Reading about why yoga is considered to be beneficial to relieve fibro symptoms, I came across an article that looks not just at yoga but compares yoga to yoga plus massage therapy (specifically Tui Na, a Chinese “manipulation therapy”), see Da Silva et al in library. For yoga (“relaxing yogic practice”), they indicate that practicing physical posture, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques are probably what is beneficial. Seems very straightforward. However, when they divided their study group so that half of them were only doing the relaxation yoga techniques and half were doing yoga plus massage therapy, things go awry.
The two groups had about the same results at the end of the 8-week study, with those also receiving massage therapy having slightly better results. Upon followup, however, those with massage therapy had returned very closely to their original baseline pain range. Those without therapy had longer lasting benefit. This goes against common sense to me. Massage is definitely beneficial – I’ll attest to that. It was my first therapy when I was first officially diagnosed. Yoga… I’m still trying to determine the benefit. But looking at their results, it is very clear. There is benefit for those with massage, but it is not lasting.
The authors conjecture that this is for one very simple reason. The subjects became dependent on the massage therapy: “…massage may enhance a patient’s dependence, and if this approach [massage] is incorporated into the patient’s chronic pain behaviors, it may become disabling, because the patient will expect things to be done to him or her and not by him or her” [italics added]. The patients with massage therapy all expressed dissatisfaction at the end of the study. They go on to mention the need to change patients’ “self-defeating beliefs.”
During the yoga sessions I’ve been attending, this is one of the elements that are addressed while we work out, “self-defeating beliefs.” We are told to even focus on one problem area, and breathe into it. Don’t suppress it, acknowledge it, and move on. If we have thoughts like oh my gosh I think my hips are splitting in half, acknowledge those thoughts and move on. Breathe into my hips. The self-defeating beliefs, according to my personal yoga master, is what actually causes our suffering, because we pile negative thoughts on top of our pain. I can acknowledge the common sense of this approach.
At the same time, I have to go back to the it’s-better-to-ignore-it philosophy too. While negative thoughts are definitely something for people with fibromyalgia to combat, “self-defeating beliefs” takes it one step further, maybe too far. There’s a difference. I’ll have to work on figuring out how to explain that difference and why the phrase annoys me….