Posts Tagged ‘massage therapy’

Aromatherapy Products 1 – Signature products

| May 30th, 2011 | No Comments »

With my introduction of aromatherapy orders, custom blending and small stock of in house items I decided I should provide some information about what the products are and what some potential options are.  I am going to do a series of short posts and go through the products one at a time, sort of, and then talk a bit about the custom options.

The primary set of stock products all use my Modalities Signature Scent. This scent is has been designed to echo the ongoing goals of Modalities Massage Therapy – to heal, soothe, strengthen and balance the body, mind and spirit. Frankincense and pine soothe aches and calm breathing, tangy lime and bergamot uplift and balance mood and skin, finally lavender and palmarosa round out the blend with grassy, herbal notes that clean the air and buoy immune function.I carry a body wash, body lotion, massage oil and bath salt that have this scent added.

The body wash uses a paraben free base from the same company that I order my essential oil products from, I can provide an ingredients list if requested.

The body lotion also comes from my supplier and uses natural oils and butters as a base, the complete ingredient list is available in the office.  

The base for all my massage oils and the unscented oil I routinely use in the office is Rice Bran Oil.  This is a light, easily absorbed oil that is cold-pressed.

I currently have bath salts with Epsom salts as a base.  In the near future I will be transitioning to using a mineral salt blend from Rae Dunphy that contains mineral salts, sea salts and baking soda. This change is in support of creating a less drying bath salt.  Epsom salts are excellent de-toxifiers but can dry the skin quite harshly in that process.  The mineral salt blend will provide good detoxifying effect while re-mineralizing your body and being less drying.

The body wash is used in the bathroom soap and and the concentrated oil is used in the diffuser on a once daily basis to cleanse the air.  If you have a sensitivity to scents please let me know and I will forgo the use of the diffuser on the day of your appointment.

This scent will be used in the office the aromatherapy massage oil unless a specific request is made for a purpose blended oil.  The scent blend is designed to help ease pain, encourage relaxation and deep breathing as well as having antiseptic oils that help to clean the air and discourage the transfer of any sort of bacteria or virus that may come into the office.

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Willem Fourie, again…

| May 5th, 2011 | No Comments »

Last week I spent two wonderful days in Vancouver. With hardly any shopping to enhance the experience. I attended an advanced seminar on post-mastectomy care with Willem Fourie, a leader in the world of fascia. Willem is a physiotherapist from South Africa and has made a study of the specific impacts of breast cancer treatment, due to lump- and mast-ectomies, radiation and reconstructions.

I wrote, glowingly, about my introductory course last June. When the opportunity to attend a more advanced course arose I was quick to sign up. Out of the 75 of us who attended last year’s introductory course 11 of us returned this year to broaden our understanding of approaches to care for breast cancer patients.

One of the things that quickly became clear was that we had all, myself included, found uses for the approaches taught by Willem in the 11 month since the first course. We opened the course with each attendee describing how they had employed the techniques and what they sought to learn. Some had very emotional stories to tell of breast cancer patients who they had been able to help and who had inspired them with their strength and courage. Others, myself included, had taken the approaches and been able to apply them with great results to a number of other conditions, from abdominal surgeries to burn victims. The scope of application and success from these fascial techniques was impressive.

The intensity and integrity expressed in the opening of the course set the tone for the whole two days. Often at this type of course there is a very chatty, social atmosphere as the attendees enjoy a break from their regular routines. Schedules are often quick paced and hands on time limited. None of these was the case for this course. There was chatting for certain, but never disruptive to the course. The tone was quiet and the schedule was full of hands on time and quiet diligence. Where hands on time in other courses might become a bit raucous and unfocused in this instance it was very much about applying the techniques and learning to treat what you found in the connective tissue. Though we had no actual breast cancer survivors, we did apply the techniques to the variety of injuries and old surgeries we collectively brought to the occasion. We addressed armpits, abdomens and breasts without giggles or discomfort.

I came away with a deeper understanding of the anatomy, physiology, surgery and the humanity that are all part of treating any patient, most especially those who have faced such monumental challenges as breast cancer. I am continuing diligence of the course having already found several patients who could benefit from these techniques. I hope that they have found some benefit from those two days I spent in thoughtful pursuit of new information and new ideas.

