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Massage Therapy and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is one of the most debilitating conditions that an estimated 5.8 million people in the U.S. suffer from.  The disease manifests itself in symptoms that involve muscle aches, pain, weakness, and joint stiffness.  It also involves unexplained fatigue, making it difficult for patients to move or perform normal daily activities.  Although fibromyalgia symptoms may be alleviated through the use of medications, many patients also turn to massage therapy for relief.  Massage can be an effective complement to more conventional means of treatment.

Massages require the physical manipulation of muscles and tissues.  When done correctly, it can help encourage proper circulation of blood throughout the system.  Coupled with correct breathing on the patient's end, regular massage therapy can promote tissue oxygenation.  This process helps eliminate pain and stiffness and promote better flexibility.

There are several types of massages that may be used with patients who have fibromyalgia.  One of the most popular techniques is circulatory massage because it uses deep pressure to relieve muscle pain and eliminate tension. Shiatsu massage is also a popular form of therapy. Shiatsu is a type of massage that targets pressure points in the hands, fingers, and knuckles in order to stimulate the body to relax and relieve itself of pain.  This can be an ideal massage for someone with fibromyalgia because it avoids direct contact with the muscles and major joints, usually the parts of the body where the most pain is experienced. Another viable option is reflexology, a type of massage therapy where the therapist manipulates only the patient’s feet and hands.  


Research regarding the use of massage therapy for treating and managing certain disorders and illnesses is growing.  For the treatment of pain, stiffness, and discomfort associated with fibromyalgia, massage therapy has been observed to be effective among subjects in several studies.  One such study, which appeared in April 2002 in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, reported that the group that received massage therapy reported improved sleep duration, quality, and decreased pain.

Another study, one conducted by the New Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine, showed that massage therapy helped improve patients with joint and muscle pains.  The study concluded that massage therapy helped decreased pain and tenderness, increased levels of serotonin, decreased levels of stress hormones, and improved the patient’s overall sense of well-being.