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Fibromyalgia and Alternative Treatments

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Can massage ease fibromyalgia pain?

With Swedish massage, the practitioner uses a system of long strokes, kneading, and friction techniques. With these, the practitioner massages the more superficial layers of the muscles. The massage is combined with active and passive movements of the joints.

Oil is usually used to facilitate the stroking and kneading of the body, thereby stimulating circulation. The massage therapist applies pressure and rubs the muscles in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart.

In deep-tissue massage therapists use greater pressure than is used in Swedish massage. In so doing, they target the deep layers of muscle. Using a series of slow strokes and direct pressure, the therapist will strive to release chronic patterns of muscular tension. Sometimes, the therapists use their elbows or thumbs to push hard into the deepest grain of the muscle to reduce tension.

Neuromuscular massage combines the basic principles of ancient Eastern treatments, such as acupressure and shiatsu, with specific hands-on, deep-tissue treatment. The goal is to reduce chronic muscle or myofascial (soft-tissue) pain.

Massage is one of the complementary therapies that is most highly rated by people with fibromyalgia. Limited research has shown that massage can help reduce pain, elevate mood, decrease the need for pain medicines, and increase the quality of life for some fibromyalgia patients.

How does biofeedback work to ease fibromyalgia?

To individualize the reduction of stress in the treatment of fibromyalgia, biofeedback is often recommended. This mind/body relaxation technique uses electronics to measure stress-related responses in the body. The idea behind biofeedback is that people can use information about their body's internal processes to learn to control those processes.

With biofeedback, you are connected to a machine that informs you and your therapist when you are physically relaxing your body. Sensors detect muscle tension, heart rate, breathing pattern, the amount of sweat produced, or body temperature. Any one or all of these can let the trained biofeedback therapist know if you are learning to relax.

The instruments magnify signals that you might not otherwise notice. As a result, you can use this visual or auditory response to learn how to control certain bodily functions. The ultimate goal of biofeedback is to use this skill outside the therapist's office when you are facing real stressors.

With fibromyalgia pain, you know the "real stressor" is the pain itself. Nevertheless, other daily stressors can cause your fibromyalgia to flare. What you want to do is respond in a healthy way to the chronic stressors. If learned properly, electronic biofeedback can help you control your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing patterns, and muscle tension, potentially reducing pain. In several recent studies, biofeedback has been shown to help decrease tender point sensitivity and to improve functioning of patients with fibromyalgia.

WebMD Medical Reference

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