Lately I found a new massage therapy that is advocated for the treatment of fibromyalgia: Orthopedic Massage Therapy (1). I don’t think that massage is a treatment option in fibromyalgia though there are wellness effects of course.
Y.H. Li and colleagues published a meta-analysis on “Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia” (2). This meta-analysis is based on only nine randomized controlled trials with 404 patients. The authors found “beneficial immediate effects on improving pain, anxiety, and depression in patients with FM”. But as there is “no evidence on follow-up effects, large-scale randomized controlled trials with long follow-up are warrant to confirm the current findings.” I’m very skeptic, but nevertheless there are short term wellness effects and maybe some relief from pain is possible.
Back to Orthopedic Massage Therapy. We are told: “Unlike most massages, the main purpose of orthopedic massages is to provide lasting results by targeting the central nervous system.” O.K. you can target the moon with your arrow, but will your arrow hit the moon? There’s no reason given, why the central nervous system could be a target. No evidence that the therapy is getting nearer to the target. No study that Orthopedic Massage Therapy improves fibromyalgia.
Here are the “Four stages to orthopedic massage therapy”:
“Muscoskeletal Assesment: your therapist will ask questions to understand your pain, where it hurts, and if possible, why it hurts.” Not so different to any other physical therapy.
“Orthopedic Massage Treatment: your therapist will use the techniques best matched to your pain and problem areas. The ultimate goal being to massage the soft tissues that can you’re your pain.” I must admit that I only understand half of it (or even less). It seems a strange ultimate goal!
“On-going maintenance: your therapist will help you develop a plan for maintaining the results long-term.” That doesn’t sound new or different to any other technique.
Now you might ask for the fourth stage. There is none, at least not mentioned to us neophytes.
What do I think of Orthopedic Massage Therapy in fibromyalgia? Not more than a marketing gimmick for massage. In my eyes massage is wellness for patients and not a treatment of fibromyalgia. Massage has short term effects, but doesn’t change the course of fibromyalgia.