Willem Fourie’s website

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Healing Series #4 – Sprains

| February 14th, 2011 | No Comments »

I was trying to stop my toddler from running about the parking lot while coaxing my slightly lame dog into the back of the minivan. In frustration, I bent forward, wrapped my arms around the dog’s middle and lifted him into the back of the vehicle. I felt a funny twinge in your back but nothing seems to come of it – until later. Stiffness and pain began in my low back and radiated down into my butt.  I had sprained my ilio-lumbar ligament (it is right at the base of the spine and goes from the ilium to the 5th lumbar vertebrae). It was a mild injury, a moderate grade one. The grading for sprains is similar to strains, which were roughly outlined in the my muscle strains post.

As with all the other healing processes we have looked at there will be the clearing out of damage and the repairing of the tissue. In a ligament we see scar tissue fill in the ruptured area, restoring the continuity of the ligament. The differences comes from the fact that this is the first avascular, poorly innervated structure we will be looking at.

First, let’s look at what a ligament is and what it is supposed to do. Ligaments are sheets of tightly packed, closely aligned collagen cells.  Structures with little elasticity or extensibility, they are the brakes on the engine of muscular motion.

Without direct circulation, ligaments will be slower to send out the chemicals that signal the need for healing. The exchange of healing materials for waste products will be slow and inefficient. This slow fluid exchange will create and prolong irritation and inflammation. The lack of innervation will further slow healing.  The body’s ability to know when it is being re-injured is be limited. Most of the pain will come when surrounding tissues become over-taxed, irritated and inflamed.  The ankle and low back, two of the most frequently sprained regions, also have the highest rates of re-injury and chronic acute conditions (basically when the area is so regularly being injured it never truly heals and is always painful).

the ligament fibers end up looking as messy as these twigs

How long is slow? A year. It takes a year for a ligament to fully restore itself. If there is no intervention you will be lucky to get 50% functional integrity at the injury site.

For the first three months you are especially vulnerable to re-damaging the healing ligament. After three months most of the basic repair is done and the new scar is in place. We are entering that retraining period I talked about in the muscle strains blog. This is one of the most tricky times, you need to be active, you are generally pain free, but your ligament is just not capable of what it once was. Directional stress tells scar tissue fibres what direction they need to line up and be strong in. To be functional, ligaments need proper structure, something that can only be achieved through safe movement. By six months or so you might be okay in most activity but be aware that you are still at risk. The wrong move at the wrong time can spell a reversal back to the beginning.

 

How much of a difference can proper care make? Immensely, think 98% integrity vs the aforementioned 50%. What is proper care? In

with good healing the fibers flow together smoothly in line

the early stages RICE is the answer. If an activity brings on pain, stop it. Get help or modify for safety activities you need to do. Once you are moving without pain through normal activity, return to more vigorous pursuits. If the activity creates similar risks to the injury, tape the injured area. Tape creates some small physical stability, and, more importantly, it brings your brain’s attention to the area.

The other aspect of proper care is some professional assistance. Help to keep compensating structures healthy and ensure optimal circulation using massage therapy, physiotherapy, or acupuncture. The first two, along with a kinesiologist can help with rehabilitation exercises. The kinesiologist can help with bad movement patterns too, as can Alexander technique instructors or Feldenkrais practitioners. You do not have to use the whole spectrum of care, but think about what you need help with and what you have to invest in your health and match that to the practitioner best suited to assist you.

Finally – be patient. This is a long haul situation, if you try to shortcut it you will make it worse.

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Healing Series #3 – Muscle Strains

| February 4th, 2011 | No Comments »

Trying out skates for the first time in over a decade, sticking close to the wall, wobbling along. You come up on someone even slower than you (shocking!) and decide to brave open ice and go around. You start your big move, its going well, you glance away for a moment…toe pick…crap! Your knee is throbbing, your hand is sore where the ice scraped it, and your shoulder is a bit achy. You are on your belly, on the ice, feeling like an idiot.

