In a recent post I wrote about the condition of Plantar Fasciitis and how my husband was going to try Myofascial Release Therapy for some respite from the painful symptoms of the condition. Following the initial consultation, Mark attended the recommended five treatment sessions. Here follows his account of his treatment at Holisticare, together with his explanation of how Myofascial Release Therapy works.
The Holisticare Treatment Centre, Hatfield Broad Oak
One of only a few specialist Myofascial Release Centres in Europe, Holisticare is situated in a beautiful rural location on the Hertfordshire – Essex border in South East England.
Myofascial Release Therapy
On my first visit to Holisticare, Nikki Robinson explained the theory of Myofascial Release (“MFR”), using tools, props and a skeleton to explain. It certainly made sense – I asked a lot of questions and Nikki’s answers were fact based and informed.
Nikki explained that at Holisticare they use the John Barnes MFR which is working with the continuous network of fibres that hold each cell in its place and the ground substance, that sits between the cells and fibres. The ground substance should be gloopy, providing the right environment for the cells to function and for the fibres to be able to change and move with the stresses put on them. The ground substance solidifies in response to trauma and stress, so the connective tissue fibres are unable to give and you get restrictions. This might be within a muscle, but could be anywhere in the body. The treatment works because the ground substance is thixotropic – it goes more fluid in response to warmth and gentle sustained pressure, which comes from the therapist’s hands. As it changes, the fibres in the area are freed and are able to release, leading the therapist to the next restriction, and so on.
Nikki asked a lot of questions – medical history and the history of any injuries and probed for detail where it was required. She also re-iterated that it is not a miracle cure and that things could get worse before they get better as the treatment allows previously supressed bruising or inflammation to come out, once restrictions in the Fascia are relieved.
From a brief check of my back and spine, Nikki immediately identified that my pelvis was out of alignment. Apparently this is very common. This would be the first thing to attend to in my next full appointment.
We also discussed the body’s need for water and how to avoid de-hydration. Drink plenty! Every treatment started and ended with a cup of water or two.
For the rest of this first hour it was on to the treatment couch and Nikki worked on the Psoas muscle (this runs from your hip around your pelvis to the spine). Nikki worked to loosen it and release the tightening that she had identified.
Nikki had said that my next appointment would be to align my pelvis. My therapist this time was Ali. After a brief re-cap of what Nikki had done, the treatment began. This involved manipulation of the muscles around the pelvis to relax them, then repositioning the pelvis itself. This sounds dramatic but is completely non-intrusive, just some gentle pushing and alignment, using wedges to position the body evenly.
After this Ali worked on the muscles in my shins which were very tight. When I stood up from the treatment couch it did feel “different”. It sounds odd but I felt a little taller! The next evening I noticed that it felt like I was walking differently, feeling more “upright”. Over the next few days I was very conscious of how I was standing and the weight distribution between my legs. It felt as though I was getting used to levelling up.
For my third treatment Ali checked that my pelvis was still properly aligned, which it was. I’d had a secret fear that it would have gone back to the way it was before. I mentioned this to Ali and, after asking how old I was, she pointed out that it had taken 50 odd years to get to the stage it was, and it wasn’t just going to slip back, which I found reassuring!
This treatment concentrated on my legs and feet. It is quite a strange sensation. It is hard to describe. The most common description they hear at Holisticare is that it feels “weird”. I can attest to this, it does feel weird, but very much in a good way. The treatments have left me feeling relaxed and I’d definitely noticed an improvement in the discomfort from the Plantar Fasciitis. The repair work keeps on happening “even after the hands are off” as Ali pointed out.
My 4th session was Ali again. Whilst it makes no difference which therapist carries out the treatment, it did make sense to have the same therapist for continuity.
Ali focussed almost exclusively on my right foot in this session (which I’d previously called out as being the most painful). She concentrated on my heel and the connections between my knee and my heel. As previously described, the treatment itself is not a massage. It’s more of a gentle manipulation of muscles and the warmth of the therapists hands also plays a part in relaxing and re-aligning muscles.
Immediately I was off the couch, both feet felt a little better. They were hurting more when I went to bed, but I put this down to the “might get worse before better” impact
This was the final treatment with Ali and she concentrated pretty much solely on my feet. Again the heat from her hands and the gentle manipulation of the muscles helps to re-align the Myofascia.
I’d describe Plantar Fasciitis in two stages. Firstly, Stage 1 – the initial pain and discomfort when you put weight on your feet after getting out of bed or sitting for a while. This makes you hobble/limp a bit but then it fades to Stage 2 which I call “in flight”, the discomfort when walking around normally. After the first four treatments I felt that Stage 1 hurts as much as before, but was quicker to disappear, and Stage 2, the normal walking around, is the most comfortable it’s been since the condition started. The pain hasn’t gone, it’s just less noticeable. Compared to a few months ago when pretty much every step made me groan inwardly if not outwardly, this is a big improvement.
This session was the end of my acute treatment (the treatment for the condition I presented, the Plantar Fasciitis). The number of sessions initially suggested were just a starting point to see if I was benefitting from the treatment. Because my Plantar Fasciitis has been a problem for so long, it is unlikely to be completely resolved in such a short time. Patients usually continue with regular treatment until their symptoms have been properly helped, which involves treating the whole body if old restrictions are causing the inflammation.
I do think there has been an improvement and the experience of the Myofascial Release Therapy itself has been pretty unique. I am going to leave it for a few weeks and then see how my symptoms are. The staff at Holisticare are incredibly professional and the treatment centre is first class. The collection of certificates on the wall are certainly testament to the excellent therapists and their work.
Further details about Holisticare can be found here on the Holisticare website. It is also worth pointing out that there are numerous conditions that can benefit from Myofascial Release Therapy. Again, all of this information can be found on the website.