is particularly helpful for people with FMS whose mobility may have been affected by the condition and who have water retention as a result.
* Massage therapy can help to relax muscles that may have tensed through prolonged pain or spasms.
* Massage therapy, especially Indian Head Massage, can often help to ease the pain of headaches.


For some people with fibromyalgia, the condition can be very isolating and debilitating, feeling as though there is no escape from the constant pain

For some people with fibromyalgia, the condition can be very isolating and debilitating, feeling as though there is no escape from the constant pain

What next?

I feel I have only just scratched the surface of fibromyalgia, and there is so much I still have to learn. I take my clients' lead as the experts on their condition and their side effects, and I advise the best course of massage treatment possible. So far it is an effective joint team effort, and I hope this continues so that they consider massage therapy as a vital part of their overall care plan, helping them to feel as healthy as possible. 


This article was written with the help of the NHS website, Fibromyalgia Action UK’s website, my clients' experiences, and my further research.

If you have fibromyalgia, or know of someone who has, I would recommend trying out a massage to see if it can help you. Please give me a call or send an email to discuss more:

E: jo@massageandme.co.uk
T: 0781 009 3508

Take care,
M&M x