Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that is characterised by widespread pain across the body which is often accompanied by secondary symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, joint stiffness, headaches and even difficulty concentrating. It is not yet known what the exact cause of the condition is, it is thought that the pain may be caused by neuro-chemical imbalances affecting how the CNS and the brain interact and process pain. It is also speculated that lifestyle, genetics and psychological factors may play a part but research is ongoing at present. What is clear is that for its duration this condition causes mass discomfort for the person suffering from it and it seems to be becoming more prevalent in society given greater awareness of the condition. This in turn means that as therapists we are seeing more clients present with this condition who ask – ‘Can you help me?’ and the answer to this question is ‘Yes you can!’.
In recent years soft tissue research1 in this area has focused on the link between Myofascial Trigger Points (MTrPs) and Fibromyalgia. Although they have not been proven to be the root cause of the problem what has been found is that compared with control groups, patients with Fibromyalgia tend to exhibit evidence of MTrPs in local areas of pain. Further research2 has looked right across the body for overlap of MTrPs and areas of pain for Fibromyalgia sufferers and again the level of overlap indicates that MTrPs play a significant part. It is a natural progression that if we as Soft Tissue Therapists can release these MTrPs then we could make a difference to these patients and indeed research would back this claim.
Take this abstract3 entitled: Effects of Myofascial Release Techniques on pain, physical function, and postural stability in patients with fibromyalgia. In this study a number of patients suffering with Fibromyalgia were split into a control group and an experimental group, the control group receiving a placebo treatment and the experimental group receiving 20 weeks of Myofascial Release. Post treatment the patients showed significantly reduction in overall pain level, number of painful/tender points, improved sleep and a higher number of ‘well’ days. Interestingly at the 6 month point post treatment improvement was still present but by 12 months the benefits had degraded significantly although overall number of ‘well’ days was still improved. In the final research article4 below it highlights that massage based Myofascial Release also improves theses symptoms significantly.
Evidently the Myofascial work did not cure the condition but what is clear is that while receiving regular treatment the patients felt greatly improved across the spectrum of symptoms. This shows how Myofascial Release and Soft Tissue Therapy is extremely effective as a complimentary therapy for sufferers helping them to feel better, reduce their symptoms and help them to get on with daily life. Just remember – always work within a safe pain scale, communicate well with your client and start conservatively to monitor your individual client’sresponse to treatment.
1) Contribution of the local and referred pain from active myofascial trigger points in fibromyalgia syndrome: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19819074?ordinalpos=1&itool=Email.EmailReport.Pubmed_ReportSelector.Pubmed_RVDocSum
2) Prevalence of myofascial trigger points in fibromyalgia: the overlap of two common problems: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20607459
3) Effects of myofascial release techniques on pain, physical function, and postural stability in patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21673013
4) Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21234327