What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition of pain and profound fatigue. The pain tends to be felt as diffuse aching or burning, often described as head to toe. It may be worse at some times than at others. It may also change location, usually becoming more severe in parts of the body that are used most.
Patients describe the fatigue from feeling tired, to the exhaustion of a flu-like illness. It can come and go and people can suddenly feel drained of all energy. Fibromyalgia is as common as rheumatoid arthritis. People with mild to moderate cases of fibromyalgia are usually able to live a normal life, given the appropriate treatment.
If symptoms are severe, however, people may not be able to hold down a paying job or enjoy a social life. The name fibromyalgia is made up from “fibro” for fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments; “my” indicating muscles; and “algia” meaning pain.
Fibromyalgia is known as a syndrome because it is a collection of symptoms rather than a specific disease process that is well understood. Besides pain and fatigue fibromyalgia symptoms often include:
• Non refreshing sleep
• waking up tired and stiff
• headaches ranging from ordinary types to migraine
• irritable bowel
• frequent diarrhoea or constipation, sometimes accompanied by gas in the abdomen or nausea
• cognitive disturbances including lack of concentration and word mix up
• clumsiness and dizziness
• sensitivity to changes in the weather and to noise, bright lights, smoke and other environmental factors
Treatments for fibromyalgia aim to reduce pain and improve sleep, which means the symptoms are being treated, rather than the condition itself. Medications prescribed for fibromyalgia are tricyclic drugs also used to treat depression and pain killers as well as the expertise of a pain clinic.
In some cases these drugs will help both sleep and pain.
Support from family, friends and other people, as well as self-help groups is valuable to those who have fibromyalgia. Professional counselling may help some people to cope with the illness and to take an active part in their own treatment. Learning to manage the condition seems to be the most successful way of dealing with fibromyalgia. A combination of heat, rest, exercise, holistic treatments and meditation can enable people with fibromyalgia to maintain a balanced life.
The best way to cope with the condition is to use a number of techniques that ease the symptoms. Relaxation is one technique that works really well for almost everybody with fibromyalgia. It reduces tension in the mind and body.
These techniques can calm the symptoms, especially pain. Relaxation can be learned from books, videos or courses. A hot water bottle and hot baths will help reduce pain and morning stiffness. Exercise is the most common prescription for fibromyalgia, especially mild programmes such as gentle Pilates, stretching and cardio training.
Physiotherapy and holistic treatments such as massage or manual lymphatic drainage can reduce the impact of the symptoms.
A healthy, balanced diet is important to provide protein, vitamins and minerals. It is best to avoid or cut down on coffee, tea and alcohol.
People with fibromyalgia can have good days and bad days. On a good day it is important to pace yourself; overdoing it may make matters worse. Rest is also important. Listen to your body when it tells you to slow down.
How Massage can help
Massage therapy decreases stress hormones and increases serotonin. It improves one’s overall sense of well-being and relaxation. In order to achieve quality sleep, the body can repair itself and start fresh for the following day. Once the body has reached homeostasis after a night of restorative sleep, one will have both, the mental and physical energy to address challenges throughout the next day.
Massages that tend to work best for those suffering from Fibromyalgia are techniques that combine kneading, pressure, stretching, and heat (Holistic/ Swedish Massage or passive stretching). These types of massages will loosen up the parts of the body that have been made tight, increase mobility and reduce overall tension. Depending on the clients sensitivity, the pressure should be mild to medium and should be checked in between with the client.
Massage also increases circulation and helps the body to clear out toxins within the muscles. In some cases aromatherapy can be beneficial depending on the essential oils. If the client requires more relaxation in order to let go, essential oils like Lavender oil are a good choice. If the main goal in increased circulation, essential oils like Rosemary or Peppermint oil are recommended.
Massage chairs make an excellent option for those suffering from Fibromyalgia as they are the most cost-effective massage method for people who require regular, long-term massage therapy. They also make a great choice because of the convenience and availability for the user to take advantage of a professional-grade massage at any time of day, for as long as they like, and without having to leave the comfort of their home.
Before choosing a massage therapist it is worth having an initial consultation to discuss the client's specific needs, goals and medical history.
Find out more about Anika and her treatments on her page.