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Fibromyalgia syndrome, or fibro, is one of the most common, most difficult, most complex, and least understood health-related conditions ever seen. And people who live with fibro and feel abandoned, neglected, dismissed, or trivialized by the medical community often seek massage to help them cope. Sometimes that works out well. Sometimes, not so much. "My fibro clients wear me out." "I feel like a limp dishrag after a session with them." "After I work with a fibro person, I feel like I need a nap." "I never feel like I make any real progress with my fibro clients. I'm thinking I'll just refer them out from now on." "I just want to fix them. Tell me how to fix them!" I hear these kinds of comments a lot. And—here's a bit of my embarrassing past—I sometimes said (or thought) similar things when I was new in practice and overwhelmed by the experience of working with people in chronic pain who relied on me to help them. I needed to bring not just my best massage skills, but also my best self-care skills into the session room with these clients, and I didn't know how to do that. While this article will look at our understanding of fibromyalgia, the main part of this piece will focus on the experience of living with fibro and what it's like to work with clients who have fibro. I'll share parts of my conversations with several people I interviewed for this project—who are listed at the end with my great gratitude. Our focus will be on the special attitudes and skills necessary to provide massage therapy to this population in a healthy and sustainable way. Let's start by looking at this syntax, used in the earlier comments: "My fibro clients." These words subtly reinforce the tendency to define people by their illness. In my writing and teaching, I try to use a different construction: "My clients who have fibro" is person- first language that recognizes the individual before the label of the disease. It may seem trivial, but would you rather be referred to as a fibro client, or as a client who has fibro? Which feels most respectful and empowering—the phrase that emphasizes the disease, or the one that emphasizes the person? That baseline of respect and unconditional positive regard for our clients who have fibro and other chronic pain conditions is the central theme for this article—and these clients need us at our very best. L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 37 By Ruth Werner KEY POINTS • Fibromyalgia pain—invisible, private, and completely reliable— becomes, in a fully human but dysfunctional way, a defining feature of that individual's personality. • No two people with fibro can be treated the same way, but they all want to feel safe, reduce their stress, and be respected. • Clients with fibro deserve our appreciation and respect, even though they might present some special challenges for bodywork practitioners. PAIN The Sustainable Practices MTs Can Use to Help Clients with Fibromyalgia

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