The next morning, with a bruise as big as a salad plate on your knee, you think the limp will be your biggest problem, until you try to take off your sleep shirt. That achy shoulder from yesterday is not interested in heading up over your head. You have to take your shirt off like a 2 year old – one arm at a time, then over the head. You suck it up and head on about your day but quickly realize that every time you try to reach out in front of yourself, or up over your head your shoulder protests – bitterly. You haven’t thought about your knee all day.

What has happened? You have a first degree strain of your subscapularis muscle (it is in you armpit). Strain not sprain (strain = muscle, sprain = ligament), and only first degree (they go from a few torn fibers at 1st, a small to large gap at 2nd or a complete rupture at 3rd). What now?

As I have previously stated the first major stage is inflammation, you can read about it in its own blog. The rest of the steps are not radically different from deep wound healing. The body sends cells and microscopic nutrients and components to the wound that clean it, keep infection out and rebuild. The difference comes in the result.

Almost no regrowth of muscle is possible. Occasionally muscle cells with extra nuclei can divide to replace damaged tissue on a very small scale. The intact muscle cells can enlarge. The majority of the healing though will be the laying down of scar tissue. Fibrous collagenous tissue with limited blood flow, minimal extensibility, no contractility and little elastic recoil, all contrary to the nature of muscle. A muscle is designed to move, to get longer and shorter and to return to its starting length. And most importantly muscle is expected to generate force through contraction. Scar tissue can not do any of this.

Creating a mobile scar in dermal tissue is a good thing both functionally and esthetically, in muscle a healthy scar is essential. A healthy scar ensures that you are able to continue unrestricted activity and that you will not re-injury yourself. How you treat your body during this healing phase is critical. For the first 24-72 hours you should RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate). Light daily life activity is okay, just try to avoid doing more damage. After that, provided you have no resting pain, you need to start moving that muscle, right to its pain barrier, and in all the directions you want to use it for the rest of your life. Do not use weights or resistance at this point, just want move it (you are doing ROM exercise). By educating the emerging tissue as to it responsibilities you encourage the scar to be of sufficient size to fill the space without shortening the muscle, you also encourage all the little collagen fibres to lie down in alignment with the stretch you place on the muscle (meaning you will have a scar of maximum strength) , and your uninjured muscle, your proprioceptors, and your brain are all learning how to deal with their new situation.

Realistically, for a first degree sprain you shouldn’t have any trouble doing this. There is minimal pain and you should be comfortable moving it quite quickly. The scar will be very small and change the way your muscle behaves minimally. You will likely be unaware of the alteration and re-injury is a small risk. The principles though hold all the way up to a full rupture.

With a rupture the time before safe movement is longer and you would need to have the structure repaired before ROM could make a difference. There would also be a need to progress from ROM to resistance exercise in order to gain back the strength that would be lost through the period of inactivity and the loss of contractile fibres. The key is that you want to retrain your body to deal with the new state of affairs. You can not just “rest” it for three weeks, using only 25% of your regular movement, and have your body know how to behave. You will have a very short, poor quality scar. You will be more likely to have tiny little tears occurring all around it as you try to expand your usage of the muscle. Basically, you will be causing small injuries over and over again, creating more and more scarring.

The issue with muscle healing is that you need your muscles to move, that is their job. If you do not ensure that they learn how to move in their post-injury state they will keep trying to move the way they used to, with poor results. Remember, for injuries the intervention of a health professional can speed the healing process and provide guidance on safe ways to rehabilitate. For mild strains a registered massage therapist or a physiotherapist would be your best choices. If you believe your have a more significant injury a visit to your physician is a must. A reputable RMT or physio will assess your injury and let you know if a doctor’s help is needed. A good doctor will send you to a RMT or physio when it is safe.

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“Misadventures” a miss for me…

| September 1st, 2010 | No Comments »

On Monday night I attended a play at the Victoria Fringe Festival that called “Misadventures of a Massage Therapist”. It sounded right up my alley. I was prepared for an evening of laughs generated by the little challenges one faces when they are part of a group that spends its time touching people. From tattoos to hair care issues there is plenty of scope for comedy. Heck, just the training process, as you have to confront your own, and your classmates, foibles about bodies has vast potential for humour.

