January 6, 2013 § 2 Comments
Yes, another year has rolled around and I find myself another decade older this time. For all you youngsters out there, you will eventually understand the reality of the often repeated phrase, “I don’t feel any older, I am the same person I have always been . . .” yet, truth be told, when I look in the mirror, I see the changes in my body and my face—gravity! Some days, my bones can be a little achy too. However, I am still as keenly interested in everything that makes like worth living: loving relationships, passion for learning, enjoyment of my surroundings, meaningful work and activity, and a good measure of health.
Last year at this time, I was preparing for a parathyroidectomy—the surgical removal of a parathyroid gland that had become dysfunctional. The parathyroid glands play such an important role in body chemistry, bone production, and health. I was fortunate to find an excellent surgeon with a crack team, Dr. Michael Yeh, at UCLA. The surgery was successful and I have been experiencing a good recovery. Surgery, like chronic pain or illness, is always taxing to the body and can be very depleting. My main concern was how to support the healing process and to optimize the healing of the surgical incision. As many of my readers know, scar tissue is a topic I am keenly interested in and I am happy to report that the therapies I used post surgery supported the optimal healing of my surgical incision, leaving few internal adhesions.
I’m so grateful to have accumulated so much experience in the holistic field of medicine which has helped me come back stronger than before. At the present time, my personal health recovery regimen includes chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and movement and body alignment practices (Alexander Technique, Restorative Exercise, and Pilates). My goal this year is to become even more aware of my body alignment, knowing that the way I move in my body and how each part communicates with the next, will determine my capacity for regeneration and strength and will help me to correct and limit the patterns that underlie chronic degeneration. No matter what our age, isn’t that the best choice to make?
How will you support your self, your body, and your health this coming year?
P. S. I am so enjoying the gift that cumulative life experience brings to all aspects of my life!
October 23, 2012 § 3 Comments
Simply put, mobility is what separates the living from the dead. That’s why cultivating and retaining it should be a primary focus of healthy aging. However, the gradual loss of movement is so subtle that we are taken completely by surprise when one day, basic movements like looking over our shoulder, bending over, unscrewing the lid of a jar, or buttoning up a shirt become hard to do. Further, loss of mobility is often coupled with chronic joint and muscle pain, putting a damper on one’s efforts to stay active. Two key factors that herald this downward spiral are the loss of adaptation and compensation.
Adaptation and Compensation
Adaptation is the term coined by Hans Selye, who explored homeostasis and stress regulation in the 1970s. More recently, this concept has been expanded to include Sterling’s concept of allostasis, which describes the body’s capacity to adjust moment-by-moment to internal and external changes in the body or stressors in the environment. This process may involve phases of tissue breakdown or tissue repair. Over time, the body’s ability to effectively adapt to insults or challenges diminishes, losing its capacity to compensate mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Bodily compensation refers to the ways the body changes its structure and function to accommodate chronic changes linked to inflammatory conditions, injuries, or surgery, in an effort to stabilize and protect important structures like arteries, organs, spine, and brain. These changes are easily seen in myofascial tension or strain patterns which are often multi-layered, reflecting the cumulative nature of compensatory patterns.
How do myofascial tension patterns affect tissue mobility and function over time, impacting one’s health and well-being?
Multi-layered myofascial tension patterns and bodily compensation work hand-in-hand to keep us going after our body has suffered structural changes.
Fascia is the ubiquitous connective tissue matrix that gives our body structures and organs their shape. Myofascial tension patterns develop as ligaments, tendons, and fascial tissues are recruited to act as guy wires (to brace) or struts (to resist compression) to stabilize and support the body.
Patterns may manifest as a torsion or twist, as hips or shoulders attempt to counterbalance each other, one in the anterior plane and the other displaced in the posterior plane. Or, there may be a top/bottom pattern, often seen in whiplash injuries, where the forward displacement of the neck is counterbalanced by tension in the low back. This pattern is also associated with years of computer-related head-forward posture. Adhesions related to scar tissue can also induce abnormal motility patterns in visceral organs, reducing normal patterns of excursion.
