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By Sandy Woerner, CMT (and fibromyalgia patient)

FMS is associated with chronic pain and tender areas in the neck, trunk and legs, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Massage therapy is one of the most beneficial treatments for FMS, as it improves muscle function and pain relief. Research has found that massage lowers the levels of stress hormones, increases the production of the mood altering hormone serotonin, and also improves sleep.

Massage therapy practiced on FMS patients must be performed carefully. Too little pressure will provide no relief, while too vigorous or deep a massage can actually worsen the pain and tension and cause a rebound
effect. Initially, relaxation and stress reduction treatments are most beneficial, with emphasis on gentle work. As treatments progress, deeper work is indicated, adjusting the amount of pressure to the individual patient's pain tolerance level.

In myofascial trigger point therapy, or neuromuscular massage, the therapist uses deep finger or elbow pressure on specific parts of the body, releasing knots of tension that may be causing pain in other parts of the body.

As a therapist, I find that constant feedback from the patient is necessary. The therapist must be familiar with all aspects of FMS pain and its symptoms. By utilizing physical and verbal feedback, a therapist can actually aid in the diagnosis of FMS. Finally, massage can provide a time and place for FMS patients to nurture themselves when they find that their lifestyles must be adjusted to a slower pace.

Although being diagnosed with FMS is very discouraging, keeping a positive attitude and getting some amount of daily, moderate exercise, such as walking, swimming or yoga, can greatly improve the quality of life. Remember that laughter is the best medicine, and attitude is everything.

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