Given my excitement I was very disappointed that in the whole hour, I only got a couple of stories that really reflected some of the more interesting aspects of my profession. The false advertising bothers me, this performance was not about massage therapy misadventures, but the misadventures of this person. He had some interesting tales, and an energetic presence, but I was not there to hear about his nipple piercings and wildlife encounters.

I wanted massage therapy humour. I wanted stories where I could laugh out loud and know that there are others experiencing the same angst as me. People who remember, with a special horror, the first day of butt massage. We may have called it a gluteal, but we were thinking it was our butt, hanging out, along with 20 others, being touched by another 20 people who are are having to keep in mind that they would soon be in my place.

I must put in the disclaimer that I have never got up on a stage and tried to entertain an audience for an hour. I have great respect for those that do. It takes courage, fortitude and I suspect a very strong stomach. I do not wish to disparage Jason Brasher, the writer and performer, but I sure wish it had been more about massage therapists and less about him.

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Surgery and the Body

| June 8th, 2010 | No Comments »

After surgery your body is very busy indeed. It must finish dealing with the lingering effects of whatever took you into surgery and also heal you of the damage surgery has done.

Strange to think of surgery as damaging, but it is. After all, the surgeon cuts through multiple layers of connective tissue and muscle. Disrupting blood and lymph flow by severing the vessels large and small. And they only repair the large ones!

This is NOT to advocate against surgery, just to point out that it is both a healing and a harming event. The healing benefits should greatly outweigh the harming side effects, but those side effects can still be profound.

As I mentioned, your body is still responding the the cause of the surgery itself. Whether your body was fighting a chronic illness, physical dysfunction or was thrust into red alert status to deal with an accident or injury of some kind, a surgery is generally a brief interruption in this and the body requires time realize the provoking event has stopped.

As it is becoming aware of the decreasing demands of the illness or injury, it is also becoming aware of the new insult it has suffered.

Now, this injury is generally much tidier and cleaner than any real world damage would be, but the body mobilizes the same kind of responses to heal it. Inflammation and a flood of white blood cells and resources flood into the area. Your body may also be discovering that it is stiff and sore from the, often odd, position it has been in during surgery and the minor muscle atrophy and aches of being immobilized.

So what can you do to help this process?

One, eat well and take in lots of fluid. You need to provide the resource components for healing – healthy food it the best way to do that. Keep the meals light, varied and frequent. You have lost blood and inflammation takes fluid out of the circulatory system and puts it into the swollen tissue, so lots of fluid helps the body move everything around and rebuild its blood volume.

Two, rest. Your body is working really hard inside to heal you, try not to ask it to do much else. Light activity is good. Fixing those light meals, going for a short walk. These help your body to move things around and prevent aches and pains. But take a nap, your body does lots of good healing work while you sleep.

Three, follow orders, the doctors and nurses may have sent you home with some self-care – DO IT!!! Take the medication, keep the incision clean, do any exercises (part of you light activity!). This is what the allopathic system does well, surgery and fixing problems. So let them exercise their expertise.

Four, get some massage! Soon after surgery a massage can benefit you by helping move all those resources around and making sure they don’t stagnate at the surgery site. If you are stiff and achy massage therapy can help deal with the soft tissue tension and restriction that is causing that. Should you have a lot of swelling at the surgical site find a RMT who has advanced lymph drainage training (not me!) as they can often make a huge difference. After about six weeks, when the scar has settled, a therapist with connective tissue expertise (me!) can help to ensure that your scar heals functionally.

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The TMJ connection

| June 3rd, 2010 | No Comments »

TMJ, not a funky band, it is the temporomandibular joint – aka the jaw. Why am I venturing into dentist territory, you ask? I am not, I am still talking massage therapy, just for a dental condition.

When a dentist mentions wear on your enamel and tells you that you have been grinding, or clenching, he is worried about your teeth. That is, after all, his job. Generally he will recommend a mouthpiece to be worn while you sleep to minimize the damage you can do to your teeth. Very helpful, for your enamel.

