Fibromyalgia is one of the most misunderstood disorders in medicine today, and holistic treatments like massage are widely underutilized. Often misdiagnosed, those with fibromyalgia experience severe pain and fatigue that can interfere with performing even the simplest of tasks.
”Myalgia” means pain, and “fibro” means within the connective tissue. Patients eventually seek help from their doctor when they experience the chronic, widespread pain that is the hallmark of this condition. In order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome, a patient has to have chronic pain on contact at least 11 of the 18 determined fibromyalgia tender points on the body.
It affects as many as 4 million adults in America and is often mistaken for a “catch-all” diagnosis used when a doctor can’t find anything wrong with the patient. This is simply not true, based on a multitude of pain science research that supports the reality of fibromyalgia as a serious condition.
What Causes Fibromyalgia
If you’re suffering from fibromyalgia, it’s important for you to hear that this is a documented disorder, and the pain and fatigue you feel is real. Fibromyalgia is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that modulates pain, including norepinephrine and serotonin. Because the root of the problem is in the brain itself, painkillers or anti-inflammatories don’t improve the pain.
Fibromyalgia can affect patients of all ages, and it’s difficult for people with fibromyalgia to get an accurate diagnosis. This is due in part to the misinformation inadvertently spread about the disorder by those who believe that since there’s no lab test that “proves” a result of fibromyalgia, then the disorder can’t be real. Regardless of the opinions of skeptics, people with fibromyalgia aren’t just “overly sensitive,” they’re experiencing true pain and crippling fatigue.
People often don’t want a diagnosis of fibromyalgia based on stigma or the belief that fibromyalgia is an untreatable condition, so they instead seek help from yet another specialist to try to trace the source of the pain and fatigue they’re suffering from. Ultimately, working alongside your primary care provider to create an integrated treatment approach will allow you to incorporate specialists, holistic healthcare providers, and diet and exercise in a way that works for you.
Treatments For Fibromyalgia
Newer pharmaceutical treatments include medications that help balance the pain-modulating chemicals themselves. But these medications don’t work for everyone, and they’re not without side effects. They can cause significant weight gain or actually increase fatigue.
Those who suffer from fibromyalgia may want to use holistic options to supplement their doctor’s treatment plan. Like many chronic illnesses, stress makes fibromyalgia worse, so stress reduction tactics can actually lower levels of the chemicals that transmit the pain signals. Some people find that exercise and good sleep are other helpful tools for managing fibromyalgia.
How Massage Can Help Fibromyalgia Symptoms
The research on therapeutic massage shows that it can be part of an integrated treatment plan for fibromyalgia. Massage can potentially reduce pain, improve sleep, and decrease fatigue for people with fibromyalgia syndrome.
Your mental health may improve with massage too, as studies show that depression and anxiety in fibromyalgia patients are reduced with massage. This is important because fibromyalgia sufferers often battle significant depression and “brain fog” related to living with their condition.
By improving the overall quality of life, reducing stiffness and pain, and increasing sleep quality, at least one study states that massage may lead to some patients reducing their use of pain-relieving drugs.
Take An Integrative Approach To Managing Your Fibromyalgia
If you regularly experience diffuse aches and pains, it’s important to see your primary care doctor to rule out other possible causes like thyroid issues or depression. Ultimately, testing the fibromyalgia tender points will help your doctor determine if a referral to a rheumatologist or other specialist is warranted.
If you integrate massage with your fibromyalgia treatment, it’s important to find a massage therapist that you feel at ease with. Zeel’s in-home massage app allows you to work with a trained massage therapist at your own home. You can be seen in as little as a few hours, so when you’re in the middle of a “fibro flare” you won’t be left waiting days for help.
When you’re developing a treatment plan with your doctor, be sure to discuss holistic methods that can dovetail with the pharmaceutical measures they outline for you. Bring up massage, exercise, and nutrition, and work together with your healthcare team to create the right approach for you.