Monthly Archives: May 2012

Fascia

Discovering the fascial anatomy and its influence was

like realizing the world was round when I thought it was flat.

Every day in my work I have to explain fascial tissue to at least one person because they have never heard of it.  When explaining what this tissue is I often say something like this: Fascia is the connective tissue in your body, it surrounds and supports everything.  If you were a potted plant, your skin would be the pot, the roots would be the structures of your body and the dirt would be your fascia.  It is even called ‘ground substance.’  It is around every muscle, every bundle of muscle fibers, every fiber and every cell.  It is the covering of the cells.  It is around every vessel, organ and nerve, and it surrounds and supports your nervous system.  It has different names in different parts of the body, but it is all the connective tissue.

I could just apply my techniques to people but I take the time to explain because understanding the body in this way has huge implications on how we operate in our body and what we choose to do to treat ourselves. Seeing the body as a lively fascial web starts to change how you see yourself and the potential for your health.

Physical Implications

We are connected from head to toe, what is happening at the base of the spine influences what is happening at the head, and vice versa. What is happening at the pelvis influences what is happening at the shoulder, and even into the arm and hand. There are anatomical links through the fascia. Furthermore, we are unified in mind, body and spirit.  For instance, fascia will respond to thought.  You can recognize an emotional state by someone’s posture.  It is an error in thinking to treat anything as purely physical or purely mental.

Several of the people I have learned from have said, ‘all illness starts as stagnation in the tissues’.  Repetitive strain studies showing increased distance between cells in the interstitial spaces (the space between the cells of the body, or connective tissue).  Fibers form in the interstitial spaces with repetitive strain and this slows the movement of nutrients through the tissues, and also the removal of waste from the tissues.  We know that cancer cells are forming in the body regularly and usually the body’s defense systems carry them away.  However, if there is poor movement through the tissues, this can give cancer cells a chance to take hold. Cancer is a very complex disease, and there is much more to it than this one simple explanation.  It is an important point though, they may give us one more thing to do for our health.  I can point to a case study within my practice of someone who had a traumatic injury that created a fascial restriction in the area of the diaphragm.  She had never had health problems before that and within two years following that injury she developed endocrine problems, musculoskeletal problems and ultimately breast cancer.  The question is what role did the fascial restrictions created by the trauma play in the development of these health problems?  I can’t say conclusively but it is something that should be examined.

Structure has a big influence on physiology and function.  Pharmacology emphasizes a biochemical approach, but creating space for the cells of the body to work can have an amazing influence on the function.  Treating pharmacologically alone is incomplete and can in the long run have negative implication on health.

Sociological Implications

The human is so complicated that we must divide our studies into parts such as psychology, anatomy, physiology, spirituality, etc.  In medical studies we examine the various systems of the body individually.  And to study the musculoskeletal system, we look at the various joint complexes individually.  But after graduating from demanding scholastic and clinical program we have to put it all together.  That often doesn’t happen.  In fact, medicine has become more segmented with specialization.  People seeking help for a dis-ease can end up going from one doctor to another to hear their specialized viewpoint.

It can be very difficult for those with medical training when it comes time to understand the holistic influence of the fascial tissue.  Exceptionally bright people with MD, PT or PhD degrees can have a hard time putting it all together.  In fact, I often find doctors struggling with these concepts.  The lay person often does not.  So this must be an illustration of human nature.  When we are taught a system or model of understanding the human experience, we try to fit everything into this model.  As adults, if new facts don’t fit our model we often don’t acknowledge it at all, or we find it threatening, get angry and attack.

As I said, learning about the fascial anatomy was a major shift for me.  And my reaction included some anger.  I had not been taught about the importance of fascia in all the fantastic training I had.  I sat with my own anger for quite a while after I started learning myofascial release, and having great success with it.  I couldn’t argue with the results and so I just kept with learning fascial release techniques.  I read many books within physics, psychology, anatomy, and spirituality trying to answer the questions that came up for me.

There are many opportunities for new learning in all this but the lesson that stands out for me:

Models are necessary for learning, and living.  They provide a platform and a grounding.    They can become a cage when I use them  to prevent new learning or experience.

There is so much more than can be said about fascia, and many others have done a wonderful job.  Here are some examples.

Follow some of these links below and you can see some examples of fascia:

If you want to read more check out these choices:

  • http://fasciacongress.org/ The International Fascial Research Congress: Basic science and  Implications  for Conventional and Complementary Health Care.  Tons of research to give relief to the scientifically minded.
  • The Fasciae: Anatomy, Dysfunction and Treatment by Serge Paoletti.  A great book!
  • Healing Ancient Wounds, by John Barnes.  A book explaining Mr. Barnes approach and all that influences it.
  • Discover Craniosacral Therapy, by John Upledger, DO.  Dr. Upledger is perhaps the largest contributor to the teaching of craniosacral therapy in the US.  This is an introductory book for the lay person.
  • Understanding the Message of the Body, by Jean-Pierre Barral, DO, PT.  Dr. Barral has developed the curriculum of visceral manipulation.  This sophisticated approach to fascial release emphasizes specificity through thorough evaluation of the fascial system.

