Fibromyalgia Syndrome is a long term condition which involves pain all over the body, extreme sensitivity to pain, extreme tiredness and muscle stiffness. The exact cause of the condition is unknown but can include physical or emotional trauma. It is considered to be a nervous system condition.
The pain or discomfort suffered by people with fibromyalgia is thought to be a result of inflamed and restricted fascia. Fascia is a single, three dimensional network of tissue that connects every part of the body from the top of the head to the tips of the toes, including all muscles, soft tissues, bones, and internal organs. When it becomes restricted through trauma or habitual dysfunctional movement patterns, it becomes dehydrated, adhered and tight, causing pulls and tightness throughout the body, sometimes trapping nerves.
Fascia has a close relationship with the nervous system and the suggestion is that emotional or physical trauma can cause the body to get stuck in the ‘fight or flight’ mode. Without a way of releasing the trauma, the body becomes stuck. Trauma can be physical, such as an accident or surgery of some kind, or emotional, such as a bereavement, relationship breakdown or abuse.
Sufferers of fibromyalgia usually find massage or other physical therapies too painful, either at the time or later, with ‘flares’ of symptoms which can lay them low for several days.
Myofascial release uses gentle, sustained pressure. The therapist does not force the tissues, but waits for the tissues to respond to the pressure, following the body’s natural rhythms and reaction.
Heat from the therapist’s hands helps to draw fluid into the tissues allowing them to release and move more freely against each other.
At all times the therapist communicates with the client, reassuring them that they are in control of the process and that their body’s reactions are perfectly normal. The client focuses their attention on what they are feeling happening in their body, concentrating on sensations. This helps their nervous system to switch from ‘fight or flight’ to ‘rest and digest’, allowing them to deal with their trauma and release the fascial restrictions.
The client may experience a feeling of relaxation, or lengthening of their tissues, twitching and heat, either under the therapist’s hands or at another, distant part of their body. Sometimes the whole body might tremble and shake and the client may have a strong emotional reaction, maybe crying or laughing. Sometimes they will physically return to the position they were in at the time of the trauma. The therapist will support them through their reactions, underlining at all times that they are safe, and can stop at any time.
The client may briefly suffer from some post-treatment soreness but they should find their movements feel looser and less painful. There has been some research (here, here and here) that a series of treatments over time reduces pain and improves movement and function.