Power of Touch Massage, properly performed, seems particularly helpful in treating fibromyalgia. Patients consistently report that they find bodywork to be the top therapy for providing short-term relief and long-term improvement. (18)
In an effort to find out just what actually does help people feel better, German scientists took a look at various therapies and concluded that massage was ranked in the top four for patient satisfaction. (19)
A study in the European Journal of Pain evaluated connective tissue massage. The researchers treated 23 FMS patients and compared them to 23 controls. The subjects received a series of 15 connective tissue massage sessions, which reduced depression and use of pain medication and improved quality of life. The massage benefits gradually increased over the 10-week study, eventually reducing pain by 37 percent. Take note, though, that the patients’ pain had gradually climbed back to about 90 percent of the original level six months post-study. (20)
And therein lies the problem, as when pain is involved, being consistent can be difficult for some FMS sufferers.
“Therapy should continue for years,” adds Cabrera. “Hundreds of sessions might be indicated, and patient compliance is critical, though difficult to sustain. People know they will eventually feel better, but it might be difficult for someone in pain to get up and make the effort to go consistently.”
Lauren McNeal, an acupuncturist and bodyworker in Annapolis, Maryland, reminds us to be cautious and go slow. “Massage done too aggressively can hurt for three to four days afterward if it’s not in tune with their inner body,” she says.
Regrettably, many FMS patients, for whatever reason, don’t keep up with their massage treatments. One study of long-term FMS patients discovered a sizeable reduction in their use of all forms of hands-on therapy, despite the fact that 85 percent continued to have significant difficulty with their FMS, and 54 percent were taking over-the-counter drugs for pain and 39 percent were using antidepressant drugs. (21)
Get Moving Along with massage therapy, a regular exercise routine is absolutely required for FMS sufferers, and many studies confirm the positive results.
Exercise in warm water seems to be particularly beneficial. A recent waist-high warm water exercise study cites long-term lowered pain and increased strength.(22) A study published in theJournal of Rehabilitation Medicine found that warm water exercise provided long-term physical and mental progress.(23)
FMS sufferers often get a lot out of yoga and relaxation techniques, as well. In a six-week randomized pilot study, researchers adapted a yoga program for FMS chronic back pain. The participants demonstrated improved balance and flexibility, and were less disabled and depressed. The group setting encouraged better body awareness and improved relaxation.(24)
Tai chi can also be a good exercise choice in FMS. Two tai chi classes weekly for six weeks improved symptoms and quality of life for 39 patients in one study.(25)
Pain, combined with difficult diagnosis and treatment, makes FMS a frustrating disease, to say the least. However, we all have great reason to be optimistic that as we integrate all the developments of recent years, FMS sufferers will one day soon find long-lasting relief.
References 18. Khalsa, KPS. Fibromyalgia: A Text for Massage Therapists. Natural Wellness Publishing: Pine Bush, 2004. 19. Wild J, Muller W. “Patient satisfaction in the rehabilitation of fibromyalgia inpatients.” Z Rheumatol. 2002 Oct;61(5):560–567. 20. Brattberg G. “Connective tissue massage in the treatment of fibromyalgia.” Eur J Pain. 1999 Jun;3(3):235–244. 21. Waylonis GW, Perkins RH. “Post-traumatic fibromyalgia: a long-term follow-up.” Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 1994 73:403–412. 22. Gusi N, Tomas-Carus P, Häkkinen A, et al. “Exercise in waist-high warm water decreases pain and improves health related quality of life and strength in the lower extremities in women with fibromyalgia.” Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Feb 15;55(1):66–73. 23. Tomas-Carus P, Gusi N, Häkkinen A, et al. “Eight months of physical training in warm water improves physical and mental health in women with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial.”J Rehabil Med. 2008 Apr;40(4):248–252. 24. Galantino ML, Bzdewka TM, Eissler-Russo JL, et al. “The impact of modified hatha yoga on chronic low back pain: a pilot study.” Altern Ther Health Med. 2004 Mar- Apr;10(2):56–59. 25. Li F, Fisher KJ, Harmer P, et al. “Tai chi and self-rated quality of sleep and daytime sleepiness in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.” J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004 Jun;52(6):892–900.