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Massage and Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia

Massage and Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia

Over recent months I have had many questions and inquiries surrounding two separate conditions that do inter-relate with each other often and they are fatigue; both chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS and adrenal fatigue, and fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia will sometime occur with those who have suffered CFS for a prolonged period of time. Below I will give a brief rundown on what each is and how massage therapy can help. Of course this is generalized information and before you attempt to implement any of these suggestions, a full consultation with your health professional is strongly recommended.

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue has become more common in modern society. Many people suffer the symptoms of adrenal exhaustion. These adrenal symptoms occur as a result of prolonged stress.  Chronic stress from work, family, school or whatever stressful situations you can think of, cause the adrenal glands to be pushed to their limits. Diet also contributes to it. Consuming caffeine and/or sugar puts additional stress on the adrenals as does alcohol, cigarettes and so on.

The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys. They’re responsible for regulating 50 hormones in the body. Cortisol is one of those hormones. Normally, your adrenals will give you a bit of cortisol in the morning that makes you want to get up. It helps make you alert after sleep. That level will drop slowly during the day and will come down more rapidly at night to prepare you for sleep. When this normal pattern doesn’t occur you feel tired in the morning and can’t sleep at night.

Some of the symptoms of adrenal exhaustion are:

  • feeling tired easily
  • mild depression
  • muscle weakness
  • salt cravings
  • decreased ability to handle stress
  • decreased sex drive

Though this condition is commonly diagnosed in the natural health world, it isn’t recognized by medical doctors. There is a disease caused by under active adrenals called Addison’s disease. The symptoms of this disease include, fatigue, weight loss, aches and pains, low blood pressure and loss of body hair. Adrenal fatigue is thought to be a less intense version of this disease

How massage can help; Massage therapy can be used to help regulate the hormones and calm the nervous system to reduce the stress response. It can help ease depression and help you sleep more easily through the night. Besides helping with the symptoms of adrenal exhaustion, massage can help decrease the stress hormones levels in the blood stream through it’s action in stimulating the lymphatic system and circulation. Massage styles like shiatsu, Thai massage, Swedish and remedial massage are great for supplementing the treatment of this condition. Aromatherapy massage is another good massage for this condition. The use of aromatherapy oils will help soothe the mind and ease stress even further.

CFS – Chronic fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) is much more than just being tired a lot. People with ME/CFS are so tired and rundown that it interferes with their lives and can make it hard to function at all. Some people with ME/CFS say they have trouble staying on top of their responsibilities at home and on the job, while others are severely disabled and even bedridden. Furthermore, they’re not just dealing with extreme fatigue but with a wide range of other symptoms, including flu-like symptoms and chronic pain.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

Symptoms of ME/CFS and their intensity vary from person to person.

Common symptoms include:

  • Sudden severe fatigue, especially following a flu-like illness
  • Sleep that isn’t refreshing
  • Muscle and joint aches without swelling
  • Intense or changing patterns of headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck or armpits
  • Memory problems/inability to concentrate
  • Symptoms have a distinct onset

Other symptoms can include:

  • Intolerance to alcohol
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Impaired circulation in the hands and feet
  • Visual disturbances
  • Painful menstrual periods

For fatigue to be considered severe, it must meet the four following criteria:

  1. It’s not relieved by sleep or rest
  2. It’s not the result of strenuous physical labor
  3. It significantly lowers your ability to function normally in most situations
  4. It gets a lot worse after mental or physical exertion, or after you’ve been sick

How massage can help CFS; It’s important to understand that massage therapy is to be used as a complimentary treatment in conjunction with other therapies for CFS. Gentle therapeutic or Swedish/relaxation massage is what is recommended. It stimulates the immune system, aids lymphatic and blood circulation and aids the muscle in a similar way to exercise as people suffering CFS are generally unable to exercise. Deep tissue and myo-fascial work is not recommended.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition of widespread pain and profound fatigue. The pain tends to be felt as diffuse aching or burning, often described as head to toe. It may be worse at some times than at others. It may also change location, usually becoming more severe in parts of the body that are used most. The fatigue ranges from feeling tired, to the exhaustion of a flu-like illness. It may come and go and people can suddenly feel drained of all energy – as if someone just “pulled the plug”.  CFS/Fibromyalgia often occur together.

Besides pain and fatigue fibromyalgia symptoms often include:

  • un-refreshing sleep – waking up tired and stiff
  • headaches – ranging from ordinary types to migraine
  • irritable bowel – alternating diarrhoea and constipation, sometimes accompanied by gas in the abdomen or nausea
  • cognitive disturbances including lack of concentration, temporary memory impairment and word mix up
  • clumsiness and dizziness
  • sensitivity to changes in the weather and to noise, bright lights, smoke and other environmental factors
  • allergies

How can massage help; Because fibromyalgia causes pain and makes your body extremely sensitive to touch and pressure, you probably won’t be able to tolerate any kind of deep-tissue massage. Open lines of communication are vital when it comes to how much pressure your therapist can put on your muscles. Generally speaking fibromyalgia responds well to gentle therapeutic massage by helping to alleviate anxiety and inducing relaxation thus aiding in sleep and recovery. Acupressure incorporation has been found to be useful also and may aid in a reduction of symptoms for a period of several days to weeks.

Final Words.

My final advice is to make sure you use a massage therapist that is experienced in dealing with more chronic forms of conditions like this and that is also not going to charge you the earth! You must understand that massage therapy is, when used for these conditions is part of a holistic approach involving proper nutrition, rest and/or exercise etc, a most useful tool in helping to manage these symptoms but is not a cure on it’s own. Finally you must ensure open lines of communication with your therapist to properly evaluate whether or not this is a sensible and viable option for you and your condition to use as part of the management strategy for a chronic condition.

I hope this helps shed some light on this topic for you out there.

Stay well and see you next time.

Craig Hitchens – MST & Natural Health Specialist.


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I highly recommend Craig Hitchens and his services. Craig has helped and supported me through some very difficult health problems using NES and general nutritional advice. Craig has often provided advice and done research without me asking, sometimes without charging me, in his free time. He is a caring, well informed, passionate and highly motivated natural health practitioner. I Feel that NES has cured me of chronic Epstein Barr virus that left me bed ridden for 5 years. My chronic fatigue has been significantly reduced and I'm now living a normal, happy life.
Sylvia MacLeish - CFS Sufferer

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Dunsborough, Western Australia, 6281
PH: 0421 213 898
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