Eventually, trigger points form, creating patterns of referred pain, further altering normal neuromuscular function by reducing range of motion. Finally, nerve entrapment contributes to movement-induced chronic pain.
Time, wear and tear, inactivity, and reduced range of motion become the turn of the screw that leads to decompensation, phase four of Selye’s general adaptation syndrome. Decompensation occurs when the body no longer has the resources or raw material (reduced hormones, strength, and function) necessary to sustain compensatory patterns. Joints, discs, and bones begin to breakdown, muscles and visceral organs lose their tone and torpor sets in, accelerating the aging process.
Not a pretty picture, yet it is the common pattern facing us all. Make the choice today to enhance your chances of aging well.
Aging well involves the foods we choose to eat, our activity level, social support, thinking patterns, movement practices that support functional anatomy (Feldenkrais or the Alexander Technique), as well as the support of practitioners who can help us improve and maintain our mobility: acupuncture, myofascial release, frequency specific microcurrent, craniosacral therapy, or rolfing.
What are you doing to age well?
August 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Since beginning this blog nearly a year ago, I have written several articles about scar tissue, fascia , liquid crystalline properties of living tissue, the connective tissue matrix, post-surgical issues like trauma, pain and adhesions, and acupuncture in connective tissue remodeling.
At present, I am writing a book on the subject of scar tissue and I need your input.
What information would you like to see covered?
What questions do you have?
Are you a lay person interested in self-treatment protocals to ease discomfort associated with scar tissue?
Are you a practitioner who is looking for helpful treatment approaches?
Your comments, contributions, and questions are eagerly awaited!
June 11, 2012 § 23 Comments
In my clinical experience, it is common for patients to report discomfort associated with scar tissue, especially following a surgical procedure. While the formation of scar tissue is a natural function of healing, it can also become a chronic source of pain and discomfort that can last for years.
Recently, at the 3rd Research Fascia Congress, Jean-Claude Gimberteau presented an amazing video of in vivo scar tissue. The video provided a clear visual of tissue and fascial disorganization associated with scar tissue. Viewing these powerful images, as well as coming to a deeper understanding of the process of tissue repair, have helped me to become more effective in working with scar tissue.
Typically, when I assess scar tissue, I gently palpate the area around the scar and the scar itself. I look for areas where the tissue is able to move freely or for areas where the tissue has become thickened and dense underneath the scar, or where the scar is being pulled into the body. As I attempt to mobilize the area, I ask the patient to describe where they feel sensation. Many times they report feeling pain, tension, or tugging in another part of the body, away from the scar. This is when they might experience an “aha!” moment, coming to understand that the scar may be somehow linked to another area in the body where they have been experiencing tension or pain. This demonstrates how scars can continue to alter over time to effect the internal landscape of the body, long after the scar appears to be healed.
This image is of a patient who underwent breast reduction (lollipop) surgery, twelve years ago. It is a very invasive surgery and results in large areas of scar tissue. The patient’s chief complaint was anxiety. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, stagnation in the chest can create heat-induced anxiety. I was curious to see if her scar tissue was blocking the flow of qi, blood, and lymph through the upper body. Palpation demonstrated that there was a good deal of fascial restriction along the scars with a grayish-green discoloration of the skin between both breasts (stagnation).
The image shows how I set the acupuncture needles along the scar, at an angle. Then, I gently tugged on the needles, mobilizing the underlying tissue until the fascia begin to release. I also used glass cups to lift the underlying fascia and increase the flow of blood, lymph, and qi through the area. In the image you can see how the circulation increased as the grey-greenish area began to pink-up. The patient had a good result. Her anxiety lessened considerably and her breathing improved. She was now able to expand her diaphragm more easily upon inhalation, allowing more flow through the upper body.
Have you ever experienced residual pain around a scar, long after it had healed? Did you receive treatment for the scar? Would you consider acupuncture to help mobilize a scar?
