Scar Tissue, the most overlooked issue in Healthcare

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What do all of the following have in common?

Cesarean “C” section

Breast reduction

Breast implant

Appendectomy

Laparoscopy

Arthroscopy

 

Well that is easy right?  They are all surgeries. But would it surprise you to know that 6 out of 10 women who walk into my office do not consider C- Sections or breast work surgeries? Yes, you did read that correctly.

There is an alarm gong off in my head.  At first it was a small ding and as the years have gone by it has been getting louder and louder. These days it is going off like an air raid siren.  When a new client comes to see me I have them fill out a medical history intake form. It is very common for people to “forget” about past injuries, illness and yes even a minor surgery.  It has always amazed me, I mean really how does one forget they broke an arm or an ankle?

Here are some of the many conversations/comments that have resulted from the “Please list all surgeries” section on the form:

“Surgery? No, not really… Well…I had a C-section but I do not consider that surgery.” 

“Why is that?”

“Well…it wasn’t planned… it was an emergency.”

 

“No surgery…I just had my breasts done but that doesn’t count.”

 

“I did have my toe chopped off, but they sewed it back on and that was so long ago it doesn’t matter.”

 

“No…No surgeries… just had some work done on my mouth twice.” 

“Do you mean you had Oral surgery?”

“Yes”

 

“Well I did have my uterus taken out. But they did that through my belly button- you can barely even see the scar… so no, no surgery.”

 

During a session I will observe a scar and inquired as to its origin. The client inevitably says “What scar? Where?  Oh right?  …That’s from when I wiped out on my motorcycle…yeah I ruptured my spleen and they had to do surgery”   and this one on your leg? “Oh that?  I was dragged by the bike on asphalt pretty gnarly huh?!”  

 

I have been a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years and in all that time a reoccurring theme seems to have prevailed. The presence of scar tissue can have a lifelong physiological effect on the body — a fact that seems to have eluded traditional healthcare professionals. This realization combined with my clinical experience, education, teaching and research, has led to my developing the STRAIT (Scar Tissue Release and Integrated Therapies) Method to release restricted tissues and restore balance and freedom of movement.

 

During the course of my career I’ve treated many patients whose problems could be traced back to a scar they had forgotten they even had.  Everyone has a scar i.e. the bellybutton. While not every scar presents a problem, often they can.  This is due to the fact that the body is one large, three-dimensional piece of fascia that envelops us like an intricate spider web. Any kink, pull or restriction in one area affects the whole matrix.

 

Scar tissue and adhesions are the result of our body’s natural healing process and it occurs both internally and externally. The process, if working correctly, is supposed to eliminate the scars and adhesions once the wound is healed. In some cases, a person’s body does not remove all of the scar tissue. In other cases adhesions have built to help support the body due to poor posture, repetitive use or injury.  The adhered tissue continues to spread which can trigger a cascading effect of compensations through out the body.

 

The STRAIT Method is a series of fascial techniques that release and realign the restrictive tissue from the starting point (visible scar) to the end point (where the line of frozen fascia stops).  This release system differs from traditional methods because it approaches the multi faceted matrix of fascia three dimensionally.

 

What is Scar Tissue? 

Scars are areas of fibrous tissue that have replaced normal skin, or other tissue, after injury. A scar results from the biologic process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues of the body. Scar tissue is never as functional as the original tissue it has replaced. With the exception of very minor lesions, every wound (both internal and external) results in some degree of scarring.

 

What are Adhesions?

Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that anchor and support the wound. It binds all tissue it comes into contact with together. Adhesions will form whenever there is inflammation in the body. Although adhesions can occur anywhere, the most common locations are within the stomach, pelvis and heart.

 

Importance of Incorporating Scar Tissue Release Therapy into Your Repertoire of Services

Scars and the multitude of issues that can be traced back to them are generally overlooked by health professionals. Simply because the extent of physiological effects scars can have on the body have never really been acknowledged. As massage therapists we know that the slightest restriction in the elaborate matrix of fascia can have major repercussions from one end of the body to the other.

 

  • A simple scar from a childhood accident to major surgery can have a lifelong effect both physically and mentally for your client
  • Scar tissue has the potential to spread in any direction including internally throughout the body
  • Scar Tissue can restrict movement or function anywhere in the body from a joint to an organ

 

Working scar tissue is extraordinarily simple to learn, easy to apply and yields powerful results that can prevent a lifetime of compensation, complications and pain.

 

I do not know what amazes me more, the body’s ability to respond so quickly to the release of adhered tissues or the shock on the patient’s face when their body is freed from its restrictions and pain.  But the one thing I do know is that ignorance is not bliss.  The time has come for the public to be made aware of effects of scar tissue and adhesions.

 

It is my hope that with modern science starting to recognize the importance of fascia and the effects of scar tissue on the body that Scar Tissue Release will be brought to the forefront of therapy. Therapists can make significant and long lasting changes in the health and well being of their clients/patients by incorporating scar work into their treatments. It is my experience that release of scar tissue, followed by proper rehab exercises can play a major supportive and therapeutic role in helping anyone living with the physical, emotional and mental effects of scar tissue and adhesion restrictions.

Scar Tissue 101

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Scars- to some people they are trophies, war wounds to be proud of, reminders of traumas that they wish to forget, and to many, just something they have already forgotten. The truth of the matter is scars, and the restrictions they cause, can affect every system in the body.  Recognizing them can be the key to unlocking mysterious pain and other issues that have been interfering with the body’s ability to function and balance.

