Jeff Angileri
Oct 1, 2008, 10:06 PM

Fibromyalgia is a painful disorder that affects about 2 percent of the population, mainly women.

Ironically enough, with a disorder that makes it hurt to touch anything, some people are finding comfort on the massage table.

Barb Schemenauer felt the symptoms of fybromyalgia 14 years ago. She's still living with them.

You're waking up and hurting like your body's 95 years old, and you're in a lot of pain, said Schemenauer. You feel like you have arthritis. You fell like you have a really bad flu.

Unlike other pain disorders, which usually affects specific parts of the body like joints and muscles, fybromyalgia is chronic widespread pain and sensitivity.

A lot of people try to keep fibromyalgia quiet, because somebody along the line has said, 'It's all in your head,' said rheumatologist Christine Cox, with Dean Health System.

It's very real, doctors say, but they don't know what causes it.

They can only treat the symptoms. That means getting people to move despite their pain.

I have patients get into swimming sometimes, swimming exercises, Cox said. I'll have patients do yoga.

Combination therapies work best, according to doctors; medicines, exercise, and massage therapy, which Barb Schemenauer says works best for her.

I saw the pain that she would go through on a daily basis, said massage therapist Leia McCumber. I wanted to find out how i could help her.

Schemenauer's daughter Leia specializes in fibromyaliga massage, which includes aroma therapy. She says it lowers blood pressure, increases circulation, and most importantly, helps people relax.

It will allow these patients to sleep better at night, and reduce their overall muscle pain, she said.

Schemenauer says the massage is part of a weekly regiment that's helping her live a normal life, You need to force yourself to go home from work and do light exercise, stretching...that's really important. You can't give up. You can't give in.

A warning to anyone pursuing this type of treatment: It's important to go to a massage therapist with advanced education in fibromyalgia relief. Because it's such a sensitive condition, therapists without special training could hurt patients even more. Massage is one way to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia, at this point there is no cure.