Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia

People with fibromyalgia have found that there are few treatment options to decreasing their pain. Often trying a new treatment causes increased pain and aggravation. They can feel worse for days or weeks following any type of new treatment or stimulation. They seem to bottom out immediately, and it might take days to weeks to recover. Even though the daily chronic pain is a significant barrier to their normal daily activities and social life, it is scary to try any new treatment or provider. Status quo seems safer than looking for improvement. It is hard to “stay the course on treatment” when you get worse from the beginning. Getting worse from the onset does not instill confidence that the new treatment will show improvement.

Different treatments have been tried to control or manage fibromyalgia symptoms. This study looked to compare manual lymph drainage therapy and connective tissue massage in women with fibromyalgia. 50 women were broken into two groups. Each received the treatment five times a week for three weeks. There pain levels were scored with a variety of tools and scales. Both group showed improvement in overall pain and fibromyalgia impact questionnaire scores.

We have seen this in the office many times. Patients with fibromyalgia showing consistent improvement with regular massage therapy. The trick of the treatment is starting lighter and softer than you might expect. On numerous occasions people have come in and said they tried massage once or twice but made them worse. Most of them did not try again for several weeks or years, and waited until the pain was severe before another attempt.

We’ve always found it is easier to start with a very light half hour massage. Part of the goal is just getting the body not to overreact and cause a fluctuation in pain and muscle spasms. If treatment goes well on day one we can increase the time or pressure on day two. Oftentimes there is a ramping or building up of time and intensity of massage therapy treatments. Overall the initial stages of massage therapy are very light. It is more about increasing the stimulus into the body with light touch receptors, compared to the deep digging of many deep tissue techniques.

We do see people with fibromyalgia show improvement with consistent massage therapy. Usually we do not increase the size to five times a week but the study does show significant improvement when it was performed at that level. After reading this we will see if that many visits a week can help decrease and control their fibromyalgia symptoms.

Below is the abstract from the study which might be interesting to you.More information for therapeutic treatments utilizing Massage Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Chiropractic can be directed to Google+.

Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics

Volume 32, Issue 2 , Pages 127-133, February 200910

Comparison of Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy and Connective Tissue Massage in Women With Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Gamze Ekici, PT, PhD, Yesim Bakar, PT, PhD, Turkan Akbayrak, PT, PhD,Inci Yuksel, PT, PhD



This study analyzed and compared the effects of manual lymph drainage therapy (MLDT) and connective tissue massage(CTM) in women with primary fibromyalgia (PFM).


The study design was a randomized controlled trial. Fifty women with PFM completed the study. The patients were divided randomly into 2 groups. Whereas 25 of them received MLDT, the other 25 underwent CTM. The treatment program was carried out 5 times a week for 3 weeks in each group. Pain was evaluated by a visual analogue scale and algometry. The Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and Nottingham Health Profile were used to describe health status and health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Wilcoxon signed rank test and Mann-Whitney U test were used to analyze the data.


In both groups, significant improvements were found regarding pain intensity, pain pressure threshold, and HRQoL (P < .05).="" however,="" the="" scores="" of="" fiq-7="" (p=".006)," fiq-9="" (p=".006)," and="" fiq-total="" (p=".010)" were="" significantly="" lower="" in="" the="" mldt="" group="" than="" they="" were="" in="" the="" ctm="" group="" at="" the="" end="" of="">


For this particular group of patients, both MLDT and CTM appear to yield improvements in terms of pain, health status, and HRQoL. The results indicate that these manual therapy techniques might be used in the treatment of PFM. However, MLDT was found to be more effective than CTM according to some subitems of FIQ (morning tiredness and anxiety) and FIQ total score. Manual lymph drainage therapy might be preferred; however, further long-term follow-up studies are needed.

© 2009 National University of Health Sciences. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. PubMed