Historically scar tissue has been ignored or been viewed as having no consequence by the medical world.  With all of the current ongoing research and information compiling on the importance of fascia the medical world is starting to recognize the significance of scar tissue in the body.  As with most new fields of interest there have been many new versions of therapy popping up, which for the most part is a very good thing.  Unfortunately, the negative side of new frontiers is that many therapies are being administered without proper understanding of the subject matter.

I have been a massage therapist specializing in scar tissue release for over 20 years. In this time I have seen Scar tissue work go from being dismissed by doctors and a general population completely in the dark as to what is really causing their issues, to consideration by the medical profession that it may be a problem to some extent. Still there are many doctors ignoring the affects, while some have taking to using it as an excuse:  “I know I told you it would take 6 months for recovery but you have developed scar tissue.” Trust me on this – I get at least one phone call a week with that one.

The internet is now flooded with inaccurate information about scar tissue and ways to cure it.  Therapies are being applied with total lack of understanding of the physiology of scar tissue. There is little or worse no knowledge behind the events that caused the scars i.e. surgeries, accidents and what the corrective procedures actually did to the body. No attention is paid to the psychological & emotional trauma surrounding the event. Few look for the possible compensations the body may have complied in response to restrictions and what releasing those restrictions without proper rehab would do. Honestly it is terrifying to me.

So I thought we could take a moment to clear up some of the misinformation:

1)     Scar tissue cannot be broken down nor can it be removed. – Anyone who claims to breakdown scar tissue does not understand what scar tissue is.  Scar tissue replaces normal tissue that is damaged.  If you break it down you are essentially saying that you are causing a new wound. The only person who can remove scar tissue is a surgeon who is literally cutting it out – only for new scar tissue to form.

The goal of working with scar tissue is to release the adhered layers, attempting to re-establishing homeostasis, releasing and correcting the compensations from fascial restrictions all the while being acutely aware of possible emotional release.

 

2)     Scar tissue is dead fibrous tissue. This could not be further from the truth.  Scar tissue composition and structure are different than that of the normal tissue it replaces. Because of changes in the relative amounts, type and structure of collagen, it is inferior in function.

  • Scar tissue has less elasticity.
  • Scar tissue is not as strong as normal tissue.
  • Scar tissue does not oxygenate well, creating a low (acidic) PH:
  • Scar tissue is different neurologically.
  • Scar tissue does not contract.
  • Scars are less resistant to ultraviolet radiation.
  • Scar tissue does not contain sweat glands and hair follicles.
  • Scar tissue is prone to injury.

 

3)     Scars are only an esthetic issue.  Most people are only concerned with how the scars alter their appearance and have no idea how their scars and adhesions are affecting their bodies on so many different levels, or that scars are can be a major trigger for PTSD.

 

4)     Anyone can treat a scar.  Acknowledging that scar tissue may at the root of the problem is the first step in any therapy. After that simply massaging the affected area will bring about change.  However, that being said I want to caution therapists.  You need to thoroughly understand the event which caused the scar i.e. surgery, accident etc. and all the goes with it.  This includes emotions, all of the physical ramifications for the body, what type of rehab will be need once the massage is done.

I am not saying that one should never massage a scar I am saying that as with all diseases, disorders and dysfunctions (yes scar tissue is a cause of dysfunction), you need to understand what you are working with before you lay hands on.

 

5)     Physical scars cannot and do not show how much pain or suffering a person has experienced. Every scar has an emotional history surrounding it.

  • Shock
  • Guilt
  • Failure
  • Loss
  • Detachment
  • Trauma
  • Anger & Resentment
  • Low Self Esteem
  • Fear
  • Hopelessness/ Depression
  • Disgust when seeing or touching the scar
  • Sadness about the limits the scar places on everyday life
  • Humor – yes there can be funny stories behind accidents

The emotions surrounding the physical scars can and do have a direct emotional and psychological effect. It can bring about significant self-image issues and lower self-confidence.  Research on the after care of burn survivors or those with severe facial scarring has proven this. In the cases of patients with severe scarring suffering from depression (between 13-23% of cases) or post-traumatic stress disorder (between 13-45% of cases) have been documented.

 

6) Tools: There are many instruments and tools out there that are effective on scars but they are not the end all be all.  Rather they should be considered part of the therapy.

An example would be cupping. When a cup is placed on the scar tissue and its surrounding areas, the vacuum lifts the scar tissues above and below the skin, essentially pulling them apart so that fresh blood and lymph can circulate freely through them. This improved circulation in turn makes movement easier and as a result, healing of the scars is induced.

It is a great tool but again you should not just cup over a scar without full understanding of what you could be opening up (both emotionally and physically) and how altering that scar will affect the person in the long run.

 

7) Scars and adhesions are the same thing.  Not true as you can have adhesions without scars but you cannot have scars without adhesions.  Both need to be recognized and treated.

 

8) All scars need to be released. A very dangerous statement indeed.  What if the only thing holding that knee replacement together is the adhesions formed around it?  Something to consider before pulling out that cup or edge tool.

 

9) All scars are a problem.  Not necessarily, but all scars have a potential to be one and should be considered and examined.