But what about the rest of the problems that come along with that clenching and grinding? Beyond enamel wear what are the problems of temporomandibular dysfunction? I have a friend who is a tooth grinder and has developed Mr. Universe quality muscles in her jaw. She complains of the chipmunk cheeks that have resulted. Well, just as Mr Universes bulging biceps are a result of his heavy duty workouts, so are her chipmunk cheeks. The only thing that will make them go away is to stop grinding. Not something I can magically make happen. I can help to lengthen the muscles and relieve some of the soreness that comes from her strenuous workouts, which will often minimize the chipmunk-ness.

Keep in mind that the jaw muscles extend up onto the head above the ears and so can the pain of TMJ. Headaches are also common side effects of late night jaw Olympics. There is also a more insidious and widespread impact – neck and shoulder tension. Clicking, locking or side to side movement on opening and closing are all possible results.

By working the neck, shoulder and jaw massage therapy can help to ease pain and diminish muscle tension, restoring functional balance to your TMJ. This is often the key to resolving clicking and locking and can greatly reduce clenching. Working from both the outside of the mouth and the inside, a Registered Massage Therapist can make huge improvements for your jaw.

The scary part of the last paragraph, for most, is that bit about working inside the mouth. There is not much to fear. The treatment time inside the mouth is short, a few minutes at most. The work can be quite sensitive, but a series of hand signals discussed before hand, or the simple expedient of yanking on a practitioners hand, provides clear communication about tolerable pain levels.

The neck and jaw often create dysfunction in each other. Poor posture and stress are the two leading causes of both these conditions. Head-forward posture with a hunched upper back and curved in shoulders creates backwards tension on the mandible (the bottom of your jaw) which, as a hanging structure, is very vulnerable to this type of stress. Clicking and locking disorders are the common result of this. The stress component is one more associated with the grinding. Stress reduction activity can help to reduce your tendency to grind. Yoga, meditation, even a peaceful walk, any activity that calms you can help your stress level. The nice thing about that bit of self-care is that it is good for your whole body, from your blood pressure and digestion right up to your jaw.

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My Willem Fourie Course

| June 2nd, 2010 | No Comments »

I was one of a lucky few who got to attend a three day course on treating connective tissue in breast cancer patients taught by Willem Fourie. This course provided me with more specific knowledge and alternate approaches for helping women with breast cancer.

As a Registered Massage Therapist I am required to take a certain number of continuing education hours every two years to maintain my professional standing. A practice I wholeheartedly support and enjoy. When this course was offered, even though I didn’t need all the credits, I leaped at the chance to attend.

Mr. Fourie is a physiotherapist from South Africa and a student of anatomy. He brought an enthusiasm and curiosity to the course that was wonderful. This was not a course full of recipes for treatment, this was a course about understanding. Understanding the structure of the body and what treatment for breast cancer does to that structure. He had brought many dissections that included intact connective tissue, something that is not usual in anatomy books, and ultrasound examinations of post-cancer treatment patients that were enlightening.

This excellent basis was then used to apply our skills in an intelligent, thoughtful way to create better function and ease for our patients. Though I learned few specific techniques in the class, the learning for me was in the specific knowledge about surgery – both tumour removal and reconstruction – that was presented, and the approaches and thought processes used.

Mr. Fourie has a great deal of respect for the human body, and for the human being within that body, which informs all of his approaches. I found his thinking very much in tune with what I try to bring to my work and welcomed the opportunity to work with other professionals in my industry that bring the same thoughtfulness to their work.

Mr. Fourie has participated as a presenter at both the fascial congresses that have happened and taught hundred of practitioners in the UK about his very successful approaches to breast cancer aftercare.

I thoroughly enjoyed this event and am already bringing some of the approaches into my practice – even on non-cancer patients. I look forward to bringing this enrichment of my skill set to more breast cancer patients in future.

