Complementary Therapies for Fibromyalgia

Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia Relief

Fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome with symptoms that include widespread pain, anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, and trouble with mental tasks. Fibromyalgia sufferers often seek complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies for relief–as many as 90% according to recent research. One such CAM therapy that is widely used by fibromyalgia sufferers is massage therapy.

Fibromyalgia massage therapy is a generalized term for the kneading or rubbing of the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments to relieve the pain and/or tension caused by fibromyalgia. A fibromyalgia massage may range from deep pressure to light stroking depending on the needs of the person receiving the massage. The next section describes some of the many forms of fibromyalgia massage that, according to recent research, may be effective in relieving fibromyalgia symptoms.

Fibromyalgia Massage Techniques

These massage types have been shown to help with the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Myofascial Release:

This type of fibromyalgia massage treats muscle pain and stiffness by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood flow, and stimulating the “stretch reflex” in muscles. This approach was supported by the inventor of osteopathic medicine, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. This fibromyalgia massage technique can be active (patient provides resistance) or passive (patient stays relaxed).

Connective Tissue Massage:

This type of fibromyalgia massage uses slower strokes with more pressure to release deeper layers of muscle and fascia (connective tissue).


This type of fibromyalgia massage involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to relieve tension. According to this Japanese healing treatment, the points are located along energy pathways called meridians.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage:

This gentle massage aids in the natural drainage of lymphatic fluid, which is responsible for circulating through the body’s lymph system, carrying waste products away from the tissues and back toward the heart. This system works by movement of skeletal muscles and contraction of the “smooth muscle” in the walls of lymph vessels. This fibromyalgia massage uses rhythmic motions to get the lymph fluid moving.

So Which is the Best Massage for Fibromyalgia?

A 2014 review of medical literature attempted to answer the question above.

This research revealed that myofascial release had a large, positive effect on pain and some positive effects on anxiety, depression, fatigue, quality of life and stiffness. Connective tissue massage was found to improved depression and quality of life, however, manual lymph drainage appeared to be more effective than connective tissue massage regarding stiffness, depression and quality of life.

Fibromyalgia Massage Therapy Checklist

  • Make sure your fibromyalgia massage therapist understands your condition and your symptoms
  • Only you know what feels good and relieves your pain; don’t be afraid to ask your massage therapist to use less (or more) pressure
  • Make sure you tell your fibromyalgia massage therapist about any sensitivity to lotions or oils or have any allergies to any ingredients
  • Treatment for fibromyalgia often involves multiple techniques and approaches for symptom relief and it may take some trial and error to find the combination that works for you

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