 

10) Scars only affect the tissue. Again not true, but even if it is was, this is still cause to treat them.  Scar tissue can affect every system of the body:

  • integumentary
  • muscular-skeletal
  • nervous
  • circulatory
  • lymphatic
  • respiratory
  • endocrine
  • urinary/excretory
  • reproductive
  • digestive

Understanding how each of these systems can be affected by scar tissue can lead you to unraveling the mysteries of the pain and frustration your client/patient has been suffering, in some cases for years.

 

If your chosen area of therapy is to give relaxation massage then more power to you.  Not every massage need be a medical one and everyone needs to take time to release and relax.  But if you are administering a medically oriented therapy then it is imperative that as a therapist you know who the person is, what they went through and how they came to be on your table before putting your hands on them. Once you are informed of the specific surgery the client/patient has had your next step should be to watch videos of that type of surgery to see the extent of the damage done. You need to consider all of the possible emotional, psychological trauma you are tapping into before working on the scar. Most importantly you need to be prepared for the possible reactions and how to handle them for the protection of your client/patient and yourself.

There are so many wonderful forms of therapy available today to help people on their journey to balance health & wellness.  No one is better than the other, rather we have to find the right one, or combination thereof, that works for each individual.  That being said, there is nothing more important than recognizing the effect scars are having on a person. In order for any therapy to be fully affective you have to clear and release any and all scars that are impeding the body’s function. In other words, scar tissue release is the first step then you may proceed with any and all therapies that resonate with the patient.

How to Choose a Therapist

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You’ve just had the most stressful week of your life to date, or every muscle in your body aches from the workout at the gym, or you just want to relax and escape from reality (or the kids) for an hour. Wouldn’t a massage be an answer to all of the above? Of course it would, but where do you go? How do you choose a Massage Therapist?

With the ever growing popularity of massage, there are a number of salons and spas offering all types of massages and bodywork. There is also an increasing number of individuals advertising de-stressing, relaxing, “healing” treatments. The first thing you need to know is what the difference is between “hands-on” full body massages and energy work. Massage has been around since the beginning of time. Each culture has developed their own style, each with it’s own unique approach, but still based on the same principles and desired outcome. Overall health and balancing of the body and it’s many systems. The most common types of massage can be broken down into two categories: European/Swedish style and Oriental.

The European or Swedish style focuses on the manipulation of the body’s soft tissue including muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. It generally involves the use of oils or creams applied through gliding and squeezing strokes that affect the musculo-skeletal, circulatory, and lymphatic systems of the body. The therapeutic benefits are release of chronic tension and pain in muscles, improves circulation, increases flexibility in the joints and reduction of mental and physical fatigue. There are many different forms of therapy styles, Thai, Structural Integration, Trigger Point Therapy, Myofascial Release etc.  Please make sure you fully understand what the treatment entails before you get on the table.

There are numerous types of Oriental massages. The most common styles being the Japanese Shiatsu and the Chinese Amma. Both are ancient healing therapies which combine oriental medical principals and the understanding of the energy channels or meridians that run through the body, in order to restore, promote and maintain optimum health through treatment of the physical body. There are no oils involved, however there may be use of lineaments on specific areas. Gentle manipulations and the use of acupressure (not acupuncture, which requires the use of needles and an Oriental Medical Doctor’s Degree) points to restore, balance and facilitate the flow of energy through out the body. The benefits are numerous including relief from stress and tension and muscle ache, however these therapies are excellent for medical aliments such as respiratory infections, TMJ, digestive disorders, arthritis and many more.

Both types of massage are excellent and have many things in common including the fact that they must be given only by a qualified therapist. Some states require licensing others certification. Either one means that the therapist has gone to school and received the proper training to administer the treatment. You should never allow anyone to perform any type of physical manipulation on your body unless they have provided proper qualifications.

This brings me to the definition of energy work. Along with the new appreciation for massage and its benefits there has also been a rising interest in “energy healers”. Reiki and Chi Kung are currently two of the most popular forms of energy work. These types of therapies are wonderful and can be just as therapeutic as a full body massage, but they do not require hands-on manipulation of the body (sometimes hands are placed lightly on specific areas but no manipulations) and most importantly they are not regulated by the state. The practitioner concentrates on balancing the body through it’s energy fields. There are three levels to Reiki, the last resulting in Master ship, however the training for each level is only two days each. Now without regulation you can see how one can be taken in by a person claiming to be a healer. Unfortunately, the greedy ones ruin it for those who are true practitioners. So please make sure that you thoroughly check out the person before you go to them. No honest practitioner would be insulted if you asked for references.

I recommend that for your first massage you should try the European/Swedish style and then if you are comfortable with that and receptive to the idea of energy balancing you should then try the Oriental style. Be sure to try as many different styles as you never know which one will really “speak” to you.

