Ease the Pain of Fibromyalgia with Massage Techniques

Massage techniques, including orthopedic massage and deep fractioning, can help ease the pain experienced by fibromyalgia patients. If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you are intimately familiar with the widespread pain and other symptoms – fatigue, depression, memory issues, and the fibromyalgia fog among others – that accompany the chronic disease. Massage techniques may be the answer you have been searching for to help alleviate your pain and other symptoms.

Natural health techniques such as massage therapy are incredibly beneficial to fibromyalgia patients.[1] If you are not finding adequate relief with medicine and other attempts at easing your pain, it is recommended you try massage. It is a very old and successful method for treating muscle and joint pain. Massage can help increase the blood flow in your muscles, increase your circulation and the ability of your body to get nutrients to your muscles and joints while removing waste, relax your heart rate and muscles, relax your joints and increase your range of motion.[2] Plus, massage is also known to raise the level of natural painkillers in your body to help with your widespread pain.

Do you have intense, aching, stabbing pain? Do you have throbbing pain or pain that burns? Do you have stiffness in your muscles and joints or weak muscles? Let’s look at some of the various massage techniques that are used successfully by qualified massage therapists to treat the pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia:

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release massages work on the fascia. This is the tissue that forms a ‘spider web’ across all of the organs, muscles, and joints of your body. The fascia can become restricted and tighten, especially in the joint area of fibromyalgia patients. When this occurs the joint area will become extremely painful.

Myofascial release massage techniques lessen the pull of the connective tissue. The massage therapist will use movements that relax the fascia and allow it to expand and stretch

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is a gentle form of massage that can lessen the pain associated with fibromyalgia when performed correctly. This is a classic form of massage using manipulations and cream.

This massage therapy keys in on soft tissues and does not use deep tissue techniques. The therapist will manipulate the tissue using smooth and flowing strokes and knead the tissue in order to increase the circulation and relax the muscles.  Studies show Swedish massage techniques offer relief to fibromyalgia patients.[3]

Deep Fractioning and Orthopedic Massage

The principles behind deep fractioning and orthopedic massage are used to treat the pain by understanding the underlying cause of the pain. For this type of therapy to work the therapist will look at specific muscle and joint areas where you are experiencing pain.

These types of massage techniques involve the same ones used in myofascial release, once the areas to be treated are identified. Dr. James Cyriax was a pioneer in developing the tests that allowed the identification of the treatment areas.


While not considered a typical form of massage, reflexology has been around for thousands of years – possibly dating back to ancient Egypt. With typical massage techniques, therapists attempt to give patients relief on a muscular level. Reflexology is used to work on parts of your body that the therapist cannot touch. This is done by the manipulation of your pressure points.

The therapist will use charts, special socks or gloves, or other reflexology materials to pinpoint pressure points. These pressure points are then stimulated. Once stimulated, the pressure points give relief to specific areas in your body.

Manual Lymph Drain

This technique is developed from the idea that muscles drain lymph fluid at a very slow pace when they are active. When they are inactive the draining process is virtually nonexistent. Moreover, you have areas in your body where there are no muscles and there is no draining at all. Manual lymph drain utilizes massage techniques to increase the flow of lymph fluid.

Manual lymph drain is a gentle massage technique that gets excess lymph fluid out of your tissue where it might contribute to your fibromyalgia symptoms. It can cause swelling and pain when it is not moving. A trained therapist will use this technique to drain fluid and reduce swelling and pain you might be experiencing.

A study found that manual lymph drain was more successful in some fibromyalgia patients than fascia massage.[4] When treating pain, this study followed fifty women and found that manual lymph draining techniques where a very successful form of treatment.

Deep Tissue Massage

This form of massage is more intense and energetic than many other forms. The purpose of deep tissue massage is to loosen the muscles that become ‘frozen’ by the chronic disease.

Deep tissue techniques involve slow movements that flow toward or against the muscles. Like the name implies, they go deep into the tissue and can leave the patient uncomfortable temporarily after treatment.

What to Expect

When you schedule your first massage session be prepared to answer a few health care questions before you begin. A qualified massage therapist will want to know why you are seeking treatment and will ask questions to determine the best form of treatment available for your specific problems. For example, you will most likely be asked to complete a medical questionnaire and your therapist may ask questions about what treatments you have previously attempted to ease your pain and other symptoms.

Once you and your therapist have determined the best route of treatment, you will begin your first session. For most massage therapies you will lie on a massage table and the therapist will work while standing above you. Depending on the type of massage therapy you may or may not be asked to undress and wear a ‘Johnny’, a hospital gown.

The length of the massage session is dependent on several factors. The type of massage therapy often determines the time. The session’s length can also be determined by cost and other factors. Most massage sessions last from thirty to ninety minutes.

There are many benefits to massage therapy for fibromyalgia patients. You can experience pain relief, increased energy, improved mood, and an improvement in other symptoms. However, only you can choose the right form of massage therapy for your symptoms. If you are very sensitive to touch you will want to avoid intense techniques such as deep tissue massage and steer toward more gentle massage therapies like Swedish massage. Make your appointment now and discover how massage can help your fibromyalgia symptoms.


[1]  Goldberg, D. B. (2004). Management of Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Journal of the American Medical Association , 2388-95

[2] Ibid

[3]  Alnigenis, N. B. (2001). Massage Therapy in the Management of Fibromyalgia. Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain , 55-67.

[4]  Gamze, E. (2009). Comparision of Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy and Connective Tissue Massage in Women with Fibromyalgia. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Theraputics , 127-33.

This article was originally published on July 11, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/7/2015