Fibromyalgia is a chronic rheumatic pain disorder characterized by widespread muscle, tissue and joint pain and tenderness throughout the body. A person with fibromyalgia will experience pain even from the gentlest touch. In addition, many people often deal with fatigue, numbness, sleep, memory and mood issues such as depression and anxiety. It affects 2-4% of the people, women make up 80-90% of sufferers. Fibromyalgia is not caused from an autoimmune disease or inflammation in the body.
After decades of study, researchers have no definitive cause for fibromyalgia. There are theories that it is dysregulation of the Central Nervous System (CNS) that may have been caused by stress or traumatic events (such as a car accident), repetitive injuries, illness or genetics. Unfortunately there is not a test, such as an Xray, bloodwork or MRI, that helps diagnose fibromyalgia.
In the past, doctors used “tender points” to confirm a diagnosis. Tender points are described as the size of a penny, located near joints but not on the joints. They are not random but are found in the same location on each fibromyalgia patient. Rheumatologists believe these tender points are actually muscle spasms (involuntary contractions) that occur from lack of oxygen in the blood. Since fibromyalgia can come and go and doctors had no way to measure the amount of pressure, tender points are no longer used to determine the diagnosis.
The current diagnostic guidelines as of 2016 from the American College of Rheumatology now includes patient report of widespread generalized pain throughout the body for at least 3 months. The pain must be located in at least four out of five regions (left upper, right upper, left lower, right lower, low back) of the body.
In additional to chronic generalized pain, fibromyalgia has many other symptoms. Sufferers often describe feelings of foggy brain, hyper sensitivity to touch, sleep disturbances, fatigue, anxiety, depression and stiffness. Since many of these symptoms can also be associated with other disorders including mental health issues or chronic fatigue syndrome, it is important to see a doctor to get the correct diagnosis.
According to the National Institute of Health, 98% of fibromyalgia sufferers use some form of alternative medicine to reduce their symptoms. Massage was found to be one of the best alternative treatments to help manage symptoms. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, bodywork massage can be a beneficial part of an integrated treatment plan for those suffering with fibromyalgia.
Rheumatology International recommends starting with a gentle massage 1- 2 times a week for at least five weeks for best results. Massage can also be used on a weekly or bi-weekly basis for continued pain management. As the fibromyalgia patient is able to tolerate deeper pressure, the massage therapist can start incorporating myofascial release and trigger point therapy. Trigger point therapy can be helpful to ease the tenderness of painful spots located in bands of muscle fibers, the applied pressure helps to deactivate the pain sensation.
One of our clients, we will refer to her as T, has been coming to Bodywork Masters biweekly for several years. She was referred to BWM from two friends who were clients and were able to get their pain issues resolved from bodywork.
When T first came to BWM she was in constant head to toe nerve pain from fibromyalgia. Her fingers were numb and there were days she could not get out of bed or even walk. Often she would wake up in the middle of the night crying.
After the official diagnosis of fibromyalgia, she was put on a strong medication for a year and a half. She describes the medication as “awful”. While on it, she felt lost and gained 35 pounds. In an effort to regain quality of life, she made the decision to stop the medication but needed help to relieve the pain. That is when she found Bob Tricomi, LMT, at Bodywork Masters.
“Bob changed my life!” is a quote from T. “I started having regular bodywork treatments and I was finally pain free.” T was able to begin exercising again and felt back to her normal self. Since starting bodywork at BWM she continues to come on a consistent bi-weekly schedule. She noticed that if she missed sessions, the pain began to increase. BWM is now part of her life and routine to stay healthy and pain free. She also refers many people who suffer from fibromyalgia or other pain. “Bob is a miracle worker, he changed my life!”
Bob Tricomi, owner of Bodywork Masters, sees many patients who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Many of his clients come to him after trying other forms of traditional medicine such as medication. Bodywork works because it is a hands on treatment. Bob can feel the “tender points” while doing massage on a client. He describes the tender points as small, round hard areas located around the joints throughout the body. During the initial session he starts off very gently with regular communication with the client to determine their level of pain during the session. In the beginning, Bob finds that it is helpful to see a client once a week for several weeks if they are in pain. Once the pain subsides, the sessions can begin to be spread further apart. Ninety minute sessions are ideal since that gives the therapist more time to gently address the entire body and deactivate the hypersensitive areas of the body with the least pain.
If you are suffering from pain from fibromyalgia and are looking for a holistic treatment for pain relief, make an appointment with Bodywork Masters for a consultation.