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How a Sports Massage Helped Relieve My Back Pain From Fibromyalgia

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Editor’s note: The following is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before beginning any new treatments.

I don’t know about you, but one thing I really struggle with is back pain. No matter how active I am, how much rest I get or how careful I am, I still end up needing my partner to work on some painful knots at least once a week. Sadly, he isn’t a massage therapist, but he does the best he can, and it usually helps get me through to my next Pilates class. But sometimes it’s not enough, and I’m left in agony.


I’ve been having a particularly bad time recently – a variety of things have been stressing me out, and my back is making that stress known. Nobody told me how hard it can be to deal with a chronic illness, as well as everyday stress on top. I also struggle with bruxism, and have a brace I wear at night to stop grinding my teeth to dust, but I still feel the effects in my neck and jaw. During stressful times, I have to physically stop myself from clenching my jaw throughout the day. I carry a lot of tension in my upper back and shoulders, and although Pilates helps, I still end up in pain most of the time.

I’ve been looking for a massage therapist in my area, but finding one that’s also experienced in dealing with chronic pain conditions has proven to be difficult. So, I decided to call up my physiotherapist and book a sports massage. Despite the misleading name, a sports massage is actually for anyone and everyone. It’s very much a deep tissue massage, and can be great for people who participate in sports and exercise to prevent and treat injury, but it’s also good for anyone who struggles with pain, and needs to release tight muscles.

For those of us with fibromyalgia, massage is actually recommended, but the intensity is a very individual thing. When I was seeing my physiotherapist regularly, she often released knots in my back, and performed myofascial release on my neck and shoulders. While these helped, I could also be quite sore for a few days afterwards. Unfortunately, if you have deep, chronic pain, especially in your back, a massage isn’t necessarily going to be an hour to unwind with some scented candles. It might be painful, it might leave you sore, but it can really help.

I booked an appointment for a Saturday morning. After a long week of work, sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, I felt like my back was in a metal brace. The massage therapist, Christina, showed me into the room and asked me to briefly explain why I was there. When I said, “I have fibromyalgia,” she said, “Ah,” and I didn’t need to say any more. Then she gave me some privacy while I stripped my t-shirt and bra off, covered myself with a towel, and laid face-down on the bed.

I felt twinges of pain as she worked her way down my back. She identified every knot – there were four on my left side, two on my right – and set to getting rid of them. I knew from my previous experiences to speak up if something was hurting too much – the goal isn’t to barely be able to walk out of the appointment, it’s to release the tension and knots that have been bothering you. Sometimes the pain was a bit too much to bear, but it only took a sharp intake of breath for Christina to ease off a bit.

Despite the pain, I actually found the experience to be quite relaxing. We made a bit of small talk, but mostly she worked in silence, and I didn’t want to interrupt. I was quite happy just lying there quietly. Taking half an hour out of your busy week can be a really positive thing, and I was surprised at how chilled out I felt. Before I knew it, the appointment was over, and, although I felt sore, my back also felt freer than it had for a long time.

Strangely, I felt extremely tired afterwards. I went home and slept until the early afternoon, and woke feeling refreshed, my back almost pain-free. I suppose it’s natural for such a rigorous massage to take its toll on you, and, it being a Saturday, I had the luxury of spending the day in bed. I’d highly recommend a sports massage for those with fibromyalgia. It can work wonders on those tight muscle knots that plague us. It can be painful – as we know, during a flare, even the lightest touch can hurt – but if you feel like you can cope with it, it can work wonders.

For those local to Hertfordshire, I went to Barnes Physiotherapy in Hertford and can strongly recommend them.

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Thinkstock photo via David De Lossy.

Originally published: August 9, 2017
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