A study recently published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that myofascial release therapy significantly improved many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia including pain, sleep quality, anxiety and quality of life.
Myofascial release therapy (MRT) is a type of massage that applies very gentle sustained pressure to various parts of the body in order to release fascial restrictions.
Fibromyalgia patients were divided into two groups. The experimental group, consisting of 30 individuals, received 90-minute MRT sessions once a week for 20 weeks. The control group of 29 individuals received a weekly 30-minute session of disconnected magnetotherapy for 20 weeks. (Patients in the control group did not know they were receiving a sham therapy.)
The following instruments were used to measure symptom severity:
- Pain – Visual Analog Scale
- Anxiety – State-Trait Anxiety Inventory
- Depression – Beck Depression Inventory
- Sleep Quality – Pittsburgh Quality of Sleep Index Questionnaire
- Quality of Life – SF-36 Quality of Life Questionnaire
Each subject was scored in all five areas before beginning treatment (baseline), immediately after the 20-week intervention, and again at one month and six months post-treatment.
Study Results and Conclusion
Immediately following the treatment period, the MRT group showed significant improvements in pain (which included significant reductions in tender point sensitivity), trait anxiety, physical function, social function, sleep latency and sleep duration. No changes in any of these areas were observed in the control group. There were no changes in depression scores for either group.
One month later, the significant improvements noted were still seen in the MRT group and no changes were noted in the control group. At the six-month follow up, significant improvement was still seen in sleep duration and in reduced pain at one of the tender points, but the other areas were returning to baseline levels. Again, there were no changes in the control group.
The researchers concluded, “This study demonstrated that massage-myofascial release therapy 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. Massage-myofascial program can be considered as an alternative and complementary therapy that can achieve transient improvements in the symptoms of these patients.”
This study confirms my own personal experience and that of most of the people I've known who have received MRT on a regular basis. It is because of MRT that I no longer need a cane to walk and have been able to continue working. Needless to say, I have long been a proponent of MRT.
There are two important things I want to point out about MRT:
1. MRT is not a cure for fibromyalgia. It can significantly reduce many FM symptoms, but there is no evidence and therapists make no claim that it can take FM symptoms away entirely.
2. MRT is a therapy that needs to be continued on a regular basis in order to maintain its benefits. In my experience it's best to get weekly treatments for several months (almost five months in this study), then go to monthly treatments in order to maintain the positive effects. I've also found that if I have some type of injury, like a fall, I usually need to return to weekly treatments for a month or so to prevent developing fascial restrictions again.
For a more in-depth description of MRT, more details about my personal experience and how to find a qualified therapist, please read: Myofascial Release Therapy
Castro-Sánchez AM, et al. Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:561753.
Published On: February 26, 2011