Scar Tissue Affects How Your Body Works

After releasing the scar tissue, I reset her pubus, rebalanced her muscles and watched her awe at being pain free in 8 years.

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Last week, I wrote about how “little” injuries can affect your stress levels.  This week, is a twist on that theme.  But, before we start, let me take a moment to remind you that “stress” is not limited to emotional or mental stress, but includes physical stress.

Last week, I saw two clients presenting with dysfunction stemming from the scar tissue of having had c-sections.

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Client I:  Was referred from her chiropractor when adjustments failed to really impact her groin and leg pain.  Her medical doctor had diagnosed her with bulging lumbar discs, and everyone had assumed her pain was “sciatic” related.

Her intake had me questioning whether the disc problem was contributing to her pain, and I was right to do so.  By the time we were done discussing her medical history, I was convinced that much of her pain was due to scar tissue.  Consider for a moment where the incision is generally made for a “bikini” c-section.  Both of this client’s children were delivered by c-section.  Client I is a race-walker and has competed across the country in marathons and half-marathons.  She had to quit due to the pain she was experiencing in her groin and leg.

What I found was the scar tissue from two c-sections was impacting her obliques, medial hip rotators which rotate the hip toward the centerline, hamstrings and peroneals which both point the foot and flex the ankle, lift the outside of the foot and assist in preserving the arch.

Wondering how scar tissue in the lower abdomen could be affecting her lower leg?  Think of ripples in a pond.  I used to be fascinated as a child to watch the ripples in a pond grow after throwing in a pebble:  “When it first starts, you may not even notice how that “little” injury is affecting your stress levels, but over time if not properly dealt with, the effects of that “little” injury grow . . . and grow . . . and grow . . .  Before too long, that “little” injury turns into stress manufacturing pain.”

After releasing the scar tissue, I reset her pubus, rebalanced her muscles and watched her awe at being pain free in 8 years.

Client II:  Has been a massage client for several years.  A nurse, this client often discounts her discomfort as part of the aging process.  She never mentioned having had a c-section, regardless of the numerous intakes we’ve done over the years.  This week she had a new complaint which was a result of a new workstation.  But, it made me wonder . . .

After asking some very pointed questions, I discovered she had a c-section on delivery, and all the puzzle pieces fell into place for me.

The complaint she came in with was in her butt.  Her gluteus maximus, hip flexors, transverse abdominals and rectus abdominals all tested “off-line” or not functioning, while her obliques, gluteus medius and minimus were all taking up the slack of the non-functioning muscles.

After releasing the scar tissue the “off-line” muscles turned back on.  I released the obliques and glutes, then activated the abs, hip flexors and glute max and loved her reaction to feeling the best she ever has!

Both clients had the same underlying reason for their complaints, even though those complaints were very different.

Both clients must do their homework to maintain the improvement.

Is discomfort or pain part of aging?  It doesn’t have to be . . . But, that is a subject for another time.

The Pain Stress Cycle

When it first starts, you may not even notice how that “little” injury is affecting your stress levels, but over time if not properly dealt with, the effects of that “little” injury grow . . . and grow . . . and grow . . .  Before too long, that “little” injury turns into stress manufacturing pain.

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When it first starts, you may not even notice how that “little” injury is affecting your stress levels, but over time if not properly dealt with, the effects of that “little” injury grow . . . and grow . . . and grow . . .  Before too long, that “little” injury turns into stress manufacturing pain.

Chronic pain can limit your everyday activities, affecting how involved you are with friends and family members.  Unwanted feelings, such as frustration, resentment, and stress, are often a result. These feelings and emotions can worsen your pain.

The mind and body work together, they cannot be separated. The way your mind controls thoughts and attitudes affects the way your body controls pain.

Pain itself, and the fear of pain, can cause you to avoid both physical and social activities. Over time this leads to less physical strength and weaker social relationships. It can also cause further lack of functioning, reduced range of motion and pain.

