Rolfer, Dancer, Teacher

Posts tagged ‘Raleigh Rolfing’

Scar Tissue Workshop with Sharon Wheeler review

In the past years, I’ve noticed the strongest trend in my Rolfing continuing ed and the one I’ve benefited most from is adding tissues to my repertoire. So about a month ago when a space opened up at a nearby (or at least within driving distance) workshop with Sharon Wheeler on working with scar tissue, I jumped at the chance. And boy am I glad I did because adding Sharon’s Scar Work to my skillset has already helped a lot of clients in the intervening two weeks and given me some new insights into how the body heals.

About the Workshop

Curiously, I wound up being the only male in a class of 15 women (including the instructors and assistants). I don’t gather this is the norm, but it was a curious experience given that most of my basic trainings in Rolfing were heavy on masculine energy. That said, the workshop was in many ways, exceptionally well suited to my kinesthetic learning style, a half day or so of demonstration, followed by 3 rounds of working on each other and then in a team fashion working on model clients, giving us the ability to rotate at will between clients, observe and attempt working on different scars, and stand back to watch when we felt moved to. If you learn well from a relatively unstructured environment, like getting your hands dirty in class, and want to work with your classmates as peers, I’d highly recommend Sharon’s teaching style.

About the Work

The work, I found kind of fascinating. Without going into too much detail, I describe it as very very light sweepy and scrubby type of work. In my head, I refer to it more as “noodling around” than “work”. I’m sure there are at least a couple layers of sophistication I still have to develop with it, but so far it’s been surprising how immediately it is possible to be effective with this work. Scars soften, mobility is improved, areas begin to feel integrated, and often sensation returns to areas that many clients have referred to as feeling not a part of them or dormant. And all of this with no pain and a very oppositional approach to the “you have to break it up” approach that I typically hear in regards to scar tissue.

Why I Think it Works

Sharon made it clear that while she has found this style to work for 40+ years, she’s not entirely sure why it works although they are starting to do research on it now. Because I tend to be a non-linear thinker and like to draw connections, I let my mind wander on the “why does it work” question throughout the workshop and came up with the following ideas. Note that this is just my working theory, nothing proven and subject to change as I go deeper into this sort of work.

My first impression was that it seemed like unlocking or restarting time in the body. The work seems to be similarly effective with recent scars as well as very old scars and in most cases the scars seem to soften and begin to blend in with the surrounding skin and, in a number of cases, nerve function seemed to return almost immediately. It’s almost as if the tissue reaches 80% or 90% healed and then somehow had gotten stuck, almost like it were cryogenically frozen mid-healing and the scar work thaws it back out and allows it to complete.

The working theory that I’ve developed around it is that the work seems to simulate licking wounds (albeit without the saliva). Most mammals seem to do this and while it’s typically explored as a method of cleaning, it seems possible to me that in the course of evolution, tissues have evolved to respond to licking by healing further and integrating better with the “original” tissues around them. While I don’t have evidence to support that theory, it does seem to make a certain level of intuitive sense to me and to most of the clients I’ve shared this theory with.

What I’ve Done With the Work

In the 3 weeks since the workshop I’ve played with a lot of different ideas and seen some great results with some general trends. Here are a few of the things I’ve been able to create with the tools from the workshop.

  • Worked on several C-section/hysterectomy/etc. scars. Saw hips find more neutral tilt and spinal/sacral tension on the opposite side tend to relax more or easier.
  • 2 appendectomy scars, both of which softened significantly and were able to twist through the torso more readily along with releases in back and hip tension.
  • Worked on my own circumcision scar. Found that the tissue softened a good amount, there were numerous signs of nervous system release in my body (stomach gurgling, shaking, etc.) and since then the tissue has been both softer, more sensitive, and I have experienced a distinct ease and better functioning in my pelvic floor.
  • Started recovering a divot in a client’s breast left over from a lumpectomy 8 years prior. The client had also been unable to feel her armpit by the breast since her cancer treatment and left with sensation restored to the area.
  • Worked with a 3x operated on ACL replacement for a soccer player who had been having trouble with it since the first surgery. After 2 sessions, reports that the knee is much more mobile and feels stronger than the leg that has not been operated on.
  • Starting to reassemble cartilage in my own right ear which was shattered in high school when I got cauliflower ear in wrestling. I’ve felt several pieces of cartilage “pop” back into place kind of like I’m shifting tectonic plates back into an alignment and my hearing in that ear has improved after a week or so of the ear going through a phase of feeling plugged up. Still some work to do there, but it seems to be making progress.

