From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton (UK)
How well do they work?
To get relief from fibromyalgia pain, more and more people are trying alternative treatments. It is often instinctive — putting an icepack on a painful spot or reaching for the heating pad when muscles hurt. Or it feels good – like a massage. Even acupuncture is becoming a mainstream pain treatment, with endorsements from the NIH and the World Health Organisation.
Now, researchers are honing in on how these various home remedies and alternative treatments work.
“In all these therapies, we are stimulating pressure points… we think there may be a similar underlying mechanism in how they work,” says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
Pressure applied to the right spot triggers all sorts of changes in the body — in a good way, she explains. The pressure points have nerve connections to major nerves in the body that affects physiological processes.”
This reduces flow of stress hormones and pain-inducing chemicals — and ramps up production of mood-related brain chemicals such as serotonin, she says. The result: The body slows down, you feel calmer, sleep is more restful — and you are able to tolerate the pain of fibromyalgia better.
Massage and Fibromyalgia Treatment
For the past three decades, Field has conducted more than 80 studies looking at massage’s effects on various conditions. Her research team looks deeply at the underlying physiological processes involved in sleep — especially as it relates to fibromyalgia pain.
Researchers tracked patients’ sleep patterns, also measuring “substance P,” a brain chemical that is central to fibromyalgia pain. People with fibromyalgia pain have higher levels of substance P in the spinal fluid. They also have lower than normal levels of mood-boosting serotonin.
When they get a massage, all that changes. Field’s studies have shown less substance P in patients’ saliva — and they report less pain. They also have fewer painful tender points.
The studies typically involve 20-minute massages — which is only practical if a significant other is trained to do it, she says. One bonus for the family masseuse: People who give massages have lower stress hormone levels, too.
To get the most benefit, it is important to apply moderate pressure. “It does not matter whether you are rubbing, kneading, or stroking — it is the pressure that makes the difference,” Field says. “You have to move the skin, actually see finger indentations in the skin. It does not hurt, but it is more than light stroking. We have found that light stroking does not help.”
Massage also helps relieve depression, Field adds. “Depression is related to low serotonin, low dopamine, and increased cortisol. We can jazz that up with massage. There are a lot of positive benefits from massage.”
Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia Treatment
Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese treatment, also helps ease fibromyalgia symptoms. Acupuncture works on brain chemicals to decrease anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and pain.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic widespread pain and tenderness for at least three months. You can take steps to manage fibromyalgia pain and help yourself feel better.
Currently there are no diagnostic tests, such as x-rays or blood tests, to detect fibromyalgia. The symptoms of fibromyalgia may overlap with the symptoms of some other conditions. That is why fibromyalgia is sometimes difficult for healthcare professionals to diagnose.
Some healthcare providers use certain guidelines to help make a diagnosis. According to guidelines set by the American College of Rheumatology, a person may have fibromyalgia if he or she has both:
Chronic widespread pain that affects the right and left sides of the body above and below the waist
Feels pain in at least 11 of 18 possible tender points (nine on one side of the body, nine on the other) when light pressure is applied
Your healthcare provider may use these guidelines or other methods to make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Discuss all of your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Talk openly with him or her about what you are feeling and how your symptoms are affecting you. You can work together to create a plan that meets your individual needs and helps you manage your symptoms.
Fibromyalgia Symptoms & Potential Causes
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
Pain that can change location and intensity from day to day
Many tender places on the body that are painfu
Fibromyalgia can make it hard for you to function. This is not a complete list. You may have other symptoms. You should discuss all of your symptoms with a healthcare provider. Only a healthcare provider can diagnose fibromyalgia.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
No one knows exactly what causes fibromyalgia. Some possible triggers may include:
A physically traumatic or stressful event
An emotionally stressful event
An illness or an immune disorder
Why Do I Hurt?
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. If you have fibromyalgia, you may be more sensitive to pain than people who do not have fibromyalgia.
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