Manual lymphatic drainage trials: Treating Fibromyalgia pain symptoms

Image result for fibromyalgiaBackground on the trial

This trial has been organised independently by Melanie at Ryding2Health Ltd Invercargill. We were interested to find out whether there was evidence that MLD could help manage symptoms for sufferers of fibromyalgia because we see so many people with this diagnosis in our massage clinic (usually to receive deep tissue massage). We had read research online that suggested that it could be the best form of massage to treat fibromyalgia but we had no evidence of this on a personal level. 

All the participants of the trial have had a formal diagnosis. They have all agreed to a minimum 4 weeks of treatment – at least one 60 min treatment per week. All participants are not currently actively participating in any other complimentary therapies to treat their fibromyalgia and have agreed to let us share their results on social media and for marketing purposes, if the results prove to be positive. 

None of the participants have previously tried MLD as a form of treatment for their fibromyalgia.

The clients taking part in the trial

Client 1:
Had fibromyalgia since they were 19. Pain at present was a ‘normal’ 5 / 10. Has had deep tissue massage in the past. Felt like it did work, to a degree, but it was short lived. 

Client 2:
Feels like they have always had it but was ignored as a child when they complained of the pain and told it was normal. Wasn’t till they got older and started questioning it more that medical professionals started to take notice. Has found that sugars in their diet (processed) can affect symptoms negatively. Pain at the moment was a ‘normal’ 3/10 or so. Has never had a massage before. Read up on MLD and was interested because it was a very light touch massage.

Client 3: 
Started suddenly having trouble walking a few years ago, had tests and was told they had fibromyalgia. Feels a bit skeptical about the diagnosis and wonders if fibromyalgia is even a thing. Has multiple medical symptoms, unsure if they are all associated with the diagnosis or not. Knows very little about the condition and has never met / spoken to anyone else who has it. At present the main complaint is face pain / shoulder pain, closely followed by foot pain. Face pain at the start of the treatment was a 6/10. Has not tried any other complimentary treatments. Does not take any regular meds. Was given tablets for nerve pain but no longer takes them: was doubting their effectiveness.

Client 4:
Originally started having pain in the hands around 7 years ago. Years of being pushed around with non related diagnosis’. A change of doctor resulted in adding the pieces together and this created the diagnosis based on a list of symptoms. Hands / feet are most effected. The more the client does, the worse the pain gets. The pain brings the client to tears quite often. Has been told no treatments will help. Occasionally takes brionia. Never had treatment for this directly because they were told there were no options. Takes no other meds. None of the other types of massage this client has tried have ever had a positive effect on the fibromyalgia symptoms. Pain in hands when the client arrived was around 5/10.

Both clients 1 and 2 regularly take panadol (or other variant over the counter pain killers). Varying degrees of success.


Each client on the trial was asked to commit to a minimum of four treatments, no less than one treatment per week. 

Client 1:

Treatment 1- legs. 

Post treatment comments: Client seemed unsure at first as to whether an instant effect would be true or whether she was imagining it. I assured her that yes, it can be instant. ‘I feel something different. I want to say flowing, you know, like what i said before about rubbing for circulation… They definitely definitely feel different.’

Treatment 2- back (incl back of head), legs and feet. 

Post treatment comments: Client Feels looser in her back: shoulders, not so much immediate post treatment difference but said it would be interesting to see what happens later. Legs feel much lighter. Leg pain post treatment was 0/10. Also started to feel the ‘flow feeling in their lower back while sitting talking to me immediately after the treatment. 

Treatment 3-  supine chest, legs, arms, back and back of head.

Post treatment comments: Client felt the flowing feeling again, much more so than before. as before. Negligible dull ache in legs. Almost not worth reporting. Client was shown how to self treat nodes in legs and arms and asked to report back.

This client did not book any appointments after their third treatment. We are unable to report any further on their progress.

Overall feedback – client summary of thoughts between treatments

When the client left after treatment number 1, they noticed later, that their headache had gone and the tightness and tension had also gone from their shoulders. Leg pain was a constant (at least 5/10) before the first treatment, but post treatment the pain was only very occasional. At the start of the second treatment the leg pain was 1/10. 