Stress has both physical and emotional effects on our bodies. It can raise our blood pressure, increase our breathing rate and heart rate, and cause muscle tension. These things are hard on the body. They can lead to fatigue, sleeping problems, and changes in appetite.

If you feel tired but have a hard time falling asleep, you may have stress-related fatigue. Or you may notice that you can fall asleep, but you have a hard time staying asleep. These are all reasons to talk with your doctor about the physical effects stress is having on your body.

Stress can also lead to anxiety, depression, a dependence on others, or an unhealthy dependence on medicines.

Depression is very common among people who have chronic pain. Pain can cause depression or make existing depression worse. Depression can also worsen existing pain.

A family history of depression, increases the risk that you could develop depression from your chronic pain. Even mild depression can affect how well you can manage your pain and stay active.

Signs of depression include:

  • Frequent feelings of sadness, anger, worthlessness, or hopelessness
  • Less energy
  • Less interest in activities, or less pleasure from your activities
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Decreased or increased appetite that causes major weight loss or weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts about death, suicide, or hurting yourself

What’s the answer?  Get help.  The severity and length of your pain and dysfunction is the best indication of the direction you should take.  In mild cases of acute pain, massage therapy may be the quickest way to relief.  If your pain has moved into the chronic category, bodywork therapies may help – especially if your range of motion has been affected.  Other alternative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic may also help.  Seeing your doctor may also be appropriate.  I have yet to find a medical practitioner with x-ray vision – arranging for radiographic imaging may be appropriate and helpful.

The benefits of massage therapy include reducing/improving:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries

Moving up to bodywork therapies increases the benefits to also include improving:

  • Sports injuries
  • Joint pain

Moving up to Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy, increases the benefits to include:

  • Improving overall posture
  • Releasing joint restrictions
  • Returning to a normal, pain free life

Begin your path to wellness by making the call to schedule your session today!

 

Tackling the Dreaded Dowager’s Hump

As we age, aberrant patterns become habitual, repetitive and narrow; pain/spasm/pain cycles develop; we have injuries; our posture worsens.  The conversation between body and brain becomes increasingly difficult and unreliable.  Eventually, coordination, balance and movement may become very limited.

One of the primary postural goals for manual therapists is restoration and maintenance of proper vertebral curves, which exist for a reason:  to provide the least amount of strain to muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints so they can carry on with daily chores.  If compromised, the risk of injury, protective muscle guarding and development of pain/spasm/pain cycles escalates.

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It’s not entirely clear what causes it.  Most likely, there are many underlying causes.  Dowager’s Hump, hyperkyphosis, may be a multifactorial problem:  Length-strength imbalance, motor  control issues, degenerative disc disease, ligament laxity, and possibly certain metabolic problems top the list of potential causes.  There may also be a genetic link as well as it seems to run in families.

Since it’s more obvious when viewed from the side (and most people view themselves in the mirror from the front), hyperkyphosis can progress quite a bit before anyone seeks help  for it.

Dowager’s Hump can cause neck, rib pain and breathing disorders, but can also be asymptomatic.

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Even in moderate cases, it can be difficult to lie on the back comfortably because the head is flexed so far forward.

Neuroscientists tell us our movement patterns are more or less hardwired by the time we are in our 20s, so why do dowager’s humps often develop later in life?  When asked, the legendary Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, founder of the Feldenkrais Method (mindful movement to bring new awareness and possibility into every aspect of your life), simply responded “lack of variety of movement patterns”. 

As we age, aberrant patterns become habitual, repetitive and narrow; pain/spasm/pain cycles develop; we have injuries; our posture worsens.  The conversation between body and brain becomes increasingly difficult and unreliable.  Eventually, coordination, balance and movement may become very limited.

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The first line of defense is postural therapeutics, i.e. Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy, in conjunction with home-retraining rehabilitation or referrals to competent functional movement specialists, including Yoga.

Lesson #4 from a Broken Ankle

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Altruism: the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others. Women, therapists and caregivers tend to be altruistic.

