What is Fibromyalgia & Massage Therapy

Written by Liz Lindgren


What is Fibromyalgia & Massage Therapy

Research shows that mind-body approaches massage therapy, acupuncture, tai chi, & yoga may help relieve pain & reduce anxiety when integrated with standard care.

What is Fibromyalgia?

There are a group of symptoms that describe Fibromyalgia which are categorised by widespread pain in the muscles and joints, fatigue, sleep and cognitive difficulties  (Arnold et al. 2018). It is not a life-threatening condition / disorder but it can be extremely distressing for sufferers.

The latest recent research suggest that symptoms are caused by the central nervous system (CNS) being inflamed.  of the central nervous system. To be more  precise constant glial cell activation and elevated levels of certain inflammatory substances (Albrecht et al. 2018).

In essence, the current thinking is that because of the ongoing neuro-inflammation there is a hyper-vigilance of the nervous system. Symptoms are then exasperated because the body struggles to reduce neuro-immune responses related with pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties.

Can Massage Therapy Help?

A number of practice guidelines (American & Canadian) now recommend the use of massage therapy as part of a multi-modal approach for patients with Fibromyalgia (Busse et al. 2017, Skelly et al. 2018). It is not suggest that massage therapy alone can control symptoms but can be applied to help relieve pain & reduce anxiety when integrated with standard care.

Why Does Massage Therapy Help?

The responses to massage therapy are multifactorial (physiological and psychological factors interplay in a complex manner). An observed favourable outcome may be explained by a number of overlapping responses in the periphery, spinal cord, and brain, including but not limited to: modulation of spinal and supra-spinal reflex excitability (inhibition of nociceptive processing and activation of descending inhibitory mechanisms), and modulation neuro-immune responses (Espejo et al. 2018).

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