Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome that is not fully understood. Patients diagnosed with this syndrome often suffer from joint rigidity, generalized pain, sleep problems, unrelenting fatigue, depression, anxiety and troubles with the digestive system. There are many theories as to why people develop fibromyalgia but effective treatment is limited and doesn’t work for everyone. As the cause is unknown, treatment of the syndrome generally involves managing individual symptoms but patients can often be left feeling frustrated and have can trouble getting through their day.1
Post-treatment, the study group who had received myofascial release showed immediate improvement in their pain scores. When re-evaluated a month later, these candidates were still doing better on the pain scale than the control group who received no treatment. Additionally, the experimental group showed improvement in anxiety levels and reported less difficulties sleeping and performing activities of daily living.2
As myofascial release therapy can help to release tension and tightness in muscle groups, myofascial massage was studied and found to reduce pain and improve quality of sleep, anxiety, and overall quality of life in those suffering from fibromyalgia. In the studies conducted, patients receiving the therapy had treatment mainly at the lower cervical joints, the right greater trochanter and gluteus muscles and it helped to establish a pathological process which included nutrient limitation to the myofascial tissue. Due to nutrient deficiency at the area, the tissue becomes dysfunctional if left untreated, creating sensitivity. The myofascial release improved sensitivity and pain for those in the experimental group.3
Use of myofascial release therapy in patients with fibromyalgia helps to increase circulation, relaxation, and lymphatic drainage of the affected muscles by stimulating the area and removing the tension and rigidity of the muscle and its corresponding myofascial area. Instead of simply masking the pain as in the case of many pharmaceutical treatment options, a qualified therapist is able to use indirect or direct myofascial techniques to release the fascia and relieve pain from its source.4
Indirect myofascial release is a massage method which is gentle in nature. The tissues involved are gently stretched and increase blood flow and temperature of the area causing it to be released. This method uses a nonstop pressure over a specified time period.5
Direct myofascial release is a massage method which uses deep tissue massage with constantly applied pressure. This massage type will usually begin in a massage that approaches the layers one by one until deeper tissues are reached until the fascia is released.6
Although there have not been many studies conducted using myofascial massage technique as a treatment for fibromyalgia patients, the ones which were conducted displayed that patients receiving the treatment did gain benefits from its use. As many people receiving treatment for fibromyalgia are currently unsatisfied with its results, and those who attend myofascial release therapy have experienced increased quality of life, less pain sensitivity, mood improvement, less anxiety, and better sleep cycles for fibromyalgia patients.
As with all therapies, medications, or alternative approaches, it is best to consult with your primary care physician before beginning anything new to see if you are a good candidate before you start. Although there are few complications associated with this treatment, those with deep vein issues, fragile bones, bleeding disorders, or those on certain medications that can thin the blood may be excluded from trying this massage technique for their fibromyalgia.