Massage therapy can reduce pain and improve overall well-being in people with fibromyalgia.

Living with fibromyalgia can be challenging, as the condition is characterized by chronic pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.

While medications can be helpful for managing some symptoms, they don’t work for everyone. Many individuals turn to complementary treatments, such as massage therapy, for relief.

Massage therapy has been shown to manage pain, improve sleep, and reduce anxiety and depression.

Massage therapy involves the manipulation of soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments to promote relaxation and relieve tension.

Here are some types of massage that may be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia:

  • Swedish massage: Swedish massage is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, and circular movements on the topmost layers of muscles. It’s effective for reducing muscle tension and promoting relaxation.
  • Myofascial release: Myofascial release targets the connective tissue (fascia) surrounding the muscles. A review of six studies found that myofascial release (both therapist- and self-administered) significantly improved pain, quality of sleep, and quality of life right after treatment. It also had a moderate effect 6 months post-treatment.
  • Trigger point therapy: This technique involves applying pressure to specific points on the body that are believed to be sources of pain. It uses various techniques such as compression, stretching, and massage to alleviate pain and discomfort.
  • Shiatsu: Shiatsu is a form of Japanese massage that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to relieve tension and promote relaxation. Shiatsu is believed to trigger the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers.
  • Thai massage: Thai massage combines acupressure, stretching, and compression techniques to promote relaxation, improve flexibility, and reduce anxiety.
  • Connective tissue massage: This type of massage focuses on manipulating the fascia that surrounds muscles and bones. It’s often used as part of manual therapy (a variety of hands-on techniques) used by physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists to help reduce pain and improve mobility.

Research suggests that massage offers several positive effects on various aspects of fibromyalgia, including reducing pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. These benefits are likely due to a combination of physical and mental mechanisms.

For instance, physical pressure and manipulation during massage may help reduce muscle tension and increase blood flow, which can help alleviate pain and improve physical function.

At the same time, the relaxation and stress-reducing effects of massage can have positive effects on mental well-being, including reducing anxiety and depression and improving sleep quality.

The overall result is a complex interaction between physical and mental factors that can improve overall health and well-being for individuals with fibromyalgia.

One 2020 study found that manual therapy with moderate pressure on the posterior cervical muscles (a group of muscles located at the back of the neck) in people with fibromyalgia helped reduce pain, muscle fatigue, and anxiety. Further research is needed in a larger population.

What are the benefits of massage for fibromyalgia?

Massage therapy can provide several benefits for people with fibromyalgia, including:

  • pain relief
  • improved sleep
  • reduced stress and anxiety
  • increased range of motion
  • improved mood

Massage therapy for fibromyalgia is believed to work in several ways. First, it releases tension in muscles and trigger points, which can help reduce pain and stiffness.

Additionally, massage therapy may also release endorphins and increase levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the body, which can help regulate mood and improve sleep.

In some cases, massage may temporarily worsen fibromyalgia symptoms. This can occur if your massage therapist applies too much pressure or uses techniques that are too aggressive for your condition.

However, it’s important to note that 75% of people with fibromyalgia seek massage therapy, which suggests that it’s quite helpful. So, even though massage can be fairly painful at times, many people with fibromyalgia continue to use it for its long-term benefits.

Insurance coverage depends on your insurance policy and the specific treatment plan prescribed by a healthcare professional. Some insurance plans may cover a certain number of massage therapy sessions as part of a treatment plan, while others may not cover it at all.

It’s best to check with your insurance provider or healthcare professional to determine coverage options. Additionally, some massage therapists may offer a sliding scale fee or accept insurance directly, so it’s worth exploring different options.

Massage therapy may be an effective option for reducing pain, stiffness, and fatigue for people with fibromyalgia. It may also improve mood, sleep, and overall quality of life.

Several types of massage may help with fibromyalgia, including myofascial release, Swedish massage, and shiatsu.

If you’re interested in massage, it’s important to look for a licensed massage therapist in your area who’s trained and experienced in treating fibromyalgia. You can search online or ask for recommendations from a healthcare professional or friends.