According to NHS Choices, “Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition which causes pain all over the body,” with between 2-4% of people in the UK suffering from it. Seven times as many women are affected as men; it usually starts in people between the ages of 25 and 55.
Often the skin is painful to the touch, muscles can feel stiff. Fatigue, headaches and depression can occur alongside the other symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
Typically, Fibromyalgia will include pain at several tender points on the body:
For decades, the cause of fibromyalgia has been a mystery, but research in June last year (2013) showed that sufferers have more nerve endings in their skin than is normal. Having too many nerve endings means that the brain isn’t able to regulate pain sensations properly.
Normally, a neurotransmitter called dopamine regulates the brain’s response to pain; but with too many pain signals coming into the brain from the extra nerve endings, it seems that the fibromyalgia sufferer can’t produce enough dopamine to regulate the pain.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia may ease after some months, but often it remains a chronic condition, which can affect a person’s quality of life.
Doctors always need to be consulted first in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Whilst there is currently no cure, your GP may prescribe pain-killers or anti-inflammatory drugs which might help. Patients often seek alternative treatments to help improve their quality of life and to manage their illness as well – but this should only be done after seeing your GP first.
A survey of over 1,000 people by the Fibromyalgia Network in the USA found overwhelmingly that sufferers prefer massage therapy over other non-drug therapies.
It might seem a bit odd that sufferers prefer massage to other ways of dealing with their symptoms when the skin is painful to touch. But each day is different for the fibromyalgia patient, and some areas which are tender on one day will not be tender the next.
Remedial and sports massage therapists are trained in a number of techniques which can bring relief to tender points – techniques which don’t necessarily involve rubbing the skin. So it’s possible that sore areas of muscle can be helped even on days when you can’t face them being massaged.
Stiff muscles can also be treated using a range of techniques to help improve your range of movement. If you’re finding it hard to move certain parts of your body, then remedial techniques can help you stretch and make you more flexible again, in a pain-free way.
And on those days when you’re able to have a massage, then one of the big benefits is the way that massage helps you to relax.
In a previous blog post, I’ve talked about massage and relaxation – but the main message for Fibromyalgia sufferers is that in research in the US in 2005 it was found that regular massage could increase dopamine production in the brain by 31%. Since dopamine helps regulate pain, that can only be good news.
When you’re choosing your massage therapist, make sure that you choose someone with remedial massage skills. You want someone who can adapt to how you’re feeling on the day and change their technique completely depending on the severity of your symptoms then.
It’s all about helping you manage your symptoms, and improving your quality of life.
If you think I can help, give me a call.