Archive for May, 2013

Fibromyalgia: A Real Illness with Real Pain

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

I have been wanting to write a blog about Fibromyalgia for quite some time, and feel that it would be refreshing to people who suffer from this unmerciful illness. I have been practicing for almost 5 years in Salt Lake City, Utah and have worked with many clients with Fibromyalgia.

I consistently hear the same story from these clients. They feel absolutely invalidated by their medical doctors, who tell them that this ailment is “all in their head.” And honestly I have grown tired of hearing that this happens. Just because a medical doctor cannot detect the cause of Fibromyalgia through a labratory test, does not mean that this pain is not absolutely real to the patient. I have felt strongly about writing this blog after working with several Fibromyalgia clients and realizing that most of them feel completely unsupported in their illness.

But not only do they feel unsupported by their medical professionals, but also by their friends and families. I would like to explain through this blog, and from my experience with Fibromyalgia sufferers, that this disease is a real, serious, painful disorder.

Fibromyalgia is defined as a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. Your muscles may feel like they have been overworked or pulled. They’ll feel that way even without exercise or another cause. Sometimes, your muscles twitch, burn, or have deep stabbing pain.

Some patients with fibromyalgia have pain and achiness around the joints in the neck, shoulder, back, and hips. This makes it difficult for them to sleep or exercise. Other fibromyalgia symptoms include:

-abdominal pain
-anxiety and depression
-chronic headaches
-difficulty maintaining sleep
-dryness in mouth, nose, and eyes
-fatigue upon arising
-hypersensitivity to cold and/or heat
-inability to concentrate
-irritable bowel syndrome
-numbness or tingling in the fingers and feet

Fibromyalgia is a very mysterious illness in that there are no specific causes and there are no specific medical tests that diagnose it. However, upon physical examination, patients will be sensitive to pressure in certain areas of the body, called tender points. To meet the diagnostic criteria, patients must have widespread pain in all four quadrants of their body for a minimum duration of three months and at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points. The 18 sites used for diagnosis cluster around the neck, shoulder, chest, hip, knee, and elbow regions (more than 90% of these areas are myofascial trigger points). But this diagnostic technique seems to me to be quite vague. Shown below is an illustration of the typical spots for fibromyalgia pain.


I am fascinated that most Fibromyalgia sufferers’ that I have treated, tell me that they developed this illness very soon after an exceptionally stressful time in their lives. This suggests to me that perhaps Fibromyalgia affects those that do not handle stress very well. Or a better way to put it; these individuals were simply not wired to cope with high levels of stress.

Over the last 5 years in my practice, I have gained much respect for those that suffer from Fibromyalgia. They complain of unbearable pain through out their bodies, that causes staggering fatigue. And it’s tragic to me how this illness creates such a vicious pain cycle. It causes pain, then fatigue, then sleeplessness due to the pain, then more pain and fatigue from not acquiring proper amounts of sleep.

And because this illness affects every aspect of ones’ life and prevents them from truly living, a hopeless depression usually develops. And as mentioned before, many fibromyalgia patients do not have support from medical professionals, family or friends.

So what can be done to treat this incurable and mysterious disorder? Because fibromyalgia has no cure, there are many different types of medications and therapies that can be prescribed. Sleeping aids are commonly used to treat the sleep disorder associated with Fibromyalgia. Muscle relaxants and anti-depressants (ones that boost serotonin and norepinephrine) help with the physical and emotional pain. Other remedies include accupuncture, chiropractic work, physical therapy, and massage therapy.

When I began practicing therapeutic massage, I was reluctant to work with Fibromyalgia clients. I thought that massage might aggravate the pain and the triggerpoints. But now I realize that I was only being cautious because I did not understand Fibromyaglia pain. After working with these clients over the years, I have found massage therapy to be profoundly beneficial in decreasing their pain and triggerpoints. Probably 90% of my Fibromyalgia clients leave my office feeling significantly better.

Having Fibromyalgia can affect your circulation immensely, and one of massage therapy’s greatest benefits is that it increases circulation considerably. This alone helps to eliminate pain. Also, massage therapy relaxes the body and therefore relaxes the central nervous system (CNS). And through this sedation of the CNS, I see an amazing decrease in pain for my fibromyalgia clients. And knowing how much pain this illness truly brings, I feel a great reward when I can help decrease it.

Over time, with consistent massage therapy sessions, clients tell me that they feel better, for longer periods of time. If you or anyone you know is suffering from this painful disease, I encourage you to try a session here in Salt Lake City, Ut. I have seen these sessions facilitate a better quality of life, hope and of course eliminate intense pain. Call today at 801-349-3934 for more information or to schedule your first appointment.