Before you can consider which type of massage you would like you have to choose a therapist. The best way to pick a therapist is through referral. Your friends, family and your doctor can be a great source. As mentioned earlier, massage can be found at local spas, hair salons and chiropractor’s offices. There are therapists who have there own private practices with their own treatment rooms and/or will make out-calls to your home.  Here are a few things to remember when you are choosing a Massage Therapist:

• Make sure that the therapist is qualified and has presented proper certifications.
• You must be comfortable with the therapist. There is no point in getting a massage if you’re going to be on edge the whole time.
• Make sure that the therapist takes a complete medical history before starting the treatment. Certain conditions are considered contraindications for the European massage (i.e. high blood pressure).
• Understand that while you are usually required to disrobe, you may leave your underwear on and you should be properly draped (covered with towel or sheet) at all times. Only the area being worked on should be exposed.
• If you are uncomfortable with certain areas being touched or the therapist’s touch is too hard/soft for you, tell this to the therapist. Communication is essential, you need to work together.
• You may be a little sore after your first massage, however if you are in major pain then the therapist worked you too hard, so make sure to tell her the next time.
• If you did not like the massage or the therapist do not let that stop you from going to someone else. Finding the right therapist is like finding the right doctor. You need to feel secure with and have confidence in him or her.

The relationship between therapist and patient is one of confidentiality and trust. You work together to relieve the tension, aches and pains while balancing the body’s systems to maintain a healthy and happy life. Massage is one of the best ways to combat the daily stresses of our all to hectic lives. It is not asking a lot, even though you may feel like it is, to take time out for yourself. Your health and piece of mind are worth an hour of your time!

All Parts are Equal or are They?

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When a person has back surgery or has had a limb amputated, it is standard for them to go through a rehabilitation process, including physical therapy or massage therapy to be prescribed. However, if a woman has breast surgery, rehabilitation (massage or physical therapy) is not automatically ordered and often not even suggested.
When a woman chooses to have her breasts removed, reconstructed, increased or reduced, it’s important that she understands not only the benefits of the procedures, but the risks as well. Chronic pain and postural problems can appear years later if rehabilitation is not completed following breast surgery.

Breasts are composed of mammary glands, connective tissue, blood vessels, nerves, and lymph vessels. Breast tissue can extend from the border of the breastbone near the center of the chest all the way to the armpit, and overlies the second to sixth ribs. The breast has an axillary tail, which is a tail of tissue that extends up into the armpit region. The breast lies on top of the pectoralis major muscle.
Breast tissue is part of the fascial web of connective tissue, which runs continuously throughout the body from head to foot and superficial to deep without interruption. Any alteration, even the slightest damage to the fascial network has major ramifications.
The body’s balance and symmetry can be significantly altered after a mastectomy, augmentation or reduction. This is something many women aren’t informed of or prepared for. Scar tissue is also a very important fact which women need to be aware of and prepared for. Unpredictable development of scar tissue is quite common after any surgery and can have long-term effects on the body.
Early intervention following breast surgery by a massage or physical therapist can play a pivotal roll in helping women heal and regain full function.
After mastectomy surgery a woman may experience tightness or pulling originating from her incision, which spreads across her body. This is caused by scar tissue, which is the body’s way of healing from surgery. The result can be very dense tissue under the incision, which is painful and which can restrict the arm’s range of motion (ROM). The restricted ROM puts women at risk for a painful condition known as frozen shoulder. Scars can range in size after a breast-conserving lumpectomy or a mastectomy procedure that removes the entire breast. Either way, most breast cancer patients are left with some sort of surgical scar as a by-product of their quest to heal.
In order to rebuild the breast, tissue is taken from another area of the body. It can be taken from several different locations. One host area is the Latissimus Dorsi. In the picture below you can see how much of the body is affected by this location.
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The TUG procedure uses skin and fat from the inner portion of the upper thigh; the incision scar will be hidden near the crease of the groin. The flap is named for the transverse upper gracilis muscle to which the skin and fat are connected. Muscle may be removed as part of the TUG flap.

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Radiation treatment for Breast Cancer has its own list of complications. This type of therapy not only changes tissue characteristics by making it more susceptible to breakdown, it continues to make tissues tighter for 2 to 5 years following treatment.

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It can also lead to:
Skin tightening;
Limited arm and shoulder mobility;
Chest expansion limitations;
Restrictions in and around the area of treatment.
Breast reduction surgery is still largely considered to be a cosmetic surgical procedure. However, it is most often performed to relieve significant physical and emotional problems resulting from overly large and/or heavy breasts. Surgeries are classified as “cosmetic” if it is an elective procedure that insurance does not cover. If it is a procedure that is restoring form or function, it’s referred to as “reconstructive”. Reconstructive procedures are often covered by insurance. The same procedure may be classified as cosmetic or reconstructive depending on how it impacts an individual. Public opinion still sees it as cosmetic but 9.5 times out of ten it is being performed to reduce pain or to alter the overall structure.

 

According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 112,964 breast reductions were performed in 2011. Breast reduction surgery leaves permanent scarring.

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The operation using the anchor technique leaves three scars:
One around the nipple (areola);
One from the nipple to the crease below the breast (this is the worst scar as it takes the most tension);
One from the breast bone to the armpit along the crease below the breast.

The severity of scarring largely depends on the individual. Most women are completely unaware of how the scar tissue is affecting them.

 

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Kelly Bowers, a massage therapist from Washington, DC states:
“I had breast reduction surgery in 1992. By 2012 I rarely thought of it and certainly didn’t think the scars were an issue any more. They were barely visible! Then I had scar release work. I was stunned at how far I felt the effects of the work. I felt it from my shoulder to my hip! I’m delighted I had a chance to experience this work and finally take care of these scars as they deserved to be taken care of.”
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery also reported that breast augmentation is the most popular surgical cosmetic procedure for women, with more than 316,000 procedures performed in 2011. Yes, augmentation is an elective cosmetic surgery, but it is still a surgery that alters the body. Rehabilitative therapy is necessary after any surgery.

