Disability Day, or the International Day of People with Disability, is a day that has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992. Massage can be used to assist in pain management for those with painful disabilities such as Fibromyalgia. People with spastic cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis also seem to benefit from pain reduction following massage. In addition, there is some indication that tension from spasticity can diminish and range of motion can improve from massage therapy.
Massage + Chronic Pain
Imagine living with chronic pain. Every day you wake up—after a night where you might not have gotten very much sleep—knowing that your day will involve pain, most often in several areas of your body. Then, add in the depression and anxiety that often accompanies having to deal with chronic pain and what you have is this: a peek at what it's like for someone who suffers from fibromyalgia or chronic myofascial pain syndrome (CMPS).
Though the causes of fibromyalgia and CMPS are unclear, what we are starting to better understand is how massage therapy can help people with these conditions better manage their pain. Read on to learn more.
A Quick Look at the Conditions
Although both fibromyalgia and CMPS present with pain, these are different conditions, and so having an idea of what each diagnosis entails is important.
Some recognizable symptoms of fibromyalgia can include irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, migraines, numbness in the upper and lower body, and joint stiff ness that is distributed around several areas of the body. This condition is usually diagnosed when a minimum of 11 out of 18 tender points are active with pain to the touch. The areas where pain is most common amongst patients include the neck and lower back. Additional symptoms include recurrent feelings of exhaustion, musculoskeletal pain and a tingling or prickling feeling known as parathesia, which is similar to that of pins and needles and mainly caused by pressure or damage to the peripheral nerves. Generally speaking, too, fibromyalgia suff erers often have acute, superficial tender points.
According to the National Fibromyalgia Research Association, more than 6 million Americans, 90 percent of whom are women, suff er from fibromyalgia, with symptoms typically showing up between the ages of 20 and 55. Additionally, somewhere between 25 percent and 65 percent of the time, fibromyalgia presents along with other pain syndromes—most commonly rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and spinal arthritis.
With chronic myofascial pain syndrome, symptoms can begin to show up after some type of trauma or injury. This condition often occurs when a muscle has been contracted repetitively, like in jobs that require repetitive motion or when stress-related muscle tension is present.
Some notable symptoms of CMPS include lacrimation, deep aching that affects one group of muscles or several, complications with the vasomotor, cuticle fl ushing, an increase or decrease in body heat, and excessive sweating. Additionally, people with CMPS often have prolonged, deep aching trigger points with desensitized nerve endings, CMPS, unlike fibromyalgia, tends to affect both genders equally, typically appearing in adults who are between the ages of 30 and 60. A diagnosis is usually made when a person has experienced quadrant pain for at least six months or more.
Holly Ingraham, who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in February of 2013, had visited a chiropractor and an orthopedic doctor prior to becoming a patient of Dr. Kimberly Miller DC, founder of the Georgia Massage Institute in Winder. “She started me on a regimen of having two massages a week and then an adjustment right after the massages,” explains Ingraham, describing the treatment plan she and Miller devised together.
Ingraham, a 39-year-old wife and mother, was experiencing some pain due to both a herniated disc and bulging disc after an injury at work. At first, she attributed the lower back pain she felt to over-compensation due to the injury. But that turned out not to be the case, and soon she realized she was dealing with what would become a life-changing diagnosis: fibromyalgia.
For Ingraham, nothing’s been the same since she learned she had fibromyalgia. “It’s changed everything. It’s changed the way I’m able to be a mother. It’s changed the way I’m able to be a wife, and it’s aff ected my sleep,” she explains. “It affects my ability to work, my mood, and my ability to do things for myself. It’s horrible.”
Although the pain is always present, Ingraham has noticed the massage therapy she receives from Miller helps make the pain bearable. Before massage, her pain was at a nine (with 10 being the worst). After massage, she says, her pain is at a manageable five or six. In addition to the weekly massages, Miller showed her some neck and back stretches she can do between sessions to help keep the pain at bay.
Judy Carlisle, a client with chronic myofascial pain syndrome (CMPS) has been seeing Miller for the past nine years and says that when she couldn’t get to her session for three weeks, she could defi nitely feel the diff erence. “I was a mess when I got to her,” says the 70-year-old retired registered nurse whose condition has affected her ability to get around. “Everything was so tight and stiff .”
Ingraham had a similar experience after missing just one week of massages with Miller. “That’s when I could really feel the difference because I’m always in pain and I always feel tired, even when I get B-12 shots and take supplements,” she says. “But when I didn’t go for the massage and the adjustment, I was miserable.”
For Carlisle, a session with Miller includes a deep tissue massage for 30 minutes to an hour. She believes the weekly massages have helped improve her mobility, circulation, muscle soreness, as well as decreasing the pain she feels in her upper body. “I’ve been going to Dr. Kim for a long time, and she’s really done a lot to help,” says Carlisle. “If I had any idea that massage would do for you what it’s done for me, I would’ve started a long, long time ago.”
Consistency is key. For these clients, regular massage therapy is going to be key, as pain and other issues tend to reappear if time between appointments is too great.