 

Willem Fourie’s website

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Fascia – the undiscovered tissue

| June 2nd, 2010 | 1 Comment »

PLEASE NOTE  – Originally published November/09 on “Your Body.  Yourself?” my old blog…

This last week the 2nd International Fascia Congress went ahead in Amsterdam. For four days the leading researchers presented their most recent findings to a mixed group of scientists and clinicians. After the congress there were a series of workshops, many of them very practical in nature. I am very excited to learn that the 2012 the fascial congress will be hosted by my professional organization, the British Columbia Massage Therapy Association of BC in Vancouver. To heighten my delight the 2012 congress will focus on the clinical application of current fascial research. I will be at that one, doing a little happy dance.

I expect many of you are trying to figure out what this fascia stuff is and why I am all giddy about it. Well, to steal the explanation my first fascial instructor gave me – fascia is the bag we walk around in. Imagine all the different bits in your body that you know about as being what is in the bag and that fascia is the bag. Recent research has shown that these are contractile bags – something that wasn’t known when I first started studying fascia. A type of cell called a myofibroblast is responsible for this type of constriction – more on this later.

Fascia surrounds all nerve fibres, nerves, muscle fibres and muscles, organs, bones, joints and underlies our skin. Fascia acts to protect and separate structures, help maintain posture, and allow structures to glide upon one another. Problems in the fascia therefore create all sorts of problems in the body and often create mobile pain, pain that migrates far from its source and or moves around in the body without apparent cause.

The term fascia encompasses most of the connective tissue in the body and is the most pervasive substances in our bodies. Yet many people have never heard of it and our scientific exploration has just begun to bring fascia into the light. The western reductionist approach to our bodies and the treatment of them has allowed fascia to languish unexplored. Fascia coexists in form and function with all of our bodies systems and our piece-by-piece, system-by-system approach to treating our bodies meant that there has been virtually no exploration of this fascinating tissue. Basically, no one owned fascia because everyone owed fascia.

They owed fascia for the protection, lubrication and separation of the system in which they specialized. Fascia is the ultimate in multi-taskers. It can be thick, dense and organized, lending support to and separation between structures. It can be gossamer thin and allow structures to glide over one and other smoothly. It can be almost free of blood vessels and nerves or richly supplied with blood and sensory functions. Fascia can be so many things that initially anatomists did not realize it was all the same thing. So we have many names for the structures that are composed of fascia and a dearth of understanding of how all these different structures with their different compositions and functions can be discussed together.

On the bright side, there is a huge amount of research being done to increase our understanding of fascial tissue and its myriad impacts on the body. Some of the interesting directions that are being explored include the contractile nature of fascia, how tension is transmitted into the lumber fascia and how healthy fascia can move the way it does in the body without tearing.

Current research by Dr. Robert Schleip of the University of Ulm in Germany is exploring variability of myofibroblast density in fascia. Myofibroblasts are a contractile cell that are found in fascia and at wound sites. At wound sites the myofibroblast aid in wound closure, which speeds healing. However, in scar tissue these myofibroblasts sometimes stay around and continue to create contraction where it is not needed or wanted. What does this mean to fascia? If these cells are too active would they create undue restriction in the tissues they surround? Would this create tension and perhaps pain the the surrounded tissue?

Priscilla Barker and her associates have shown that contraction of various trunk muscles, including the transversus abdominis, create tension in the lumbar fascia, which then contributes to stability in the lumbar spine. Which explains why you are told to contract your tummy when you lift heavy objects.

One of the most visually arresting explorations of fascia comes to use from Dr. Jean Claude Guimberteau. Dr. Guimberteau has collected images, via laproscopic camera, of live fascial tissue and recorded the movement that occurs in the fascia and the neurovascular (nerves and blood vessels) tissue when a tendon is pulled on. The result is a video called “Strolling Under the Skin” and a book of the same title.

As a manual therapist I am excited by this research and what it tells us about one of the most frustrating things manual therapists experience. I have a client come in, I do all the indicated treatment and they leave feeling great – only to have the same pain and discomfort return almost immediately. Often, though not always, this type of pattern indicates fascial distortion or restriction. The good news is all this research that tells us about the function, structure and responses of fascia helps us to more easily recognize and successfully treat fascial issues and leave our clients with long term improvement in the performance and comfort of their bodies.