The client reported no pain at all for the last 7 days post treatment 2, until the morning of their next appointment. They also reported no headaches also. Headaches and leg pain has been absent for two weeks now, client was very happy indeed. The client noted that they did feel a little unwell after the last treatment, which was short lived. Noted that this had been similar to another clients feedback. At the start of this treatment the leg pain was perhaps 1/10 if we had to give it something. Also feeling a lot looser in shoulders too, which might have helped with headaches. Leg pain was a constant (at least 5/10) before the first treatment.

This client did not come back for their final treatment, therefore we cannot report any further on their progress. 

Client 2:

Treatment 1 – arms / head. 

Post treatment comments: Client was unsure at first. I repeated back to them what they had said about the pain in their arm prior to treatment and that they had given it a 3-4/10 and said it ached all the time. They said it now felt ‘normal’ again and didn’t hurt. They also mentioned would it be normal to say they could feel the lymphatic flow in their arm as I worked down to the hand and back up again. I said yes, some people have said that they can feel that.

Treatment 2 – back / legs / feet. 

Post treatment comments: Client remained unsure how to distinguish fibromyalgia pain from other pain. We talked about another trial client describing it as muscle aches when you move, and fibromyalgia pain constant, which the client thought was helpful. Client felt that they could not notice immediate differences this time but noted that they had felt differences later that day / evening last time (noticing more what DOESN’T hurt rather than was does) so would note any changes and report these to us as and when during the week. We sent a follow up SMS 24 hours later. The client felt the legs were definitely not as sore and they felt they were moving a lot better. 

Treatment 3 – chest, both arms.

Post treatment comments: Arms and hands pain has been consistently better. We noted that the arms have been consistently treated each time she has come in, legs have only been treated once. Client unable to report anything as they were pain free prior to this treatment.

Treatment 4 – chest, legs.

Post treatment comments: Client remained pain free after the treatment. Would report back to us in the upcoming days if there was anything of note.

Overall feedback – client summary of thoughts between treatments

The client noticed that they had no headaches for 5 days post first treatment, headaches returned the day before the next treatment was scheduled. Client said their arms were still feeling good with pain at a 0/10 at the start of the treatment. They did notice that their legs / back were hurting more than they remembered and wondered if this was because these areas were not treated. Therefore they opted for this to be treated on the second visit. They noted that their arms were sore constantly for 3-4 weeks prior to their first treatment and they had zero pain for the 7 days post treatment and still had zero pain in the arms when they arrived this time.

Client felt like they were moving more freely after their second treatment, even husband had noticed this. Right arm has been sore again this week, more wrist this time and bone pain. Wondered if it was Fibromyalgia or not, thinking probably not. Legs have been good, much improved in pain levels. Less headaches, and only in the last day or two. Pain at the moment in wrist and ankle,. unsure if it is related. No other pain, so actually thinks that there is no Fibromyalgia pain at all at the moment. Client had reported constantly sore arms prior to their first treatment. 

This client came back for 4th treatment with 3 days more between treatments than previously. Noted that their bowel movements had increased. No pain at the moment. Has had pain behind the ears (we noted there are lymph nodes here) but does not have this at the moment. Has had leg pain this week but they are not sore at the moment. We noted that legs had not been included in the treatment on their last visit. 

This client chose to continue with MLD as a form of treatment for pain management after the conclusion of the trial.

Client 3: 

Treatment 1 – Chest / back / head / face.

Post treatment comments: Client said there was a definite improvement – with the facial pain being down to around 4/10 now. Client said it doesn’t feel as tight on the face. Also mentioned that they could feel a kind of release on the side of the neck when I was treating this area.

Treatment 2 – back, chest, legs, face

Post treatment comments: Felt more relaxed, less tight on the skin. Face feels a lot looser despite us not having as much time on this area. Legs also feel good, less tight and looser. Overall the client felt the pain had, in general, been reduced by a score of 2 on the 1-10 pain scale, which the client felt was a good result. 