Are you always taking care of everyone else and forgetting to put yourself first. Throughout the week, how often do you put yourself first? What about over the course of a month?

It can be difficult to remember our own happiness in addition to everyone else’s. Givers can be terrible at putting ourselves first. We give, give, give but forget to give to ourselves.

Lesson #4: Give to yourself.

There’s a down side to putting everyone else’s concerns before your own.

When you relegate yourself to last place, you wind up exhausted, you don’t sleep well, your diet tends to suffer, you deal with more physical pain and the effects of chronic stress. How do you rate?

I’ve had a couple of months now to make changes in my life in order to ramp up the goodness in my life. Here’s a little exercise you can do to see how you’re doing: Write down 5 things that make you happy; then write down the last time you did each of those things.

As you review how you’re doing on your happiness exercise, never make yourself “wrong” for what makes you happy. (That’s something especially women do far too often.) It’s much better to just be honest. So, if shopping makes you happy, don’t beat yourself up, think your happy thoughts!

This week, sit down and figure out where you can begin to put yourself first by doing activities that you love. Even the little things like getting a manicure, taking a walk with your significant other or having a glass of wine or beer with your friends really matter and contribute to your overall happiness.

Have a wonderful and Happy New Year! See you soon.

Lesson #3 from a Broken Ankle

My life experiences have made me a self-sufficient person. I’m able to do lots of different things from light electrical and rough carpentry to shoeing a horse to grooming a dog and, of course, correcting musculoskeletal problems in the body. This is both good and bad.

It’s good because I can handle lots of different problems without help.

It’s bad because I can handle lots of different problems without help.

American culture values independence, but sometimes we can take it a bit too far. For many of us, success goes hand in hand with self-sufficiency. Anything, we are often told, can be achieved through hard work—which usually implies work done on one’s own.

For those raised in the United States, the idea of independence may bring to mind iconic stories about “rugged individuals”—pioneers, mavericks, or resourceful immigrants who built a life on their own terms. But while bravery and perseverance are valuable traits that help us make our way in life, these stories can idealize autonomy, instilling unrealistic expectations of attaining our goals solo—and these narratives also overlook the fact that we benefit enormously from the help of others.

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For most of my life, I’ve been the go to person to ‘fix’ things, to get things done. Being something of a perfectionist, I have, more often than not, opted to do something myself because I know it will get done correctly. This is both good and bad . . . It’s good because I improve my skills and knowledge base; it’s bad because I add another reason for not asking for help.

Be honest, you’ve done it too, right?

When Glenn was alive and we were ranching, his favorite response to any worker asking for a raise was “When you can keep up with my wife, you’ll have earned a raise”. We were two peas in a pod – both multi-talented and willing to learn new skills and leave our comfort zones in order to accomplish something. While it certainly sounds like a compliment, is it really?   Might it not be better to increase effectiveness through collaboration? In addition to gaining the benefit of suggestions you might not have thought of independently, you may find people willing to assist with the refinement of your ideas, thus increasing the effectiveness of your approach.

This was lesson #3 from my broken ankle. There are times in life when, no matter how independent and self-sufficient you are, you’ve got to ask for help and graciously accept that help. Instead of being the go-to person, you are dependent on the help and assistance of others to accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished – like getting to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments.

 

Mindfulness plays a big part in being able to do this. So, what is mindfulness? Ah, shame on you if you don’t know . . . it means you’re not reading your e-mails or following me on Facebook . . . but you’re forgiven.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Being mindful simply takes creating some new and healthier habits.

Most of us would like all new, upcoming years to be better than the current year. Personally, I would really like 2018 to be better than 2017. To that end, I’m learning the lessons from having broken my ankle, practicing healthy habits including mindfulness and being grateful for all the absolutely wonderful things in my life.

And, I encourage you do the same. Don’t allow stress to wear you down, beat it down with mindfulness. Take up or expand your Yoga (or other) practice. Slow down. Appreciate more. Sit less. Move more.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season and end of the year. See you soon in the New Year!