Samples of Treatment and Self Treatment:

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CenesTherapeutics

Today I wanted to explain CenesTherapeutics®.  It is a word I made up with the help of my daughter-in-law, Melissa.  The root word is cenesthesia (pronounce the ‘c’ like an ‘s’). The dictionary I looked in defined it as, ‘awareness arising out of bodily sensation’.  So, CenesTherapeutics refers to all the methods that enhance awareness arising from bodily sensation, leading to healing and better health.  These methods come from bodywork, psychology, movement and medicine. I actually went through the process of registering this word as a trademark and self-published some of the educational materials I developed under that name.  My intention, if I can find some space in my life for it, is to write a book by that title.  Those who know me would be laughing right now, because I have said I wanted to write a book for years.  A blog seemed to be a more likely way to get my ideas out in the world.  But I digress.

Here is a brief history that led to the word.   I have had a passion for working with people in pain since I was in school.  My senior project for my Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy was a 33 page literature review on pain.  I carried around (and read) Melzack and Wall’s textbook of pain for months.  While I was in PT school we had a presentation on craniosacral therapy.  One of the professors was not pleased.  She called it foolish.  I took that to heart.  Three years after getting the BS degree, I completed a Master’s of Orthopedic Manual Therapy.  Next I conquered a hand therapy certification.  I love to learn, and at the time was driven by a lot of insecurity about not knowing enough to help the people that came to me for treatment.

By 1998, I was feeling confident and would take on tough cases eagerly. I hate to admit this because it sounds very arrogant; I thought I knew everything about orthopedic physical therapy.

Be careful when you think you know everything.

Life will have a lesson for you demonstrating you do not.

I was working with someone who had a severe pain condition and couldn’t get off crutches.  Although I was the hand therapist, I was also the PT in our group who felt up to the task of helping this person with a very unusual pain presentation. She and I would get close but I could not get her off those crutches.  The pain would flare whenever she tried. Then one of my co-workers went to a three day course on myofascial release (MFR) taught by John Barnes, PT.  When she came back she suggested we try MFR on this patient.  We worked together for about an hour.  I left to go home to my family but the other therapist continued to work.   About an hour later, I was in my living room when I heard a knock on the door.  It was the patient!  Walking without crutches!  I was amazed.  We were both thrilled.  She never went back to crutches again.

That was enough for me to cast aside the barrier I had constructed about not learning those foolish techniques and I dove in to the seminar world.  This new discovery of fascial release rocked my world.  I was trying to make sense of it, and it was impacting every aspect of my life.  I learned myofascial release (MFR), craniosacral therapy (CS) and visceral manipulation (VM).  There were so many more techniques that were being taught and I decided I had to make some choices on what to study.

I like the big picture.  I like to understand the universal principles that undergird what we are and what we do.  While studying these three techniques I sought to find the common principles that connected them.  I ran up against a sort of religious passion for these various techniques.  The idea that one technique was superior to another, or possessed some uniqueness that none of the others had was often promoted.  To some degree I see this as a way to brand a product and sell seminars to people like me who wanted to find that one thing that will make me an awesome therapist, and fulfill the secret wish to heal everyone that walks in the door.  I think there is similarity among these techniques. But promoting their separateness limits the acceptance of them in the health care realm.

This special technique-ism happens in bodywork, psychology, and movement.  We are copyrighting all sorts of things.  So, I have now registered the trademark of CenesTherapeutics and I hope it could be used as a universal word to represent the body of knowledge for all the mind-body techniques that exist to help people heal.  And there are a lot.  So this blog could go on for a long time.

And the lessons I have learned:

Life is happier and more fulfilling when I let every day be a mystery and every person be a mystery.  Life will be more fun when I curiously seek out what I don’t know.  I am more likely to help people when I let go of needing to be the one that heals them.

 And in the words of Paramahansa Yogananda, “Do not confuse agent with single cause.”

Blessings to all of you!  Let me know what you think!  With Love, Sara

Therapy Solutions

In 1999, a friend and I decided to start a physical and occupational therapy clinic together in Kennewick, Washington.  It took some doing.  For instance,  my husband, Jeff, got a law changed so that PTs and OTs could own a business together in the state of Washington.  He showed me if there is a way to do it better, don’t be afraid to make it happen.  And you can work within the system to bring about a good result.  I have to thank Jeff for showing me this.

Therapy Solutions came out of the collaboration between Sue Brendel and me, with the help of our husbands.  It has been going now for nearly thirteen years.  It exists as a haven for both therapists and people seeking relief from dis-ease.  The mission: “providing an environment for healing where all are encouraged to experience wholeness and independence.” — has proved true for many of the people who pass through the doors.  I have to say that I have benefited more than anyone.   I suppose as this blog unfolds, some of what I mean by that will come to light.

You will find us at 1455 Columbia Park Trail in Richland, WA.  You can call us at 396-3707 and you can find out more about us at http://www.therapy-solutions.us.

What I hope to do with this blog is (1) share with you what CenesTherapeutics is, (2) share all the things I can find that illustrate CenesTherapeutics, (3) tell the story of Therapy Solutions, and my story, (4) share information that can help you life a happier and healtheir life,  and(5)  make a difference in health care in America.  I don’t know that a blog can do that, but you gotta start somewhere!

To your health!  Sara