Improving the condition of patients with fibromyalgia in our Sacramento orthopedic massage practice requires more than just straightforward massage therapy. It also necessitates examining a patient’s physical and emotional stressors, as well as the nature of their daily life. Helping patients recognize the factors that contribute to ongoing problems and complications with fibromyalgia does much to alleviate their disorder when they go about their weekly schedule. First let’s discuss these stressors and then consider the therapeutic viewpoint of Body Fix Therapies towards assisting people with fibromyalgia.
Treating Physical Stressors Leading to Fibromyalgia
Soft Tissue Dysfunctions: This includes treating any old or new injuries, such as myofascial adhesions, old muscle and tendon tears (even microtears), musculo-skeletal imbalances (where one part of the body is putting constant strain on another part), trigger points and muscle tension.
Hormonal Imbalances: If our body is producing too much or not enough of any essential hormones, this puts stress on various organ systems.
Diet: For most people, when we eat something we shouldn’t we may feel sluggish or unwell as our body processes the non-beneficial fuel out of our system. This takes energy to do so and for a healthy person the percentage of energy resources used is so minimal that it is barely noticed. For those with fibromyalgia, their energy reserves are so limited that it can take a greater percentage of their energy. Whereas a healthy person might go into food coma for an hour after eating a fast food burger, someone with limited resources could take days to recover, during which they do not have the resources to function in other areas of life.
Environmental Stressors: Unhealthy chemicals are in much of what we use as consumers, but they may cause little change in a healthy person’s physical state. Fibromyalgia sufferers can have problems just walking through a supermarket aisle featuring cleaners and detergents, since their bodies use a good deal of resources just to filter out the chemicals they inhaled. These chemicals are in laundry detergents, cleansers, beauty products, new clothes, bedding, carpet and paint. The excessive use of seriously harmful substances is so pervasive, that human and animal tissue samples as far north as the Arctic Circle contain chemicals known to be detrimental to our well-being.
Emotional Stressors Factoring Into Fibromyalgia:
There is no denying that stress causes damage to our bodies. Our fight/flight response floods our body with chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol and our muscles tighten to get ready to deal with the perceived hazard. Negative emotions work against our energy resources, draining them or making it take more effort to handle daily life.
Support/Non-support from Family/Friends: This is a biggie. I can tell you that every single one of my patients with fibromyalgia has someone in their life that does not understand their condition and either deliberately or unknowingly says or does things that make the patient feel as if they are “exaggerating,” or “unmotivated.” Even well-meaning friends and family try to “encourage” them to do something that might normally be healthy for someone without fibromyalgia (such as regularly exercise), not understanding that this can lead physical setbacks for some and feelings of inadequacy for most.
Finding the Right Balance with Fibromyalgia
In addition to reducing stressors, it is important to build our system up physically and emotionally. Just like bad food can stress us, good food can energize. Bad chemicals cause stress, but good chemicals (like essential oils) can rejuvenate. Bad environmental factors cause stress, good ones (such as running water, sunlight and standing barefoot in the dirt) can balance us.
As important as adding healthy things and reducing stressors is to improving bodily function, all of this must be done at the right pace. Someone may have an underlying stressor such as an infection or parasites, yet the toll these have taken on the immune system puts a person at risk of the cure stressing their system even further. This requires analyzing what a person is physically and emotionally capable of at the time of their treatment.
This includes considering the patient’s lifestyle. Are they a parent? If so, how many children do they have? Are their kids young, or are there teenagers in the house? Are they in a relationship? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Do they work full-time, part-time or not at all? Do they need to work? Is their job physical or sedentary?
All of these factors play a part and must be balanced when devising a suitable therapy plan. I help the patient recognize that, even with successful treatment, fibromyalgia is a lifelong condition, so even with the best regimen they will have ups and downs. Educating them is the first step to managing their condition. I cannot tell you how many patients come to me with their diagnosis, but have no idea what causes their flare-ups. Without that knowledge, no changes can be made to maintain their health. Many patients also come to me with the idea that the only options available to them are symptom relief, such as drugs or palliative massage therapy. They are not aware that they have the ability to control the level of daily stress to some degree, leading to improvement in the underlying condition.
There is still much to learn about fibromyalgia and as more and more patients are diagnosed with it, more research is being funded to find additional ways to manage and hopefully prevent it. In the meantime, Body Fix Therapies is available to apply our experience and expertise to your specific complications involving fibromyalgia.