Women who have breast augmentation frequently experience:
Limited upper extremity mobility (range of motion);
Arm weakness and swelling;
Fatigue;
Shoulder dysfunction;
Back pain;
Chest pain.

 
Scar tissue can occur at any time after the augmentation has been performed, not just within the first few months. Capsular contracture is the term used to describe scar tissue that can form around breast implants which may cause the breasts to harden, look or feel different, and may cause some discomfort from the tightening of the capsule. Capsular contracture is an unpredictable complication, but it is also the most common complication following breast augmentation.

 
Scars left by breast augmentation surgery are usually hidden in the crease beneath the breast (inframammary fold incision), around the nipple (peri-areolar incision) or in the armpit (transaxillary incision). Rehabilitation/therapy and physical activity are integral to recovery and to reduce post-breast surgery side effects such as:
Scar tissue/soft tissue immobility;
Flexibility limitations;
Limited range of motion;
Decreased strength.

 
Even if a woman does not actually develop pain or limited function directly after the procedure, at some point pain and disability will become present if scar tissue is not addressed in a timely and proper fashion.

Forget Me Knot

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What do all of the following have in common?

Caesarean “C” Section

Breast reduction

Breast implant

Appendectomy

Laparoscopy

Arthroscopy

 

Well that is easy right?  They are all surgeries. But would it surprise you to know that 6 out of 10 women who walk into my office do not consider C- Sections or breast work surgeries? Yes, you did read that correctly.

There is an alarm gong off in my head.  At first it was a small ding and as the years have gone by it has been getting louder and louder. These days it is going off like an air raid siren.  When a new client comes to see me I, as with all health professionals, I have them fill out a medical history intake form. It is very common for people to “forget” about past injuries, illness and yes even a minor surgery.  It has always amazes me none the less, I mean really how does one forget they broke an arm or an ankle?

Here are some of the many conversations/comments that have resulted from the “Please list all surgeries” section on the form:

“Surgery? No..not really… Well…I had a c-section but I do not consider that surgery.” 

“Why is that?”

“Well..it wasn’t  planned it was an emergency.”

 

“No surgery…I just had my breasts done but that doesn’t count.”

 

” I did have my toe chopped off but they sewed it back on and  that was so long ago it doesn’t matter.”

 

No.. No surgeries ..just had some work done on my mouth twice.” 

“Do you mean you had Oral surgery?”

“Yes”

 

“Well I did have my uterus taken out. But they did that through my belly button- barely even see the scar..so no, no surgery.”

During a session I will observe a scar and inquire as to its origin. The client inevitably says “What scar? where?  Oh right?  …That’s from when I wiped out on my motorcycle…yeah I ruptured my spleen and they had to do surgery”  and this one on your leg? “Oh that?  I was dragged by the bike on asphalt pretty narlly huh?!”  

Scar tissue therapy is generally overlooked by health professionals because the extent of physiological effects scars can have on the body have never really been acknowledged. If the Doctors are ignoring the effects then what hope does the patient have of ever understanding the that the slightest restriction, in the elaborate matrix of fascia, can have major repercussions from one end of the body to the other.

During the course of my career I’ve treated many patients whose problems could be traced back to a scar they had forgotten they even had. Almost everyone has a scar. While not every scar presents a problem, often they can.

I never know what amazes me more the body’s ability to respond so quickly to the release of adhered tissues or the shock on the patient’s face when their body is freed from it’s restrictions and pain due to that scar they forgot they even had.  But the one thing I do know is that ignorance is not bliss.  The time has come for the public to be made aware of  effects of scar tissue and adhesions.

The Continuing Quest for Knowledge

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imagesZO3BUDV6Continuing Education is offered in every profession.  Some have specific requirements and others leave it up to the professional to improve their knowledge of their chosen field. Seminars and workshops are offered from one extreme to the other and at all levels. These courses also range from the good to the bad to the ugly.

The healthcare profession, like most, is flooded with numerous courses.  So much so that choosing where to spend your money and time is a huge concern.  In an effort to ease the decision making process several course review sites and forums have be created to provide open and honest reviews of the various courses.  These forums usually represent the professionals needs and concerns and I thought it would benefit everyone to see the world of continuing education from the perspective of the providers.

Here are some basic questions that providers have to answer, literally on a daily basis.

1- “This course was nothing like I expected it to be.”

Please research a course and it’s instructor before you register. Make sure the content is something you are interested in and the instructor has a good reputation before committing your money and time. Do not trust or rely on the website as no one is going to list that they are a lousy instructor and their course a marketing scam. And please, unless you know the person, do not trust someone’s opinion who is “overly” dedicated to a particular technique or instructor.  Find someone who can give you an objective well rounded opinion.

2- “What do you mean it is canceled?  I really want to take this class.”

Once you have decided to attend do not wait until the last minute to register.  Especially if the instructor is not local.  If minimum attendance is not meet by the early bird date the traveling instructor will be FORCED to cancel class. FYI- the main reason for the early bird rate is to insure enough of an attendance for the instructor to arrange for travel (in the past you could make flight changes or cancel a flight with minor penalties.  Not so today- instructors can lose hundreds of dollars for last minute flight cancelations or changes) and so that the host will not lose their deposit on the hall or conference center.

