Massage Therapy as Beneficial Part of Integrative Treatment Plan for Fibromyalgia

Position Statement

It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that massage therapy can be a beneficial part of an integrative treatment plan for those who suffer with fibromyalgia syndrome.

Background Information

“Fibromyalgia syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that include chronic pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues. It is one of a collection of chronic disorders that often go hand in hand. [sic]  Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is frequently seen with chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, sleep disorders and several other chronic conditions.”  

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Scientists estimate that fibromyalgia affects 5 million Americans 18 or older. Between 80 and 90 percent of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women. However, men and children also can have the disorder.”  A survey conducted with those who have FMS indicates that 98% of those surveyed used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to help manage their disorder. In that study, the researchers found that 44% of those surveyed chose massage therapy. In other evidence, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) states: " Fibromyalgia is another pain condition frequently seen by health care providers, and one in which there often is no universally effective treatment. Studies have found that up to 91 percent of people with fibromyalgia use some form of CAM, and up to 75 percent use massage therapy."

Although some sample sizes are small, research indicates that in respect to fibromyalgia syndrome massage can:

  • reduce pain
  • improve health status
  • improve quality of life
  • decrease anxiety
  • decrease depression
  • increase sleep hours
  • increase quality of sleep
  • improve quality of sleep over time
  • reduce tender points
  • decrease urinary CRF-LI (a biochemical marker of stress-related symptoms)
  • decrease use of analgesics
  • decrease cortisol levels
  • decrease stiffness
  • decrease fatigue
  • work well in an integrative treatment plan