Do you seem to be tired all the time, even after you’ve had a full night’s sleep? Do you feel stiff every morning? Do you ache all over? Do you get frequent headaches?
These symptoms may be the result of stress. However, if you experience them feelings over time, it could indicate a condition called fibromyalgia.
Pain is the most prominent symptom. It usually occurs in the neck, shoulders and back. People with fibromyalgia describe the pain in many ways. Some people report a stiff, aching feeling. Others describe a burning, stabbing, gnawing or radiating pain.
But pain isn’t the only symptom. Many people also experience generalized stiffness. Remaining in one position for extended periods can increase the stiffness. For this reason, it often seems to be worse first thing in the morning.
Fatigue is another almost universal symptom. About 90% of sufferers report moderate to severe fatigue. They feel a lack of energy, less endurance, or the kind of exhaustion normally associated with flu or lack of sleep. This can interfere with concentration. Even simple mental tasks can seem difficult.
Other common symptoms include swelling, tender points, headaches, insomnia, depression and neurological problems like numbness and tingling in the limbs.
It’s a mystery.
Fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose. One reason is because the symptoms mimic those of stress and other diseases. Another is because there is no definitive laboratory test to confirm the condition. Doctors make their diagnosis based primarily on reported symptoms. The result is people with fibromyalgia often believe it’s all in their heads.
Nobody knows what causes fibromyalgia. Originally, researchers believed it was a type of arthritis, but they have found no signs of arthritis or inflammation. Although there a number of theories to explain this disease, the one thing that most experts do agree on is it is not psychological. Fibromyalgia is a real disease with a definite, although undiscovered, physical cause.
There is good news
Effective treatment of fibromyalgia requires a comprehensive approach. For approximate 75% of all sufferers, a comprehensive approach includes alternative healthcare, particularly massage.
A study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami found 30-minute massages twice a week had a long-term effect on symptoms. In addition to being more relaxed, the subjects in the study had less pain and stiffness, reduced depression and fatigue and more comfortable sleep.
The relief provided by massage may last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. You’ll need to determine with your therapist how frequently you need treatment to maintain a significant level of relief. A once weekly treatment may be helpful. However, it may be more beneficial to have a massage several times a week, gradually reducing the number of sessions, making sure that you return before the effect of the last treatment has subsided.
You may also find heat gives some relief. Hot baths or showers, a hot water bottle or a heating pad may all be helpful in managing the symptoms. During a treatment, the therapist may put some type of heat pack on the areas that are most tender.
Research has shown that moderate aerobic exercises like walking and swimming can also help alleviate painful symptoms. Start off slowly. Monitor your response to exercise before increasing the duration and intensity. Ask your therapist for suggestions.
About the Author
Eric Brown Eric Brown is a pioneer in the world of massage. With over 20 years of experience in the field, Eric has taught over 1,000 therapists in comprehensive college programs in Canada and thousands more in workshops and conference appearances.