Now, life happens and if you do have to wait until the last minute to sign up and find the class canceled please do not blame the instructor or host. Seriously, we want to hold the courses but we have bills to pay as well and can not make a financial commitment if you do not.

3- “When are you going to offer a course in my area?” 

Traveling to attend a course is expensive.  Trust us we know this.  What you need to recognize is that scheduling a course is not as easy as it sounds.  There is a lot of work, time and money that goes into organizing/hosting a seminar/workshop.  If you truly want the course in your area then you need to be proactive by contacting local schools and organizations, let them know you and your fellow therapists would like to have this course brought in and most importantly that you are all committed to attending .

3a-“I had no idea you were in my area last month.” 

If you are interested in attending a course then sign-up for the newsletter and more importantly, periodically check the websites for course listings. I have had to cancel courses only to have a number of people contact me/post a few weeks/months later complaining that I never come to their area.

3b- “Can you let me know when you are in my area?”

Sorry, but no, we would love to attend to you personally but that is just not possible.  Again, please if you are interested in attending then just periodically check the website and watch for local advertising.

4- “What do you mean I am not signed-up?”

Calling to inquire about a class does not mean you are registered or that a spot is now reserved for you.  Emailing to inquire about the course does mean you are registered or that a spot is now reserved for you . Posting that you are attending a course does not mean you are registered or that a spot is now reserved.

Actually registering and paying for the class means you are registered and have a spot reserved in the course.

5- “Do I need to take Level 1 to sign up for Level 2?”

If a course has a pre-requisite(s) you should not call with the following questions:  “I am really only interested in level 2,  so can I just skip the level 1?” or  “I am trained in another technique so can I skip the pre- requisites?”.  The answer is and will always be no.

6- “So when are you ending the class?” or ” Are we going to get out early?” If  you sign up for a 16 hour course then arrange/plan your travel, day etc for a 16 hour course.  Do not walk in the door and ask if there is any chance the class can get out early.  If you cannot, for whatever reason life hands you, stay for the full length of the course then inform the instructor and take it upon yourself to quietly and respectfully leave.  Do not ask/expect the instructor to speed things up or deprive other students of the education they paid for.

6a- “I have to leave early but I still get full credit right? I need it to fill my requirement.”

If you do leave a class early or show up late please understand that you are forfeiting the CEU time you missed. I.e. if you leave an hour early because you wanted to catch an earlier flight then you are entitled to 15 out of the 16 CE contact hours for the course.  This is the rule which the Instructor is required to implement to maintain their certification as an approved provider.

6b – Lunch does not count as a CE contact hour. 

You learned how to eat a sandwich in kindergarten. In other words, if it is an 8 CE contact hours class plan on being there for 9 hours.

7- “I have this client so how do I treat them?”

An instructor is always happy to give some advice and answer questions. But please do not expect complete treatment plans and/or instructions on how to treat your clients or yourself.  Remember we can only give suggestions since we have never actually met your client.  If you have extensive questions or would like help creating a treatment plan then please respect the instructor’s time & knowledge and book a consultation.

8- Could you just look at my back? I have had this problem forever.”

Always attend a class looking to gain new insight on how to treat your clients or your own issues.  Do not, however, come to a class expecting free treatments (from instructor or fellow classmates), or to be cured/fixed.  If you are in need then inquire (before seminar if at all possible) if the instructor is seeing clients and schedule an appointment .

9- “I really won’t use any of this I just needed the credit.”

If you are taking a course simply to meet your state requirements please remember the instructor is there to share a topic or technique that they love and that the rest of your classmates want to learn.  Respect that.

10-“Well this is how I do it.”

When in class leave your personal techniques (not your knowledge) at the door.  It is very disrespectful during practice session to perform your own work.  You and your practice partner came to learn and experience the work being taught, period.  And a little side note, the instructor’s insurance does not cover you treating in their classroom.

11-Speak up and make a difference

If the course/instructor turned out not to be to your liking please fill out the review sheet and give a comprehensive, professional and polite statement as to why and how you would suggest the course can be improved.  Do not just circle number 5 for all of the questions and then later complain on Face Book. Or worse say nothing to anyone and let others have the same bad experience you did.

You will not hurt the instructor’s feelings, yes we do take all comments into account and yes, we do try to improve our classes each and every time we teach. Your feedback matters.

12- “I would love to attend your classes but they are too expensive.”

Yes there are courses that are over the top when it comes to cost. I, myself, was recently outraged at a Con Ed company.  The course itself was $200 a day, in my opinion a fare and decent price, however they (attempted) to tack on a $200 “city fee” plus the course fee apparently did not include the required texts and demanded an additional $50.  Totally obscene as far as I am concerned and a complete turn off.  However, going to the other extreme, thinking that one can learn a hands on technique from an on-line course or that taking a 3hr mini course at a conference qualifies them to advertise and charge for the technique is just as wrong.

If you did your research as recommended at the beginning of this blog, then you will know if the instructor is experienced and the course quality.  Please do not dismiss all the time and effort the instructors have taken to learn and perfect their work plus all that they have to go through to offer courses by complaining about their prices.

I often hear complaints about having to spend money on continuing education.   The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a profession as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.”

