Massage and Chronic Illness: Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Polymyalgia, and ME
How massage therapy can help with chronic pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and ME, providing relief and improved well-being
Published: October 15th, 2023 | By: Tom Newby | Read Time: 3 mins
Arthritis, an umbrella term covering over 100 different types of joint diseases, can appear in various forms, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, results from the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone, causing pain, stiffness, and restricted movement. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, affects joint linings, causing painful swelling that can eventually lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. Psoriatic arthritis, which often affects those with psoriasis, brings joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, often accompanied by nail changes and skin lesions.
Fibromyalgia, a complex disorder marked by widespread musculoskeletal pain, presents a range of challenging symptoms. Alongside chronic pain, individuals with fibromyalgia may suffer from fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties, and mood imbalances. Moreover, heightened sensitivity to touch, sound, and temperature changes can worsen the daily struggle of those living with this condition. The impact of fibromyalgia on physical and mental well-being can be significant, leading to a considerable reduction in quality of life.
Polymyalgia rheumatica, on the other hand, primarily affects individuals over the age of 50, resulting in muscle pain and stiffness, particularly in the shoulders and hips. This condition can significantly restrict mobility and make even simple daily tasks a challenge.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a complex and debilitating disorder characterised by extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by any underlying medical condition. Alongside profound exhaustion, individuals with ME may experience cognitive impairments, sleep disturbances, and worsening symptoms following physical or mental exertion.
Massage therapy plays a crucial role in managing and relieving the symptoms associated with these inflammatory conditions. By using specialised techniques such as myofascial release, gentle stretching, and targeted pressure point manipulation.
Massage has been shown to:
- Reduce Muscle Tension and Stiffness: Through a blend of gentle manipulation and deep tissue techniques, massage effectively eases muscle tension, promoting improved flexibility and range of motion, thus easing the stiffness often linked with arthritis, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, and ME.
- Improve Circulation and Flexibility: By enhancing blood flow and lymphatic circulation, massage therapy helps to reduce inflammation, promote healing, and aid the elimination of toxins from affected areas. This fosters improved joint mobility and flexibility, providing relief from the limitations imposed by these inflammatory conditions.
- Alleviate Stress and Anxiety: The mental toll of chronic pain can be overwhelming. Massage therapy induces a state of relaxation, triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, fostering a sense of calm and tranquillity. This can significantly alleviate the stress and anxiety that often accompany the burden of these chronic inflammatory disorders, including ME.
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