I recently had a chance to go and speak at a meeting for people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. My time there was to explain just how soft tissue therapy can help with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. First off, I am not a doctor, scientist or someone who has a profound understanding of fibromyalgia. What I shared was not deep or scientific, but very simple to understand because sometimes, we need to make it clear that help for the unknown is not always complicated.
So what is fibromyalgia? The dictionary says “a syndrome characterised by fatigue and chronic pain in the muscles and in tissues surrounding the joints.”
- It is a deliberating and misunderstood condition
- It has no single test and no physical signs of the illness
- The only way to diagnose is to rule out all other conditions
- It is a syndrome
What is a Syndrome?
- A group of symptoms which consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms.
- A characteristic combination of opinions, emotions, or behaviour.
So what symptoms do we see?
www.fibroaction.org list the three central problems of fibromyalgia to be
- Chronic Pain. You feel you have run a marathon or got flu. Pain will be sharp shooting or burning lasting a whole day
- Chronic Fatigue. Your limbs are heavy and made of led
- Cognitive Dysfunction(aka brain fog). The loss of intellectual functions such as reasoning; memory loss; and other neurological abilities that is severe enough to interfere with daily functioning.
All of this disorder results in lack of QualitySleep.
- Medical research in the US has shown “Specific & distinct abnormalities in the stage 4 deep sleep” – www.fmnetnews.com
- During sleep people with fibromyalgia have awake – like brain activity meaning they do not get deep sleep. Why is this a problem? It is because in the deep sleep the body heals and repairs itself
- What we then have is what I call the Fibromyalgia Pain Cycle
The mind / body connection
We see from science that there is a connection in Fibromyalgia between the mind and the body.
There is also more and more evidence showing us that how we think can affect how we physically feel and is a leading factor in our daily pain.
It also can affect our everyday health. Even though science is showing more and more evidence in this, this is not a new finding, – there is even a proverb in the Bible that says “As a man thinks so he is” – Prov 23:7.
Your thought life and mental wellness is crucial to your physical health & wellbeing.
As you can see in the cycle, the physical state affects the mental state and the mental state affects the physical state, so it is important both get treated.
“The University of Miami School of Medicine, Touch Research Institute, has conducted various studies regarding the benefits of massage therapy. In a study geared to fibromyalgia patients, it was concluded that massage therapy provided the following benefits: Increased serotonin level (neurotransmitter, and is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness),decreased circulating stress hormones, decreased levels of substance P (basically a pain messenger, decreased tender point pain, improved sleep patterns, improved overall sense of well-being. The principal investigators stated that massage therapy is a clinically significant complimentary treatment for fibromyalgia.”
What would this then look like?
“Fibromyalgia patients must understand this section, because your pain is directly maintained by peripheral stimuli from pain generators such as trigger points (TrPs) and arthritis. You need to control the peripheral pain generators before you can gain control of the pain amplifier, Fibromyalgia (FM). Nearly everyone has TrPs at one time or another. Have you ever heard stories such as: “I broke an ankle when I was small, and it’s been weak ever since”? The bones have healed, so why is the ankle still weak? Most commonly, TrPs wereactivated at the time of the break or during immobilization after, and the soft tissue damage was never adequately treated. After the TrP treatment, the ankle will no longer be weak. We have successfully treated people who have had such symptoms for decades. Many of these patients had been told they had to “live with” these symptoms. The patients were grateful to receive healing, but some got angry later, grieving for their lost years. Consider the man impotent for 30 years, or the woman with IBS for 25 years. They looked at TrP patterns and recognized themselves. When they learned how long TrP texts had been available, they wondered why former care providers didn’t recognize the TrPs causing their symptoms. The universe has many mysteries. This lack of training is one; TrPs are not. Knowledge is power, and this book is about empowerment for patients and care providers alike.
Myofascial TrPs are hyperirritable localised spots in taut bands within those muscle sarcomeres. You may not always be able to feel those ropy bands, but they’re there. Placing the muscle in a lengthened position exaggerates the bands and helps you locate them. Contraction knots—the lumps in the bands—can be small or large, depending on a number of variables, such as how many TrPs make up the contraction knots, the tissue consistencies, and the amount of fluid infiltration involved. When a muscle is burdened with one or more TrPs, it hurts to stretch that muscle out. There is pain at the end of the range of motion (ROM), so you avoid extending the muscle. This is not a sign of mental illness and “pain avoidance behavior”: it’s logical to avoid doing things that hurt. Some psychologists have trouble with this concept.”
Healing through Trigger Point Therapy: A guide to Fibromyalgia, Myofascial pain and Dysfunction – pg 19
Regular Soft Tissue Treatment can result in a new cycle
*Speak to your GP before coming off or reducing any medication
Look back at the first cycle. Now look at the last cycle. If you find yourself caught in the first cycle, get in touch to see how soft tissue therapy can help improve your symptoms, physical and mental state of wellbeing.