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Fibromyalgia and Massage


To determine the effects of massage therapy versus relaxation therapy on sleep, substance P and pain in fibromyalgia patients, twenty four adult fibromyalgia patients were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or relaxation therapy group. They received 30-minute treatments twice a week for five weeks. Both groups showed a decrease in anxiety and depressed mood immediately after the first and last therapy sessions. However, across the course of the study only the massage therapy group reported an increase in the number of sleep hours and a decrease in their sleep movements. In addition, substance P levels decreased and the patients' physicians assigned lower disease and pain ratings and rated fewer tenderpoints in the massage therapy group.

-- Field, T., Diego, M., Cullen, C., Hernandez-Reif, M., & Sunshine, W. (2002). Fibromyalgia pain and substance P decreases and sleep improves following massage therapy. -- Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a syndrome of unknown etiology characterized by chronic wide spread pain, increased tenderness to palpation and additional symptoms such as disturbed sleep, stiffness, fatigue and psychological distress. While medication mainly focus on pain reduction, physical therapy is aimed at disease consequences such as pain, fatigue, deconditioning, muscle weakness and sleep disturbances and other disease consequences. Based on a review of current treatment options in the treatment of fibromyalgia and evidence from randomized controlled trials, cardiovascular fitness training improves cardiovascular fitness, measures of pain as well as subjective energy and work capacity and physical and social activities. Based on anecdotal evidence or small observational studies, physiotherapy may reduce overloading of the muscle system, improve postural fatigue and positioning, and condition weak muscles. Modalities and whole body cryotherapy may reduce localized as well as generalized pain in the short term. Trigger point injection may reduce pain originating from concomitant trigger points in some FM patients. Massage may reduce muscle tension and may be prescribed as a adjunct with other therapeutic interventions. Acupuncture may reduce pain and increase pain threshold. Biofeedback may positively influence subjective and objective disease measures. TENS may reduce localized musculoskeletal pain in fibromyalgia.

--Offenbacher, M. & Stucki, G. (2000). Physical therapy in the treatment of fibromyalgia. -- Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology - Supplement, 113, 78-85.

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last update: April 2009



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