Fibromyalgia Treatment with Myofascial Release
What is Fibromyalgia Syndrome?
Fibromyalgia is a lifelong condition that affects about 5 million Americans. People usually have sore, stiff muscles, but nothing odd shows up on X-rays or most lab tests. Doctors diagnose fibromyalgia based on your symptoms and an exam. While fibromyalgia doesn’t damage joints or organs, the constant aches and fatigue really impact daily life. Many times fibromyalgia treatment options are limited because of this.
Patients coping with fibromyalgia first seek medical help for persistent pain or fatigue, but other symptoms may be present as well: Sleep problems, anxiety, depression, joint pain, irritable bowel and bladder, low blood pressure, dizziness, poor balance, frequent headaches, numbness or tingling in hands of feet, and sensitivity to loud noises. All these fibromyalgia symptoms can be tied to dysfunction in the stress response.
Fibromyalgia is a difficult diagnosis because neither imaging nor blood test can confirm the diagnosis. Additionally, symptoms from fibromyalgia are not unique, similar problems can be caused by other disorders.
I’ve been visiting Carolina for several months after finding her in a directory of MFR therapists. I would describe the issues I was experiencing and she would use her knowledge and experience to systematically explore the sources of the issues and to work on resolving them.
Things that stood out to me: 1) she’s very knowledgeable of the MFR techniques; 2) she’s very attentive during the session, noticing how different parts of the body react during treatment; 3) she’s very passionate about helping patients – she knows her stuff, explains her findings well, and is genuinely excited about making progress; 4) she’s good at intuitively “tuning in” with the patient so that it feels like she’s working with you, not just on you.
The lack of lab abnormalities among other factors have contributed to the controversy around the illness. Technically fibromyalgia is not considered a disease, it is considered a syndrome. A syndrome is a collection of symptoms which consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms but are not related to a specific cause.
Over the years it has been recognized that fatigue, poor sleep and cognitive dysfunction consistently accompany the muscle pain in Fibromyalgia, it has been labeled as “fibrofog”(Wolfe 2011). Other researchers found a specific pattern of inflammatory chemicals in the blood of fibromyalgia patients (Sturgill 2014). In 2012 researchers discovered that certain types of white blood cells do not respond normally to chemical stimulation in Fibromyalgia subjects (Behm 2012). More studies need to be done but soon there might be a way to diagnose fibromyalgia from a blood test.
What Causes Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
All Fibromyalgia symptoms are the result of a complex chain reaction initiate by the hyperactive stress response. This is an automatic brain reflex that is commonly known as “fight or flight” instinct. This refers to the body’s automatic response to danger. When a potential threat is identified the brain prepares the body by pumping adrenaline and tightening muscles, getting ready for your whole system for action. This is the body’s normal reaction to danger. With fibromyalgia, the stress response never stops. Since it is chronically activated, it prevents deep sleep due to the brain been perpetually alert. It also keeps muscles tense, which causes pain and tenderness. It affects digestion because digestion is slowed down to use the energy and circulation to other systems.
Over time, the gastrointestinal system begins to function poorly. Your energy production is already at max as if the gas pedal is already pressed all the way to the floor you can’t pump it any harder to increase your speed. This results in constant fatigue, throws hormones out of balance, then causes the pain-sensing nerves to increase the volume of their signals. Many patients seek fibromyalgia treatment options to reduce pain and fatigue. To effectively treat Fibromyalgia, we need to stop this chain reaction and let your body rest.
It is not known exactly how or why the nervous system gets stuck activating the stress response in Fibromyalgia. Some psychological risk factors have been linked to fibromyalgia including childhood trauma or abuse. (Greenfield 1992; White 1999) 90% of women who suffer from fibromyalgia have experienced sexual or physical assault (Walker 1997). 50% of male patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or suffer from Fibromyalgia (Amital 2006).
Many studies demonstrate that Myofascial Release Therapy (MFR) reduces the sensitivity to pain at tender points in patients with fibromyalgia, improving their pain perception. Release of fascial restrictions in these patients also reduces anxiety levels and improves sleep quality, physical function, and physical role. (Bennett R, Fibromyalgia: present to future 2005; Cymet TC 2003; Liptan GL, Fascia: A missing link in our understanding of the Fibromyalgia 2010)
A myofascial program is a holistic approach for fibromyalgia treatment and complementary therapy that can achieve transient improvements in the symptoms of fibromyalgia patients. Myofascial Release, specifically John Barnes approach, has proven through evidence-based studies to improve the tension in soft tissue (muscles, fascia, tendons, etc). This type of fibromyalgia therapy plan has been widely discussed in fascia and psychology symposiums, congresses and research studies. Myofascial release also promotes and helps the elimination of past memories stored in our body. If we think past trauma is causing the constant activation of the stress response in our body we have a huge opportunity to break the automatic cycle of Fibromyalgia with MFR, as well as reduce the pain levels, muscle tension which are well-known results benefits of Myofascial Release.
Fibromyalgia Treatment wth Nutrition
Wholistic PT offers a unique approach to Fibromyalgia management. We not only offer myofascial release, we also combine Myofascial Release and fibromyalgia nutrition through health coaching.
By seeking a holistic approach to fibromyalgia, inflammation can be controlled by consuming foods that are anti-inflammatory. Additionally, certain exercises can also help with muscle soreness and tightness if done correctly. However, too much activity can increase fibromyalgia symptoms and fatigue and can send a patient to bed for days. It’s a matter of finding the right nutrition for pain relief from inflammation and the right exercise for muscle soreness. When combining Myofascial Release Therapy and Health Coaching, patients have reported pain relief from fibromyalgia and noticed less fatigue.