I’ve worked on a variety of other small scars in the meantime as well and in almost all cases I noticed that clients seemed to settle in on a deeper level after the scar work than I had typically seen them settle in past.

All in all, this has been a great style of work to add to my toolbox. It’s allowed me to help clients further resolve, heal, and integrate a variety of scars on both a physical and, in some cases, emotional level. Integrating the scars seems to make them more mobile, even out the color with surrounding skin, and allow for better structural work in and around the areas. I think it’s an excellent addition to helping people heal old wounds, fully resolve surgical interventions, and in some cases, recover nerve function that they were told might never return.

Many thanks to Sharon for sharing this work and being a gracious teacher. ūüôā

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Keyboarding for Happy Shoulders (and Necks and Backs)

In my¬†Rolfing¬ģ¬†practice, I see many clients with desk jobs who have concerns¬†about their posture at work. ¬†I see a variety of strategies for how to position feet, butts, and backs, but very few people seem¬†to be considering what their hands are doing. ¬†The keyboarding position most people use puts a significant strain on posture in such a way that it is often overlooked. ¬†While many people work hard to sit upright at their desks, I think it is generally impossible to achieve a fully upright and relaxed posture while using a standard keyboard.

The typical keyboard (even most ergonomically designed ones) place the hands inside shoulder width for the average adult.  Where the hands go, the shoulders tend to follow.  With the hands placed near the center of the body, the shoulders roll forward to follow them, often creeping over top of the ribs and driving the head and neck forward as well.  Over time, more of the body can follow this hunching, leading to the creation of images like this:
evolution_of_man_ape_to_computer

Front_view_hands_close_and_openSide_view_hands_close_and_openIf we examine this positioning in contrast, you can see how the different positions of the hands affect closing or opening¬†in the shoulders and chest. ¬†With the hands inside shoulder width, the chest collapses and the shoulders round forward¬†(if you have trouble seeing this, consider the wrinkling in the front of the shirt). ¬†You can also see from the profile view how the shoulders slide forward significantly when the hands are placed close together. ¬†You can also try these positions yourself and feel the difference. ¬†Most people find the open position to be more relaxed and free but don’t think about it in daily life because they have habituated to the standard keyboard position.

While it made sense in the age of mechanical typewriters to set the keys as close as possible, the digital age offers a wider range of options with which we can¬†adapt technology to fit our bodies rather than the other way around. ¬†There are options available now that can allow us to type while maintaining an open and comfortable hand and shoulder position, what I refer to in dance classes as a¬†“natural shoulder angle”. ¬†The closer you can get your shoulders to this open position, the more room it will allow for full breathing, a relaxed neck, and for the shoulders to settle onto the back. ¬†To that end, I have been experimenting with the following¬†options that allow for a fully open posture when using a computer. ¬†In all cases I found they produced a much more comfortable and engaged sitting position and often improved the flow of my writing once I had acclimated to the new position.

Dual Keyboards

Dual_KeyboardsThis is the cheap, easy, and accessible setup I suggest to people first trying out a wider hand position. ¬†The basic idea is that with the advent of USB keyboards, most computers can now accept input from multiple USB keyboards at one time. ¬†So, you can simply set up two keyboards and, assuming you can touch type, place your left hand on the left hand keys on the left keyboard and the right on the right keyboard. ¬†While it is not the most elegant solution, it gives you a lot of room to experiment and is a particularly cheap “tester” option which I usually recommend before committing to more pricey equipment.

Split Keyboard

Kinesis_KeyboardThis is the keyboard I primarily recommend as a long-term solution.  The Kinesis Freestyle2 keyboard is a fully split keyboard with a cord between the two halves.  They offer a 9 inch cord or 20 inch cord option, I highly recommend the 20 inch as the 9 inch option is not enough to get my hands wider than shoulder width.  While it can take a bit of getting used to, I found it relatively easy and intuitive to make the switch from touch typing with a regular keyboard and it is much easier to orient my hands to the two smaller halves versus trying to find the right position with the dual keyboard setup.  I also find that I feel more productive and creative when typing on this for an extended period of time and experience a lot less fatigue in my neck and upper back.  It also provides a lot of versatility for users of various shapes and if you get tired of the open position, you can readily slide the two halves together for use like a normal keyboard.

