Fancy a Massage?

Monday, October 17, 2005

By: Kathy Longley

Reprinted from FMOnline


Apparently, over 40 percent of people with fibromyalgia do. Massage therapy is one of the top rated complimentary treatments according to research studies and ranks in the top five, along with acupuncture, herbal remedies and chiropractic treatment.

Personally, when a friend first suggested massage therapy to me I thought she was insane. My muscles were painful enough without somebody digging their thumbs into them and using Chinese chopping motions to stimulate the blood flow. I had visions of being held down on a hard table by a large lady as she pummeled away, successfully activating every hyposensitized nerve in my aching body. When my friend had finally stopped laughing at my visions of horror she explained the different types of massage available, including the gentle Swedish massage which I had to admit sounded more promising.

On taking the plunge, I discovered how relaxing and soothing a gentle massage could be, especially in a room full of candles with calming music floating out of hidden speakers. It was a wonderful feeling to be gently stroked and kneaded so my muscles began to relax. By the end of the session, I was often almost asleep.

Blood cannot flow easily through the capillaries of a tightly tensed muscle to renew the supply of nutrients and oxygen and remove the waste products created by aerobic and anaerobic respiration of the cells. These waste products build up in the surrounding tissues, causing congestion and possibly sensitizing the muscle’s pain receptors. The gentle stroking and kneading actions during a massage coax the muscles to relax and stimulate blood flow to revive the muscles with new nutrients and oxygen, while also encouraging drainage of the congested waste products into the lymph system.

Naturally, in people with fibromyalgia, muscles will often tense themselves up again fairly quickly—but regular massage treatment at least allows them a time of renewal and refreshment. This type of treatment can also help with anxiety as it can be deeply relaxing. Often a massage therapist will use lavender oil to encourage drowsiness and relaxation, or hot pebbles on specifically painful areas.

It is important when booking a massage for the first time that you discuss the symptoms of fibromyalgia with your therapist. It is vital that they understand that they will need to be gentler on you than they are on their normal clientele. It is advisable to err on the side of caution at the beginning to see how your body responds. Some people with fibromyalgia will only be able to cope with a very light massage at first, needing to build up gradually. It is important to rest after a massage to give your body a chance to enjoy its new state of relaxation and to minimize any delayed pain response. For this reason it can be a good idea to find a therapist who is prepared to do home visits so all you have to do is walk upstairs and flop into bed, rather than having to get dressed and drive home. Often you won’t get a reaction from the treatment until several hours or even a day afterwards. You will soon know if the treatment was too harsh for you!

Working with your massage therapist, you should be able to attain a level that is both therapeutic and enjoyable. If you still feel a bit nervous, then an alternative can be the various handheld mechanical massagers available in the shops. These usually have a range of settings so you can start on the lowest to see how your body responds. If you find that your muscles respond well to massage therapy it may be worth investing in a chair or a bed that offers a massage setting. I once stayed with a friend who owned one of those beds that lets you adjust the shape of the mattress to lift up your legs, for example, and also offers a massage setting. I had a wonderful time trying out all the different settings and found it very relaxing lying there while the bed massaged me.

A drawback of any complimentary therapy is having to regularly fork out money, as these therapies are rarely covered by insurance policies. A therapist who will come to your home tends to be less expensive than one in a salon due to reduced overhead. Another way to reduce cost could be to teach your spouse, parent, or friend how to perform an adequate massage using your choice of essential oils. There are plenty of books on the market to explain massage techniques, and courses to teach you the basics. Whatever you decide, massage therapy is a popular choice among individuals with fibromyalgia and—if carried out correctly—can bring welcome relief.

Note: Massage therapy is not appropriate for people suffering from phlebitis, varicose veins or thrombosis. Also, pregnant women should check the safety of the essential oil; lavender oil is believed to be unsafe during pregnancy. Always check with a medical professional if you have any concerns.