Massage and Fibromyalgia


What is Fibromyalgia?

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, “Fibromyalgia syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that include chronic pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues.”

“Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is frequently seen with chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, sleep disorders and several other chronic conditions.”  It affects an estimated 5.8 million Americans.

When an injury occurs, neurons carry signals from the point of injury through your spinal cord to your brain which interprets these signals as pain.  As the injury heals, the pain goes away.

With fibromyalgia you have pain without being sick or injured and the pain does not resolve.  Doctors think it may be caused by hitch in the way the brain and the spinal cord handle these pain signals.  There may be more cells that carry pain signals than normal and fewer cells that slow pain signals down.  The result is that your pain volume is turned up to 11.  Minor bumps hurt more than they should and there may be pain from things that shouldn’t hurt at all.

Fibromyalgia can occur suddenly and different people report different things that triggered their condition:

  • Genes – Fibromyalgia may run in families.  You may receive genes that make you more sensitive to pain;
  • Other diseases – Arthritis or an infection may raise your chance of getting fibromyalgia;
  • Emotional or physical abuse – Children who suffer abuse are more likely to contract fibromyalgia when they grow up. This may happen because abuse changes the way the brain handles pain and stress;
  • Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Fibromyalgia maybe triggered after a horrible event like war, a car crash or rape;
  • Gender – Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men which may be related to differences in the way men and women feel and react to pain – but more importantly – how society expects them to respond to pain;
  • Anxiety and depression – There may be a link between anxiety and depression to fibromyalgia but there is no proof that they cause the condition;
  • Low levels of activity – Fibromyalgia is more common in people who aren’t physically active.  Exercise is one of the best treatments for fibromyalgia.

Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

  • Pain and stiffness all over the body
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Problems with thinking, memory, and concentration
  • Headaches, including migraines

Other symptoms may include:

  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Pain in the face or jaw, including disorders of the jaw known as temporomandibular joint syndrome (also known as TMJ)
  • Digestive problems, such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and even irritable bowel syndrome (also known as IBS)

Massage and Fibromyalgia

Some research indicts that massage may:

  • Reduce pain
  • Improve health status
  • Improve quality of life
  • Decrease anxiety
  • Decrease depression
  • Increase sleep hours
  • Increase quality of sleep
  • Improve quality of sleep over time
  • Reduce tender points
  • Decrease urinary CRF-LI (a biochemical marker of stress-related symptoms)
  • Decrease use of analgesics
  • Decrease cortisol levels
  • Decrease stiffness
  • Decrease fatigue
  • Work well in an integrative treatment plan



American Massage Therapy Association

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Book Authored by Deidre Ann Johnson

Keep this handy book by your desk while working or in your carry on when travelling for tips to keep you flexible and pain free.




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