So there is a quick overview of the world of fascia and the reason I get so excited about this coming congress in Vancouver. What a wonderful opportunity to engage with and learn from the leading lights of fascial research. What a wonderful opportunity for the growth of understanding and good clinical application of that research by bringing together those who are exploring the science and those who are applying that science for your benefit.

Stay tuned for more on you and your body. Please let me know if there are wellness topics you are interested in or confused by.

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Massage Therapy as part of Breast Cancer care

| April 12th, 2010 | No Comments »

I have been working with a client who is in recovery from breast cancer and from the effects of the treatment for breast cancer. In many ways the latter is the larger piece. Her body bears the surgical scars of her lumpectomy, the internal effects of chemotherapy and damaged tissue from her radiation therapy.

The portion I have had the opportunity to support is her return to fitness and reducing the impacts of scarring from her lumpectomy and her radiation. Her return to fitness I am supporting by keeping her muscles healthy and in balance and relieving whatever aches, pain and restrictions occur as she begins to return to the vital physical health she had previously.

It is my work with her scars and adhesions is what I wish to focus on though. Any trauma inflicted on the body will cause scarring. In the case of breast cancer treatment you generally have two major traumas inflicted on your chest wall. First, some sort of surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. The second chest wall trauma comes from the radiation. Although no physical invasion occurs, the intense light energy can create burns and always creates an inflammatory response in the body.

These scars can be focal or broad but they, in conjunction with the surgical scars, tend to leave the skin and muscles of the chest wall constricted and tight. The close proximity of the shoulder and the fact that the chest muscles contribute to shoulder movement means that normal movement can be reduced and there can be a pulling pain with any attempt to open up the arm movement.

Now we know the mechanism, lets look at what is done about it. A couple of decades ago the answer would have been nothing, do NOTHING. Fortunately this thinking has fallen by the wayside. Active use of the arm, with such activities as dragon boating, is encouraged. But what happens if you need some help? If, as my client found, the process of simply using the arm is not sufficient to restore the mobility you crave? Or if you restore movement but can not quite relieve the pain the occurs with the extremes of movement? What are your options?

Perhaps the best option is myofascial release. Now, if you have found this, you have found my blog. If you scroll through you will find other pieces dedicated to the wonders of fascia. For those of you interested, I encourage you to read them in full. For now, I will just say that fascia is a form of connective tissue that pervades the body’s structure giving both separation and form. Myofascial release is the practice of releasing restriction in the fascia to restore movement and function to tissue.

Think of a scar as a place where a drop of glue landed and started sticking everything to it. This sticky point continues to adhere things together and in doing so tends to draw the surrounding tissue in tight around it. For some, their determination to move, and/or their own physiology, ensures that they maintain reasonable movement and limited amounts of pain and are able to continue much as they wish in their life. For others we see a progressive advancement of restriction in movement and a concurrent increase in pain with movement. When this is the case some live with that pain their whole live. Myofascial release can change that.

As a Registered Massage Therapist I am one of the best options someone can choose for help. I use my hands to bring tension and stretch into the restrictions and unstick those glued down bits. Over a series of treatments more and more stuck pieces are released, increasing pain-free movement. This encourages more movement, which in turn encourages more release. Then, instead of slowly decreasing movement with increasing pain, we see the opposing trends develop.

Who and when can this intervention help? Though we must wait until the scar has settled, a matter of a few weeks to a couple of months for most, there is no other real limit. Even for those who might be able to self-release these restrictions, a few treatments can hugely speed their recovery. Even if a scar is years old, significant progress can be made to improve function and reduce pain. Though results are often slower with older injuries the impact can still be profound.

Having breast cancer, or any kind of cancer, has a profound impact on your life. There is no way to prevent this impact. Your life will change in ways that you can not predict, or even imagine. What you can impact though, is how you choose to proceed through the course of your illness and, hopefully, recovery. One thing you can choose is getting care for your body that goes beyond treatment for cancer to treating the whole body and ensuring yourself maximal function. Myofascial release can help with the scars of cancer treatment. Generally, Registered Massage Therapy can help relieve pain and improve whole body function.

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