Exercise in combination with connective tissue massage helps decrease pain, fatigue and sleep problems, and increases the health status and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia, a new study shows.
The study reporting the results, “A comparison of the effects of exercises plus connective tissue massage to exercises alone in women with fibromyalgia syndrome: a randomized controlled trial,” was published in the journal Rheumatology International.
Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, has symptoms that include reduced physical strength, fatigue, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and psychiatric disorders, all of which contribute to a diminished quality of life for many patients. As there is no known cause or cure, treatment is directed toward relief of symptoms, which usually entails either medicines or physical therapy, such as exercise.
Connective tissue massage (CTM) is a manual therapy technique that can be used for the treatment of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
CTM produces mechanical effects on a subset of immune cells, which leads to an increase in the diameter of blood vessels and helps the body’s parasympathetic, also known as “rest-and-digest,” activity take over by decreasing the sympathetic or “flight-or-fight” activity. Thus, the massage allows an improvement in blood circulation and promotes tissue healing.
To date, only one study has evaluated the use of CTM in fibromyalgia patients.
So, Turkish researchers conducted a six-week treatment to assess the benefits of an exercise program, two days a week, with or without the addition of CTM. Researchers looked at various parameters including pain, fatigue, sleep problems, health status, and quality of life.
In total, 40 patients were recruited for the study, with 20 patients in the just-exercise group and 20 patients in the exercise-plus-CTM group. Three tests were conducted to assess each of the parameters: the Visual Analog Scale assessing pain, fatigue or sleep problems; the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire assessing health status; and the Short Form-36 assessing the patient’s quality of life.
Compared to baseline, pain, fatigue and sleep problems were reduced significantly in both the just-exercise group and the exercise-plus-CTM group; meanwhile. most health status scores, physical functioning and body pain, limitations due to health and other general health parameters significantly improved.
However, improvement in pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and limitation due to physical health improved significantly in the exercise-plus-CTM group, compared to the just-exercise group.
Results suggest that exercise, with or without CTM, can have a beneficial effect on the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
“In addition, exercises with CTM might be superior in improving pain, fatigue and sleep problem, and role limitations due to physical health related to quality of life compared to exercise alone.” the team wrote.
“The CTM applications which have no any side effects and are economic may be applied safely by physical therapists and other experienced healthcare professionals in the CTM for patients with FMS [fibromyalgia] in the clinics,” researchers concluded.