Fibromyalgia and Massage
Fibromyalgia is a chronic and painful condition that can affect every area of your life. If you suffer from fibromyalgia you probably ache all over and have trouble sleeping at night. You may experience severe fatigue, increasing as the day progresses. You may be anxious, perhaps even depressed, about feeling like you do.
WHAT IS FIBROMYALGIA?
Fibromyalgia literally translates as fiber or fibrous ('fibro-'), muscle ('myo-'), and pain ('-algia'). It is defined as widespread pain throughout the body for at least three months and pain upon pressure in 11 or more of 18 specific tender point sites. Up to 4% of the population have received a formal fibromyalgia diagnosis. Many more have distressing symptoms that indicate they are progressing toward fibromyalgia and could benefit from seeking help early. Fibromyalgia may come on suddenly or develop over time. There is no single identified cause, although physical trauma such as auto accidents or surgery can be a major trigger for its onset. Others may include infections, stress, sleep disturbances, or severe emotional trauma, even from years past.
Pain and fatigue probably top your list of unrelenting complaints. This alone, especially over a period of time, can make you anxious or depressed, aggravating your sensitivity to pain. Add to this a host of other symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and trouble concentrating, and it’s no wonder your situation may seem more than you can bear. Lightening your load anywhere will free up physical and emotional resources your body needs to heal.
Lack of sleep, stress, long periods of sitting or standing, or other physical and emotional factors may aggravate a vicious cycle of pain. You can experience a welcome break in the pain when massage stimulates the release of endorphins, your body’s natural pain killers, which can also alleviate depression and insomnia. Massage increases circulation, which cleanses tissues of uncomfortable fluid buildup and irritating by-products of inflammation. As increased oxygen and nutrition flow to contracted muscles, your muscles can relax, headaches may be eased and the severity and frequency of flare-ups may be reduced.
Massage calms the nervous system, allowing anxiety to fade, relaxing muscle tension and slowing and deepening the breath. Stress levels decrease, freeing energy for vital functions such as digestion—needed for maximum healing nutrition throughout your body—and repair of damaged tissue. Knowing there is something you can do to alleviate symptoms, even temporarily, can also reduce stress by giving your some control over your condition.
Many people report a deeper and more restorative sleep after a massage. Since poor sleep is common in fibromyalgia and contributes to fatigue and muscle tenderness, improving sleep may be vital for you. Feeling relaxed and rested, your sensitivity to pain may be lessened, leaving you with increased energy to regain function and good health.
Massage offers the most basic emotional support—skillful, caring and healing touch. I understand how you’re feeling, and I will listen to you. I take all your symptoms very seriously.
Support for Exercise
Fatigue and pain may make you feel like curling up and staying put. Consistent and moderate exercise, however, is essential to improve and decrease your pain. Massage can support you by making it easier and less painful to stretch and exercise appropriately.
A Gentle Approach
Massage should be an enjoyable break from pain and anxiety. My approach is based on your body’s unique response. Be aware that any treatment, even massage, is another input for your already overtaxed system. Even if you feel the need for deep pressure, gentle sessions may be best for you, especially in the beginning. It may take several sessions to begin feeling the benefits, but with regular massage many fibromyalgia sufferers report substantial and cumulative relief, both physical and emotional.