Lessons from a Broken Ankle: Lesson #2

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Our bodies are incredible – truly. They are hard wired for survival. They have automatic responses to prevent and heal injuries. Some of those automatic responses tend to drive us a bit nuts these days, such as mucus buildup; but that is one of the automatic responses our bodies have against pathogens.

In my lifetime, I’ve been sickly as a child, I’ve been injured multiple times, I’ve been a chronic pain patient and a functional quad – and through all of that my body has never failed me. And, it’s not failing me now with my latest injury, a broken ankle.

This experience has reminded me how much we are able to disregard discomfort in our bodies. It’s reminded me how sneaky stress and discomfort are. It’s taught me that if you can’t move your body like you did at, say 30 or 35, you’ve got some work to do!

When I was much younger, 40 was considered “middle age”. Currently, “middle age” runs from about 60 – up to about 70 if you’re in great shape. I’m somewhere in the middle of that, and while I’ve been able to do everything I need to do while my ankle heals and this experience has shown me that I’m in better shape than I thought; I’m not in as good shape as I’d like to be.

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So, now let me ask you some questions.

Think about your age and physical condition. Pretend that you’re single and care for an extremely active young child. You live in the country, on a hillside, must maneuver stairs, can’t drive and have a cell phone for a lifeline. You broke a leg, or a pelvis, or an ankle, or your knee, could you do it on your own? Could you hold out for 24 hours or so at a time until the next round of caregivers stops in to help out? Could you get down on the floor, lift yourself back up (without putting weight on the injured leg), get around on crutches? Wash yourself, your dishes, make meals, take care of your child? Try some of these chores for yourself not using your “injured” leg and without putting any weight on it. If you feel like you can’t do it, why can’t you? Where are you weak, stiff, inflexible, or shakey?

Think about your age again. Thank about your physical condition. And, this time consider your gender. How many sit ups can you do? I’m not talking about crunches – with your knees elevated and someone holding your feet. I’m talking about full body sit ups, all the way up.

How many push ups can you do? Full body or do you bend your knees?

Can you stand up from the floor without using your arms/hands?

Can you touch your toes? Great if you can . . . if not, what’s stopping you?

Can you lay flat and roll over without relying on your legs or arms?

Can you stand up to one leg from a chair without using your arms (and balance)?

Is your upper body strength sufficient to lift your body weight?

How fit and flexible do you choose to be as you navigate your ‘golden years’?

My ideas of fitness have changed from this experience. I don’t believe the medical ‘tests’ for fitness come near to where we need to be. I’ll be working on my own fitness throughout my recovery and will continue after that. I love the way I live and can’t imagine having to change my lifestyle long term.

Lessons from a Broken Ankle: Lesson #1

Our bodies are incredible – truly. They are hard wired for survival. They have automatic responses to prevent and heal injuries. Some of those automatic responses tend to drive us a bit nuts these days, such as mucus buildup; but that is one of the automatic responses our bodies have against pathogens.

In my lifetime, I’ve been sickly as a child, I’ve been injured multiple times, I’ve been a chronic pain patient and a functional quad – and through all of that my body has never failed me. And, it’s not failing me now with my latest injury, my broken ankle.

This aging body of mine still has some lessons to teach me, it seems. And, I’m very grateful that my mind is still willing to learn.

I found it very interesting that when my ankle broke, I felt no pain . . . none at all. I was even able to set my ankle and keep it in place until I got to the hospital and felt remarkably little pain – until the ankle was reduced and properly reset. Wowzer! I felt that right through anesthesia!

The next few days were very uncomfortable while I waited for the swelling to go down. But, within a short period, just a few days, really, I was up and about on my crutches, scooting up and down the stairs on my butt, taking short walks on the crutches outside getting my Vitamin D. I was trying really hard to listen to my body during those days, elevating the ankle when it said “Enough!”, and felt like I was healing well.

