Fibromyalgia is the term given to a chronic condition marked by pain and stiffness in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is a chronic musculoskeletal condition expressed in widespread pain over the entire body. FM patients (a higher percentage of whom are women than men) also suffer from tension headaches, fatigue, stiffness and sleep disorders.
Every year, GP's doctors make over 200,000 referrals for massage therapy treatments. Massage Therapy is one of the few forms of medical treatment that can benefit the entire human body. To truly understand how Massage Therapy helps people, you first must appreciate the complex machine that is a human being: 206 bones; an unimaginably complex nervous system that controls all of the muscles; a respiratory system that instantly provides oxygen for life; and a circulatory system that delivers oxygen-filled blood and other nutrients to the billions of cells throughout the body.
Fibrosis and Contracture: Daily massages reduced the pain and stiffness of people with fibromyalgia. (Field, 1996)
Fybromyalgia is actually a fibromyositic pathology. Fibromyositis is a chronic, low-grade inflammatory condition of the muscle, fascia and other connective tissue leading to fibrosis and muscle pain. The main cause of fibromyositis is the accumulation of pathological hypertonus in muscles over a prolonged period of time. This can be triggered by posttraumatic phenomena, stress, sleep disorders, hormonal changes(thereby explaining the high incidence of women), toxic chemical exposure and other factors.
One of the most difficult soft tissue disorders to treat is fibrosis. Fibrosis is the abnormal formation of fibrous or scar tissues that may result from an injury, repeated stress and /or lack of activity. Restricted motion can also result in this abnormal connective tissue formation, reducing muscle and tissue flexibility and tone.
By applying specific soft tissue manipulation techniques to the area, a therapist can stretch and soften the abnormal connective tissues and help to prevent further adhesion formation on the tendons, ligaments and muscles. Joint mobilization techniques are also useful in softening the adhesions and stretching muscles and soft tissues that have become dysfunctional.
The prevention and treatment of fibrosis (abnormal formation of collagen tissue) is a primary treatment goal following tissue damage, inflammation or immobilization. Transverse friction, for example, of a torn ligament prevents abnormal adhesion formation to surrounding connective tissue, bones and tendons. Treatment application of deep friction includes tendonitis, muscular and ligamentous lesions from both recent injury and remaining scar tissue formation from past injury.
Beyond softening and preventing adhesions, Massage Therapy can provide a temporary analgesic effect that allows other medical treatments to be provided without pain (Weintraub, 1994). Moving and stretching affected limbs is extremely important to recovery and Massage Therapy can be the key.