Do You Feel Stuck? By Christine Roper, MSPT, PYT
Chronic pain can be so debilitating – but, does it have to be? For over 20 years as a Physical Therapist and Myofascial Release Practitioner, I have been treating patients with chronic pain who have suffered far too long because of a medical system where the fascial system has been mostly ignored. Since opening my private practice in 2003, I have witnessed many patients return to a normal, functional life when the fascial system is treated.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance like a spider’s web or a knitted sweater. It is one continuous sheath that is very densely woven, covering every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as all our internal organs such as the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. This continuous structure exists from head to toe without interruption playing an important role in the support and function of our bodies, since it surrounds and attaches to all structures.
In a normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration and moves freely and in a functional non-painful manner. When one experiences physical trauma, emotional trauma, scarring or inflammation, the fascia loses its pliability. It becomes tight, restricted, and a source of tension to the rest of the body. Trauma, inflammatory responses, and/or surgical procedures can create myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures. That can be the equivalent of a horse sitting on top of you! Those who may be dealing with myofascial restrictions may feel “stuck” with very limited range of motion or suffer from chronic pain that seems to persist even after many doctor’s appointments, medical tests and medications. Misdiagnosis often occurs as myofascial restrictions do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.)
Patients who are experiencing myofascial restrictions will often say to me, “I have always had tight hamstrings” or “After my fall, I have not been able to stretch out like I used too. I am stiff all the time.” Or “I feel like the Tin-Man in the Wizard of Oz! I can barely move at all.”
These are all examples of fascial restrictions. Fascial restrictions affect our flexibility and stability and are a determining factor in our ability to withstand stress and perform daily activities.
The Myofascial Release (MFR) Approach was founded by John Barnes, PT, LMT, NCTMB, an internationally respected physical therapist who has taught over 100,000 physical therapists how to properly use myofascial release techniques to eliminate pain and restore motion. This hands-on technique is performed directly on the skin and involves applying gentle but firm pressure into the myofascial connective tissue. Sustained pressure is held for 2-5 minutes to facilitate release of the fascia. An advanced to expert Myofascial Practitioner should have steady hands, a quiet mind and plenty of patience as the technique should not be rushed.
It is important to remember that where you have pain is not necessarily the source of the restriction. Prior to your first MFR treatment, a licensed physical therapist should evaluate and assess your posture, range of motion, flexibility and strength. We use a whole-body approach in the evaluation of pain and dysfunction, recognizing the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects that must be addressed for long-term healing and on-going wellness. Chronic pain needs to be understood on all levels.
I often get asked the question “How many treatments will I need before I feel better?” Each patient is unique as are the treatment plans. Some patients are seen once a week and others twice a week. I also have patients that have been coming to my practice since 2003 just for maintenance, visiting as needed. The number of sessions needed will be determined by the plan of care put in place by you and your therapist.
We have found that a team approach with our patients has been the most efficient and effective way of addressing the source of the problem. We provide the resources, education and expert quality care needed to get you back on track but every patient must be willing to step away from their story and do the work necessary to achieve the desired results.
We begin to empower our patients to take an active role in their own healing process right after their very first appointment. Our patients are immediately enrolled in a 60-minute self-myofascial release (SMR) workshop where they will learn how to effectively perform self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques using a variety of tools. The class size is limited to a maximum of 6 students at a time; allowing for sufficient time to educate, assist and answer questions.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who is seeking relief from pain and dysfunction, it… Click To Tweet
“If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who is seeking relief from pain and dysfunction, it would be to take the time to learn how to properly perform self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques and implement them regularly. SMR will compliment physical therapy, speed-up the recovery process and can be used for maintenance throughout your lifetime.”
Most patients who come to my clinic arrive frustrated. They are tired of hurting. They have already invested their time and money on various medical practitioners, medicines and medical tests that did not provide a solution to their problem. I hope this article has provided some educational insight and encouragement. Do not give up hope! Many patients do return to a normal, functional life when the fascial system is treated. Let go of your story and take a step forward. You deserve a lifestyle that serves you well!
Christine Roper, MSPT, PYT opened her private practice in 2003 and has served over 20 years as a licensed physical therapist. In pursuit of combining traditional physical therapy with alternative modalities for the treatment of pain and dysfunction, she became an expert myofascial release practitioner completing her training under John Barnes, PT, LMT, NCTMB. She is also a graduate of the Professional Yoga Therapy Institute for healthcare professionals studying medical therapeutic yoga under Ginger Garner PT, ATC, ERYT-500. In 2012, she joined forces with friend and colleague, Lynne Ray, PT, CSCS, PYT implementing a successful medical therapeutic yoga (MTY) program in her clinic and for several mid-sized companies through-out Charlotte, NC.
Prior to opening her own practice, Christine worked as a physical therapist for the Carolinas Healthcare Center for ten years providing valuable experience in both outpatient rehabilitation and orthopedics and managed the outpatient department for a portion of these years.
She has been a guest speaker covering topics surrounding medical therapeutic yoga and myofascial release for the physical therapy departments of the University of Miami, Miami, FL, Wingate University and Central Piedmont Community College located in Charlotte, NC. Christine was also a featured speaker at the 2016 NCPTA Fall Conference. In addition to her speaking engagements, she has enjoyed being an educator and facilitator to local community partners including the Arthritis Services of North Carolina, the Aquatic Team of Mecklenburg County (Team ATOM) and the Hornet’s Nest Girl Scouts.
Christine is happily married with three children. After playing Division II basketball in college, Christine has continued her love of the sport by coaching a girls Interfaith Basketball League for many years is actively involved with the Girls Scouts.