Updated: May 26
Invisible illnesses come with a host of challenges, not the least of which include widespread pain. If you have fibromyalgia, you know how frustrating it can be to perpetually participate in a game of "Can I function today?"
Luckily, people with fibromyalgia benefit from massage therapy. I've seen firsthand how regular massage therapy can positively impact clients with FM. In this post, we'll discuss some challenges people with fibromyalgia face and how massage therapy benefits fibromyalgia symptoms.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia, or "fiber-muscle pain," is a chronic pain condition that affects millions of people worldwide, and its symptoms can be completely debilitating. Fibromyalgia causes widespread muscle pain that's often referred to as tender points. Other symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, brain fog, and digestion issues.
Sadly, we understand very little about what causes fibromyalgia, but scientists think the nervous system reacts more significantly to stimulation than it should.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and nonpainful signals.”
The Effects of Invisible Illnesses
Fibromyalgia is an invisible illness, which means your symptoms aren't apparent to the people
around you. Unfortunately, our healthcare system also has a history of dismissing women, who are more likely to have FM.
These factors mean your doctor or loved ones may doubt the severity of your condition or ignore your symptoms entirely. As a result, some people suffer for years without answers. Others are accused of seeking attention or drugs and made to feel shame for seeking help, leading to depression, anxiety, and distrust of doctors.
Compassion Is Needed For Healing
Humans are social, and we crave empathy and understanding from others. Opening up about your symptoms can be difficult, especially if you've faced the stigma of invisible illness or other forms of discrimination. But having someone to confide in helps us process and cope with our struggles.
Connecting with someone who understands your situation can be an incredibly healing experience. Your symptoms are real, and I know they affect your life. So it's okay to have feelings about it, and I'm grateful when you share them with me. My top priority is providing a safe space for healing and connection.
How Massage Therapy Benefits Fibromyalgia Symptoms
There's not a ton of research on massage therapy because performing reproducible studies using current scientific standards is challenging. But still, most experts agree that massage works.
An American Massage Therapy Association article states, “Of all the alternative therapies available, more and more research shows that massage therapy provides real benefits to people dealing with a number of health conditions, including fibromyalgia.”
I've personally witnessed massage therapy help alleviate pain and stiffness, reduce tender point pain, improve sleep quality, and promote relaxation. Combined, these benefits provide an overall sense of improved well-being for clients in my practice.
Making Massage Work For You
Massage therapy helps your nervous system relax, but not if you're bombarded by stimuli. Because of this, a massage for someone with FM usually includes gentle pressure and slow movements. But, like most conditions, fibromyalgia symptoms occur on a spectrum, so what's effective for you will likely differ from others with FM.
Your needs and symptoms will change over time, so communication during your session is imperative. Everyone is affected differently, so please tell me if you need a change in pressure, temperature, position, music, etc. I'm happy to make any changes that make you more comfortable.
Until Next Time
Remember, people with fibromyalgia deserve support and compassion, so be kind to yourself and surround yourself with understanding and empathetic people. While there's no cure for fibromyalgia, massage therapy can help relieve your symptoms, and I would love to be the therapist that helps. Are you ready to try massage therapy for your fibromyalgia symptoms?