Keyboard and Laptop

Keyboard_and_LaptopAt this point, many people I know don’t even have a desktop computer and do most of their computer work from a laptop. ¬†If you are constantly travelling or working from various places with a laptop, you can cut down on clutter by using the laptop keyboard plus a single portable keyboard. ¬†Similar to the dual keyboard setup above, but with less desk usage and higher portability. ¬†While I used a hard keyboard for the photo, you could also readily use something more portable like folding or rollable keyboard. ¬†It does add a little bit of strain turning the head towards the screen, but it can easily be balanced by switching sides with the spare keyboard.

Whatever options you choose to use, my general suggestions are to think first about what positions your body feels ideal in and then look for ways to adjust your work environment to support those positions.  Too often I see people struggle to maintain a comfortable posture simply because the tools they are using necessitate a more cramped position.  The more you set up your environment to support good posture, the healthier your positioning will tend to be without always having to think about sitting up straight.

Rolfing¬ģ as an Alternative to Corticosteroid Injections

There has been a lot in the news recently about the outbreak of fungal meningitis¬†linked to contaminated steroid injections.¬† With the increasing industrialization of our health care system, we as patients and our doctors as providers are becoming more removed from direct knowledge of the drugs we take to manage pain.¬† I am¬†often surprised at the willingness Americans have to pop a synthetic pill or go under the surgical knife as a first treatment rather than a last resort to dealing with pain.¬† There are many options that exist today which can treat the actual causes of physical pain and provide a number of other health benefits as well.¬† Rolfing¬ģ can help provide¬†long-term relief from issues like back pain by addressing not just the symptom but the underlying structural causes and it does so without the use of drugs.

Rolfing is a therapy based on hands-on manipulation of fascia, the connective tissue that forms ligaments and tendons in the body. ¬†In contrast to steroid injections which work by limiting the immune system response and dampening inflammation, Rolfing works by creating space in the body allowing for better movement and circulation and allowing inflammation to clear on it’s own. ¬†Rolfing has also grown over the years to encompass elements of addressing the nervous system and movement patterns that reinforce painful posturing or movements. ¬†Rolfing also involves no injections or pharmaceuticals so there is no need to worry about current issues like life-threatening infections from contaminated steroid injections. ¬†Beyond not being linked to infections, there are a numbers of reasons that Rolfing is a much more effective therapy to consider.

Rolfing provides additional health benefits

Steroid injections and a great many other standard medical treatments are designed with insurance in mind to directly treat a singular issues and only that issues. ¬†Rolfing, rather than being simply a quick fix is based around the idea of fostering health rather. ¬†A Rolfed body stands taller and moves more fluidly. ¬†Clients often report feeling more like themselves and most note improvements in sleeping and energy levels through a course of Rolfing sessions. ¬†Rolfing also frequently helps the body to strengthen it’s own structural support leading to a reduction in in frequency or severity of future injuries.

Rolfing does not come with a list of side effects

A quick check of WebMD for methylprednisolone acetate (the injection linked to cases of contamination) reveals a list of rather nasty side effects including vomiting, dizziness, trouble sleeping, appetite changes and¬†pain/redness/swelling at the injection site. ¬†While I think it is fair to say that many of these side effects are probably preferable to months of chronic pain, there are also treatments available such as Rolfing that don’t come with a list of side effects.

Rolfing involves the personal touch of a local provider

With the increasing industrialization of pharmaceuticals, we are much less likely to have a personal relationship with our prescription provider than we did 20 years ago.  With the myriad drug interactions out there, it becomes much easier to miss something if your provider is a large remote company.  A Rolfer will work with you one-on-one and typically spends an hour or more with you on each treatment.  And a Rolfer will treat you as an individual whole person and adjust treatments on the fly according to your needs.

None of this is to say that corticosteroids are inherently bad. ¬†I have known people who had great results with them, and I have also helped a lot of clients who didn’t respond to steroid injections. ¬†Any treatment has advantages and drawbacks and I think it is important for people concerned about their own health to consider the alternatives and weigh the benefits of allopathic treatments versus the benefits of other modalities.

For more information on Rolfing therapies in the Raleigh/Durham area, you can visit RaleighRolfing.com.  To learn more about Rolfing in general or find a Rolfer in your area, you can visit the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration website at Rolf.org.

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