This client did not book any appointments after their second treatment. We are unable to report any further on their progress.

Overall feedback – client summary of thoughts between treatments

The client noticed that their face didn’t feel as sore and tight in the days following their first treatment, plus they did not have as much spasming and tingliness. This lasted about 3-4 days. They also noticed their whole body felt a bit looser. The client felt that the improvement in face pain was definitely as a result of the treatment which meant that the face was not top of the list as most painful today. 

This client did not book any appointments after their second treatment. We are unable to report any further on their progress.

Client 4:

Treatment 1 – Chest and arms

Post treatment comments: Client felt like their head felt quite light and slightly lop sided to the right. Wondered if this was due to the fact that we were just starting to get things moving. We discussed the fact that perhaps her right side needed more time spent on it than the left, in subsequent treatments. Hands: left hand no pain at all post treatment, right hand pain was now isolated to top of first finger only. Right hand pain: 2/10. 

Treatment 2 – Chest, arms, hands & face, plus back and back of head.

Post treatment comments: Client felt very light, and still a bit heavier on the right side like last time – but not as much this time. No pain in the hands, perhaps a teeny bit top of right hand knuckles, but nothing really worth noting, which the client thought was an excellent result. The headache, which the client had reported having for the last 7 days at least, already felt less tight than it had before the treatment. 

Treatment 3 – Chest, arms, hands & face, back & back of head

Post treatment comments: Hands were pain free post treatment, noting that this was an improvement from 5/10 to 0/10. So I showed them some self massage for the hands asking them to report back on whether this works to keep the edge off the pain. Feels much lighter overall. 

Treatment 4 – Chest, arms, hands.

Post treatment comments: Client reported feeling better than she had before the treatment, mentioned feeling lighter: pain free in one hand and negligible pain in the other hand. Headache had gone completely.

Overall feedback – client summary of thoughts between treatments

This client came in 6 days after their first treatment for their second session. The client noticed that the pain in their hands, which had been almost 0/10 when they left slowly started to return from around 12 hours post treatment, however the return pain was nowhere near as much as it had been before treatment number 1, and still wasn’t, even today. The client considered this an improvement – thinking it was an improvement of around 3-4/10 and was currently sitting around a 3/10. This client did say that the day after their first treatment they felt unwell, but was fine by day 2. They wondered if this was due to the detox effect of the first treatment. Shoulder pain has also reduced overall. 

Client came in feeling quite sore for treatment 3.. Not as bad as before they started the treatment, however. Client felt that the treatment did not have as long lasting positive effects this time, however this week was the school holidays and they have done a lot more physical activity, however reiterates it is not as bad as at the beginning. Client reported pain in chest (6/10) and hands (5/10) today. Headaches nowhere near as bad as they used to be. Again reported feeling slightly unwell immediately after the last treatment, but this was short lived. 

The client reported having had a migraine in the week between treatments 3 – 4, first time in around 18 months. Couldn’t think of what could have been different to have caused this. Feels in general not so good. Decided to focus on arms for this final treatment, not head. The client did mention that self massage on hands throughout the past week had helped to take the top edge off the symptoms, but it had been short lived each time she did it, as I had mentioned. 

This client decided not to continue with treatments at the end of the trial.

Overall summary: results after 4 weeks of treatments

  • All clients in the trial have reported reduced pain symptoms in targeted affected areas. An overall reduction of pain by was reported by everyone with an improvement of around 4-6/10 on the uni-dimensional pain scale. Summary of areas treated successfully for pain relief include head / face, arms / hands and legs / feet.
  • All clients reported a continued improvement in the areas targeted for treatment – having been identified at the start of the trial as the most painful and most affected areas. 
  • Two clients remained pain free for the remainder of the time they were in the trial after completing two treatments. One of these clients completed 4 treatments, one completed only 3 treatments.

One Comment on “Manual lymphatic drainage trials: Treating Fibromyalgia pain symptoms

  1. Very interesting results Melanie! Shame all 4 did not follow through with original commitment to 4 treatments. Great curiosity. Judi

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