First and foremost, professionals are known for their specialized knowledge. They’ve made a deep personal commitment to develop and improve their skills, and, where appropriate, they have the degrees and certifications that serve as the foundation of this knowledge.

Professionals make a serious, thoughtful and sustained effort to master the specialized knowledge needed to succeed in their fields; and that they keep this knowledge up-to-date, so that they can continue to deliver the best work possible.

Understanding that quality education is not only necessary to further ones career but a requirement of being a professional is key.  Unfortunately there are those who view/treat their chosen occupation as a their job not a profession.  Personally, I find this massively disheartening.

So there you have it, a brief look at the other side of the coin. Please consider this information when reading reviews and weighing options.  I hope this insight aids you in the quest for quality continuing education.

Remember CE stands for more than just Credits Earned!

Words can cut like a knife – leaving deep wounds and scars….

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At this past weekend’s Scar Tissue Release, class we were fortunate to have a Registered Nurse volunteer as the demonstration client. She was incredibly generous with her feedback on what she was experiencing during the treatment and answered questions for the students. Two of her scars were from 18 & 20 year old C-sections, respectively. As she told us the stories of the surgeries, the conversation turned to the trauma, both physical and emotional that the events caused.

Apparently, as the surgeons were preparing to cut her open, they were busy discussing their golf game. The surgerical nurse stopped the banter and gave them a what for. Just think how you would feel at that moment, laying on a cold operating table, about to have your abdomen sliced open in order to bring your child into the world, being denied the experience of natural birth. As she told her story, you could see that even after 18 years, she was still very emotional about it.

Since she is a cardiac recovery nurse, I took the opportunity to emphasize a few points I had made during the class lecture. Specifically how “donor” sites, areas where skin or veins are removed in order to repair another injured area of the body, are ignored once they have healed. When I asked her opinion on this matter, she agreed whole heartedly that no further thought is given to these areas; however, she referred to these areas as the “harvest” site.

Everyone in the room took a breath. I knew what they were all thinking as I looked at each of them. The Nurse looked around puzzled, and I explained to her that I refer to the area as a “donor” site. She thought about it for a minute and shook her head. “I never even thought of that, but you are totally right…how horrible.”

How we–doctors, therapists, trainers, family and friends–refer to someone, something, or situation sets the intent. This, in turn, dictates how we regard, and therefore treat or not treat. Most often when we think of harvesting an organ, we think of cadavers. So of course an area that was used for “harvest” does not need further care or concern.

The next day, one of my current clients was among the volunteers for the student practice session. He had burns over 2/3rds of his body from a car fire. He is one of the most balanced and centered people I know. He shared two very important points with the group. First, that he never even considered that there was any kind of restriction, much less a need for therapy, on the areas where they took skin for grafts and that he was blown away by the resulting treatment’s effects all of the areas, grafted and donor. Second, while still recovering in the hospital, a representative of a burn group came by to help him understand and deal with how his life was about to change. “How everyone was going to stare at him and treat him differently…” You can imagine the rest of the conversation. He could not believe this person was there to help him and fortunately he choose not to listen to her doom-and-gloom speech.

I had another client, a massage therapist, who, while filling out her intake form, said to me in regard to the question asking her to list all surgeries, “Well, I did have a C-Section, but I do not really consider that a surgery.” Unbelievably, she was not the first woman to make this statement to me either.

As health care providers we must take care of how we phrase our words, and just as or more importantly, we need pay attention to and assist in altering how our clients refer to themselves. The first step on the road to healing is understanding and awareness.

Innovations, contemplaitions and a light bulb moment.

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This morning I was having a conversation with my client about a History Channel program on the top 101 innovations that changed our lives.  It started because my client is an avid fisherman and two innovations on the list were using fiberglass for fishing poles in place of bamboo and the spin reel.  While a great improvement  for fishermen I did not see how either one changed our lives on a society level.  He of course begged to disagree.

Also on the list was the aerosol spray. It was invented to create bug bomb sprays during the Vietnam war and it turned the tide on the malaria issue. Now my client is a very proud  Vietnam Veteran and we have discussed the war before so I thought nothing of mentioning it. He made a few jokes about how “when you can actually feel a misquote landing on you, then you know you are in trouble.”

My next comment came out without even thinking and received an answer that stunned me.  I said “and of course that bug spray you inhaled was way better for you than the bites.” He snorted and replied “yeah and the agent orange just cleared the foliage with no harmful affect on the soldiers.  It’s only why my brother and both have pace makers now.”

I was silent for a second as he continued to talk about the innovations on the list. Now of course I knew about his pace maker but it never occurred to me that his heart condition was caused by agent orange exposure. Fortunately my client is an amazing person and made peace with his past a long time ago, so my guilt over the casual comment was short lived.  But it was a huge reminder about how much we take our knowledge for granted  as medical professionals.

Being a Scar Tissue Practitioner I am well aware of the emotional affects of injuries and surgeries. I am always tactful when inquiring about their history.  I know that a pacemaker is a small device that’s placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. On his intake form he just put that he had the surgery. We never delved into the exact issue with his heart as his complaint/our treatment focus has always been his arthritis and knee & hip replacements.

One of the great things about working with people is that you learn something every day.  Today, I was reminded not to take anything for granted , how incredible my client is, I need to be even more thorough with my intake and just when you think you know someone you realize there is just so many more layers to them them you ever imagined.

“Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” Carl Sandburg

 

To tired… or is it too weak… to see straight?

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When was the last time you exercised your eyes?  What no idea?  hhhmm…let’s try some easier questions.  When was the last time you used your ipad or tablet? or how about your computer? How long did you spend staring into the tiny lit up phone screen?  Oh, better yet how much television did you watch this week? I bet you had no problem answering those huh?

There has been a dramatic rise in the last decade in the number of people needing glasses due to the increase of use and reliance on electronic devices. And it is only  going to get worse. Bookstores are going the way of the dinosaurs as electronic readers become more and more popular.  Textbooks are being phased out and schools are  issuing ipads. “The dog ate my homework” excuse is no longer plausible as children are now logging onto school websites to do their homework. Leaving the neck and shoulder issues aside for the moment lets literally take a look at the one thing we take for granted -our eyes.

We all assume that as we age we will need eyeglasses. A belief that is coming of age much sooner by our constant computer/TV use. The problem is not really fixed with the glasses either, as your sight will continue to worsen once you start wearing glasses.  We become dependent on the eyeglasses causing stronger and stronger prescriptions to be needed.

Another issue not being recognized is how fashion is also affecting our eyes. Back in the day we wore the Elton John style, large tinted frames (mine where blue to match my eyes) . images (9)These larger frames allowed us to use our eyes normally to see up and down right and left. images (8) The fashion of today have us wearing small Annie Hall style frames. In order to stay within the small frames we are forced to limit our eye movement and move our heads to see in all directions other than straight forward.  Limited movement means muscle, and therefore vision atrophy.

 

Our eyes like any other muscle in the body needs to be exercised.   Practiced faithfully, eye exercises may actually help delay the need for glasses or contacts in some people.

originalIf you regularly experience symptoms such as eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, increased sensitivity to bright light, tired eyes, or difficulty sustaining attention, eye exercises could very well be the answer.

Side note-exercising eye muscles will not eliminate the most common maladies that necessitate corrective lenses — namely, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia (age-related lens stiffening).

 

There are some very simple exercises that take only a few minutes to do.

1. Repeated blinking. This simple action, that we often take for granted, places a vital role in  health and vision– it replenishes the tear film that covers the surface of the eye (the cornea), lubricating it and protecting it against dryness, dust particles and other irritants. Some research shows that when we watch TV or use the computer, we tend to blink less, which dries and irritates the eyes, potentially causing headaches and other types of discomfort. Blinking every three or four seconds for about a minute is thought to help reduce eye strain by clearing the cornea and allowing the eyes to rest.

2. Palming the eyes. This is achieved by lightly pressing three fingers from each hand against the upper eyelids for a couple of seconds, then releasing. Repeating this process at least five times helps relieve tension accumulated in the ciliary muscles of the eye, while also replenishing the eyes’ tear film. Taking a few deep breaths before performing this exercise will improve relaxation.

3. Rolling your eyes, first clockwise, the counter-clockwise. While this may not sound much like an exercise, it is actually one of the most popular do-it-yourself vision therapies, believed to both tone the eye muscles, and improve local blood circulation. It is generally advised to start rolling your eyes slowly, then faster, and to do this about fifteen or twenty times in a row.

4. Focusing on a distant object. This exercise is recommended especially for individuals who suffer from computer vision syndrome, but it can also help relax the eyes after any other strenuous activity. Choose an object that is located six to ten meters away from you, and focus on it for about twenty seconds, without moving your head. Doing so provides rest to the ciliary muscles that we tend to put a lot of stress on when we focus intensely on the computer screen.

5. Zooming in on an object. This simple (and somewhat hilarious) exercise can be performed by holding a pencil in front of you at arm’s length, then slowly moving the arm closer to the nose, while focusing your eyes on the tip of the pencil. The goal is to bring the tip of pencil as close to the nose as possible, until your eyes can’t keep focus. Doing this exercise ten times in a row helps improve eye movement control and strengthens the eye muscles.

Just for irony here is a website with an easy to follow routine. http://eyepitstop.com/

And here is another simple way to exercise your eyes:

The picture in these exercises was developed by Tibetan monks.

tibetan-eye-chart

 

When performed as described below, the exercises are designed to stimulate muscles and optic nerves. Practicing these exercises twice daily, in the morning and evening, may improve vision problems over time. Build up to the 30 seconds twice a day to avoid eye strain.

Copy and  print the snowflake. You can also get the Tibetan Eye Chart as an app. It’s at www.TibetanEyeChartApp.com.

Remove glasses or contacts.

Sit with back straight and the chart centered about one inch directly in front of your face with the center dot at nose level.

Move only the eyes, not your head.

Hold each movement for 30 seconds. It is important to hold for this length of time as this is the time required to break down the protein bridges holding your muscles locked as they are presently.

Begin by relaxing the eyes, closing them gently and cupping with the hands.

Movement #1
Move both eyes clockwise around the outer circle from dot to dot, beginning with 12 o’clock.

Movement #2
Repeat this pattern, moving counterclockwise, again beginning with 12 o’clock.

Movement #3
Move eyes back and forth between dots at 2 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions.

Movement #4
Move eyes back and forth between dots at 4 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions.

End by relaxing eyes and cupping them with your hands.

No part of the body should ever be ignored. Make sure to keep your day bight and in focus and remember to exercise your eyes!