June 4, 2012 § 11 Comments
I recently had the privilege of attending the 3rd Fascia Research Congress, held in Vancouver, B.C., March 28-30, 2012. It was a gathering of academicians, scientists, and clinicians who are dedicated to researching fascia, the connective tissue matrix under the skin which links to nerves, veins, tendons, adipose, ligaments, bone, and muscle. You’ve heard me reference this tissue system before because it is where all the exciting things happen in the body!
Fascia functions to provide a smooth gliding surface for body structures so that they can quickly and easily move across each other. It also supports tissue hydration and tissue remodeling. Two topics that really peaked my interest at the congress were fluid dynamics and post-surgical scar treatment because they are intimately involved in maintaining health and wellness.
Fluid dynamics play a critical role in regulating collagen and elastic fibers and microfibrils, hyaluronan, proteoglycans, and glycoproteins. Fluid flow within this matrix functions to regulate cellular hydration, nutrient transport, tissue function, lymphatic flow, and cell-to-cell communication. Fluid stagnation, as seen in edema, is inflammatory and begins to remodel tissues in a negative way, leading to fibrosis (an abnormal development of excess connective tissue).
Scar tissue can dramatically change the internal environment of the connective tissue matrix and its fluid dynamics through the disorganization of tissues and the cascade of inflammatory mediators (biochemicals). The formation and ramifications of adhesions associated with chronic inflammation or surgery were also discussed and the take away piece from these lectures was the importance of soft tissue mobilization, as soon as possible post-surgery, to effect the best possible repair.
If you have ever experienced edema, adhesions, or chronic inflammatory conditions, was there a particular therapy that helped you to recover? Would you care to share your experience?
If you’d like to know how you can keep your fascia system flexible, check out this great blog: Nicole Rae Fitness
December 12, 2011 § 4 Comments
Have you noticed how much pressure there is on young mothers to quickly return to their pre-pregnancy weight and body size ASAP? It’s highlighted in all the celebrity gossip magazines, showing how rapidly so-and-so lost weight etc. Does this bother you? It really bothers me because it is another indicator of the crushing societal pressure on women to be thin. To top it off, cosmetic surgeons have put together the perfect “fix” for those women who are left with extra pounds and saggy breasts post-baby. It’s called The Mommy Makeover which usually includes breast augmentation, liposuction, and a tummy tuck. What I find especially shocking is that this type of surgery is being discussed in a very light, glib way in health blogs and seductively on websites of cosmetic surgeons, almost as if it has become a routine procedure. Ladies, this is major surgery with all its attendant risk factors (MRSA infection, medical misadventure, difficult painful recovery, life-long scar tissue, and adhesions), not a walk in the park! What is especially disturbing to me is the tummy tuck procedure which cuts clear across the lower belly from hip-to-hip. It’s like being cut in half. I’ve treated my share of abdominal scar tissue and adhesions related to gynecological and GI surgeries and the effects on health long-term are significant.
Imagine how much more problematic a tummy tuck might be. As an acupuncturist and somatic therapist, I can tell you it’s a nightmare, because the incision cuts across so many vital meridian pathways that influence your long-term health, structural alignment, and energy systems related to the stomach/spleen meridian, the conception channel, the kidney/bladder, and the liver/gallbladder meridian pathways. I’ve also experienced two C-sections myself and the resulting adhesion and structural issues continue to challenge me 34 years later. According to researchers, post surgical adhesions are a “significant source of impaired organ functioning, decreased fertility, bowel obstruction, difficult re-operation, and possibly pain” leading to a billion dollars in health care costs related to bowel obstruction alone. If you or someone you love is considering major elective surgery, please become informed of the possible long-term health ramifications. Look for future posts on the effect of surgical scars on body systems and structure. The next post in this series will consider body dissatisfaction in the third stage of a woman’s life: menopause.
Have you considered elective cosmetic surgery after having a baby? If you underwent a mommy makeover, what was your experience like? Do you think the mommy makeover plays on the general sense of body dissatisfaction in our culture?