In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Does Manual Therapy Massage Help Women with Fibromyalgia?

Woman with fibromyalgia massaging her knee

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

According to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, there are 10 million people in America who have fibromyalgia [1].  It’s estimated that around 75-90% of those who have the condition are women.  Researchers continue to look for treatments that may help bring relief to those who suffer from it.  One new study points to manual therapy massage to help bring about relief.

The new study is published in the June 2020 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [2].  Researchers took a group of women who have fibromyalgia and separated them into two different groups, an experimental group and the placebo group.  The women who participated in the study were randomly chosen to be in each group.

The experimental group received a series of manual therapy sessions based on 15-minute connective tissue massages on the posterior cervical muscles.  The placebo group, on the other hand, received a “treatment” that involved ultrasound sessions without a conductive gel, and with the machine turned off.

Related Reading: Noninvasive, Non-Pharmacological Treatments for Chronic Pain

An assessment of each patient was conducted before and after each treatment.  The assessment was done to determine where people were with their level of fatigue, pain, sleep quality, and mood.  The goal of the study was to determine the effectiveness that a manual therapy technique would have on each of these areas.

Manual Therapy Massages Decrease Perception of Pain and Muscle Fatigue

What the researchers found was that the women who received the manual therapy massages experienced a decrease in the perception of pain and muscle fatigue.  They also had an improvement in their mood, because it helped to reduce their tension and anxiety.  They also found a relationship between fatigue and sleep variables.

Those who have fibromyalgia, considered to be one of the most common chronic pain conditions, tend to have chronic widespread muscle pain.  They also commonly experience fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive disorders, and mood disturbances.  Combine all of these conditions together, and it can create a difficult situation for people to overcome.

Related Reading: Managing Chronic Pain with a Mind-Body Physical Activity Program

Does manual therapy help fibromyalgia?

Those living with fibromyalgia may want to consider engaging in manual therapy massage to see if it can help bring some relief.  This is just one more option that provides hope to the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain related to fibromyalgia.  The more options we have that may bring relief, the better off we will be in being able to find ways to help our patients, loved ones, and ourselves.

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[1] National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain. Prevalence of Fibromyalgia.

[2] International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Effects of Manual Therapy on Fatigue, Pain, and Psychological Aspects in Women with Fibromyalgia. June 2020.

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