Massage therapy is widely used by patients with fibromyalgia seeking symptom relief. We performed a review of all available studies with an emphasis on randomized controlled trials to determine whether massage therapy can be a viable treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms. Extensive narrative review. PubMed, PsychInfo, CINAHL, PEDro, ISI Web of Science, and Google Scholar databases (inception-December 2009) were searched for the key words “massage”, “massotherapy”, “self-massage”, “soft tissue manipulation”, “soft tissue mobilization”, “complementary medicine”, “fibromyalgia” “fibrositis”, and “myofascial pain”. No language restrictions were imposed. The reference lists of all articles retrieved in full were also searched. The effects of massage on fibromyalgia symptoms have been examined in two single-arm studies and six randomized controlled trials. All reviewed studies showed short-term benefits of massage, and only one single-arm study demonstrated long-term benefits. All reviewed studies had methodological problems. The existing literature provides modest support for use of massage therapy in treating fibromyalgia. Additional rigorous research is needed in order to establish massage therapy as a safe and effective intervention for fibromyalgia. In massage therapy of fibromyalgia, we suggest that massage will be painless, its intensity should be increased gradually from session to session, in accordance with patient’s symptoms; and the sessions should be performed at least 1–2 times a week.
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Conflict of interest statement
The author has no conflict of interest regarding the contents of this article.