Even though that isn’t yet known, Dr. Howard says this study is still very interesting. “Vibration is another way of minimizing pain, and it sounded like it would be more helpful for regional or local pain rather than widespread pain,” he says.

Dr. Staud says this theory is still very much in the testing stages and the vibrating instrument used in this study isn’t available to the public. “Although we didn’t test it, I think that the size of the foot plate of the biothesiometer is relevant. I wouldn’t suggest that everybody should go out and by any vibrator to use for pain relief. But pending a commercial product this is entirely feasible,” he explains.

Until then, Dr. Staud’s message for patients is that vibration involves touch, and that can provide pain relief.

Dr. Howard agrees that this study reinforces the importance of touch therapy, like massage, and even movement therapy, like gentle exercise, for people with chronic pain.

“When you have pain, you want to stop what you’re doing and protect the area. But for some types of pain that’s not the right thing to do,” Dr. Howard says.

You do need to know what types of pain touch is good for and for which ones it isn’t. Dr. Howard says his general rule of thumb is to baby your joints and bully your muscles.

“In general, if it’s joint-related pain, baby it. If it’s a muscular type of pain, touch would be a good thing,” he explains. “Fibromyalgia patients often shrink away from touch therapy and movement. The foundation of treatment is to use movement and touch and stimulus to help with their pain, but their natural reaction is to withdraw and avoid tactile activity. Don’t be afraid. Don’t avoid it,” Dr. Howard says.

Good forms of touch therapy include massage and the use of temperature – both hot and cold. Good forms of movement therapy include tai chi, yoga and swimming.