And, then . . . <drumroll, please> came the surgery . . . My ankle was healing well, it did not need resetting, and only two of the three fractures needed some help. So my medial and lateral malleolus were plated and screwed (inner and outer ankle bones) – when this heals, I’ll have a bionic ankle. And my surgeon was great – she loaded me up with local, so coming out of general anesthesia I felt pretty good. Until the next morning! And, that’s when I could tell I’d been cut on, drilled into, plated and screwed. Ouch! I took my pain pills and stayed as quiet as I could with my leg elevated for a couple of days.

After my stint as a chronic pain patient, I’d thought I’d learned most of what there was to know about pain, both chronic and acute. Possibly, another of our automatic protective mechanisms kicked in and allowed me to forget some of what I’d learned, or possibly I still had some learning to do . . .

This experience has reminded me how much we are able to disregard discomfort in our bodies. It’s reminded me how sneaky stress and discomfort are. It’s taught me that if you can’t move your body like you did at, say 30 or 35, you’ve got some work to do!

This series of blog articles will be about what this experience is teaching me.

Lesson #1: Slow down!

While I’m not very competitive, I’ve always been an over-achiever. I tend to move quickly and accomplish lots in a short period of time. I might even take a short-cut now and then; as I did the night I broke my ankle – instead of taking the time to put on real shoes, I slipped into flip flops to rush outside to take care of something. Poor choice of footwear . . . they’ve been relegated to dog chew toys . . . Yup, those $100 orthopedic flip flops were donated to Bear and Nala (some of the rescue dogs I work with).

First lesson: Slow down.

Yes, I meditate – not as often or regularly as I used to, or should. Yes, I do Yoga – not as often or regularly as I used to.

We’re all human. We’re flawed. None of us is perfect. We get busy and let things slide. We try to be in too many places at one time. Guilty as charged! And, now I have a couple of months to get back into meditation, and other forms of self-care, while I consider how to move forward from this injury.

One of the best ways to slow down is by keeping a gratitude journal. It makes us focus on the things that feed our souls, keeps us focused on the positive aspects in our lives. From Greater Good in Action, Science based practices for a meaningful life (Berkeley):

TIME REQUIRED
15 minutes per day, at least once per week for at least two weeks. Studies suggest that writing in a gratitude journal three times per week might actually have a greater impact on our happiness than journaling every day.

HOW TO DO IT
There’s no wrong way to keep a gratitude journal, but here are some general instructions as you get started.
Write down up to five things for which you feel grateful. The physical record is important—don’t just do this exercise in your head. The things you list can be relatively small in importance (“The tasty sandwich I had for lunch today.”) or relatively large (“My sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy.”). The goal of the exercise is to remember a good event, experience, person, or thing in your life—then enjoy the good emotions that come with it.

As you write, here are nine important tips:
1 Be as specific as possible—specificity is key to fostering gratitude. “I’m grateful that my co-workers brought me soup when I was sick on Tuesday” will be more effective than “I’m grateful for my co-workers.”
2 Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular person or thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
3 Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
4 Try subtraction, not just addition. Consider what your life would be like without certain people or things, rather than just tallying up all the good stuff. Be grateful for the negative outcomes you avoided, escaped, prevented, or turned into something positive—try not to take that good fortune for granted.
5 See good things as “gifts.” Thinking of the good things in your life as gifts guards against taking them for granted. Try to relish and savor the gifts you’ve received.
6 Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
7 Revise if you repeat. Writing about some of the same people and things is OK, but zero in on a different aspect in detail.
8 Write regularly. Whether you write every other day or once a week, commit to a regular time to journal, then honor that commitment. But…
9 Don’t overdo it. Evidence suggests writing occasionally (1-3 times per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. That might be because we adapt to positive events and can soon become numb to them—that’s why it helps to savor surprises.

Here’s the link if you’d like more information.

 

Slow down, breathe deeply and be grateful for all the wonderful things and people in your life.
I look forward to hearing how you get on with your journal.