PHYSICAL THERAPIES

Traditional Physical Therapy (PT)

My Personal Experience:

When I was first experiencing acute nerve pain from my ruptured disc, the doctor sent me for physical therapy (PT)—it's what the medical insurance company required before they'd cover other tests or treatment. I was in excruciating pain and could barely hold my head up. The physical therapist told me I was “too acute” to attempt strengthening or range-of-motion exercises. 


She treated me with ultrasound and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and hoped I'd come back the next time less acute. However, my pain did not abate. My doctor finally ordered an MRI, which revealed a ruptured disc. 


After I had neck surgery to remove two discs and fuse three vertebrae, I still was experiencing debilitating pain. My doctor sent me for PT again. The strengthening exercises I was given only exacerbated my pain symptoms. I continued for a month, took a break for a couple months, and then tried it again for a few months. The traditional PT did nothing to help my symptoms and often flared them up.


The physical therapist also gave me my own personal TENS unit, which is a small portable device that clips onto your belt and has wires with electrodes at the end that adhere to your skin. You place the electrodes on painful areas on your body and the unit sends electrical stimulation to the muscles to try to divert attention from the body's pain signals or suppress those pain signals. 


While the TENS unit gave me a small amount of temporary relief when I was wearing it (you're not supposed to wear it constantly), it did not have a long-term healing effect.


Traditional PT did not result in a lasting reduction of my myofascial pain.

Rating: (--)

BOTTOM LINE: Strengthening didn't help, sometimes made me worse; TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) had nominal positive effect.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Traditional myofascial release (MFR) Physical Therapy (PT)

My Personal Experience:

Traditional myofascial release (MFR) is a type of hands-on physical therapy (PT) that focuses on releasing muscular tightness to relieve pain. Therapists apply light, sustained pressure to a patient’s muscles to help increase the fluidity of the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles. 


The goal is to increase mobility and decrease pain. (Note, this is different from John F. Barnes MFR, which I describe in a separate page under the Treatments Tab.)


After surgery, drugs, traditional PT, and shots didn't eliminate or adequately reduce my chronic myofascial pain, a friend suggested I try MFR PT. I found a therapist who took my insurance and I starting going twice a week. 


The therapist had me lie down for forty minutes while he pressed on my trigger points and shook my shoulder a little. Then I'd lie with moist heat draped over my upper back and neck for twenty minutes. At least this treatment didn't flare up my pain like the strengthening of "traditional" PT did.


The traditional MFR PT made me feel temporarily better maybe because I got to lie down, but also probably because the therapist was helping to release some of the tension in my tight muscles and fascia. But over time I was not improving. 


After each session I'd feel a little better, but with each new day I was back to the pain I had before the session. I stopped receiving this treatment after about five or six months when I saw no discernible or lasting pain reduction.


I discovered later that there are different approaches to MFR therapy and it was John F. Barnes MFR [JFB-MFR] that eventually helped significantly reduce my pain. 


Traditional MFR PT conducted by a therapist not trained in JFB-MFR did not result in a lasting reduction of my trauma-based myofascial pain.

Rating: (+)

BOTTOM LINE: Didn't provide lasting reduction in pain.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Other Manual Therapies (IMT, OMT, Rolfing)

My Personal Experience:

Three types of bodywork that I briefly address here are:


  • Integrated Manual Therapy (IMT),
  • Osteopathic manipulation treatment (OMT), and
  • Rolfing.

I haven’t received Integrated Manual Therapy (IMT™), however a friend asked me if I knew about it. From a quick internet search, I learned that this integrated treatment approach is manual bodywork that is said to help heal the body on a cellular level and encourage tissue repair by addressing the body’s anatomical, physiological, nutritional, and psychological systems. 


Since I haven’t experienced this treatment, I’m not sure exactly how this is achieved, but given that it is bodywork and takes a holistic approach, as does John F. Barnes myofascial release (JFB-MFR), which was extremely helpful to me, I wouldn’t discredit it.


Osteopathic manipulation treatment (OMT), as explained in Spine-health.com, is a combination of gentle stretching and pressure on the muscles and joints that attempts to improve joint range of motion and to balance tissue and muscle mechanics in order to relieve pain. Manipulation techniques, usually performed by a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine might include:


  • cranial-sacral,
  • counterstrain,
  • high velocity-low amplitude (HVLA), 
  • muscle energy, and
  • myofascial release.

I haven't tried this either, but since I recently moved to a new state and have to find a new doctor, I'm considering looking for an osteopath who can offer this treatment. However, I don’t know if this will tap into emotions tied to past trauma that I believe is critical to my healing, and which I’ve experienced through JFB-MFR, Somatic Experiencing, and eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.


Rolfing® Structural Integration (SI) is a form of bodywork that reorganizes the fascia. It aims to restore flexibility, revitalize one’s energy, and enhance postural efficiency and freedom of movement.  


I haven’t been systematically treated by a Rolfing expert; however, once I had a massage by someone trained in Rolfing. It's the only non-JFB-MFR massage that I would go back to, although for treatment of my chronic myofascial pain, I still prefer JFB-MFR, which works well for me in relieving pain by integrating the mind and body through bodywork.

Rating: (?)

BOTTOM LINE:  Haven't tried.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Patches and Heating Pads

My Personal Experience:

Around a year and a half after I initially ruptured the disc in my neck, and after I had tried painkillers, traditional physical therapy (PT), trigger point (TrP) injections, and traditional myofascial release PT, I was still suffering with unbearable levels of daily pain. My doctor then prescribed Lidocaine patches that adhere to your skin so that numbing medicine can soak into your body. These actually provided me with a little relief.


They didn't fully cure my pain, but while I wore the patches, one of my pain sensations—that of my skin being ripped off my upper back—calmed down slightly. However, I didn't like the idea of administering numbing medicine to my body every day for the rest of my life. Plus, they require a doctor's prescription and cost over $3 per patch. If I used them everyday for forty years, it would cost me $43,800.  


Upon the suggestion of the first myofascial release therapist I saw, I also tried over-the-counter heat patches. These worked as well as the medicine-infused Lidocaine patches, but they didn't require a prescription and were a little cheaper. I wore them every day for months. They did not cure me nor make my pain diminish beyond the times I was wearing them, but they did provide some slight relief (and I still occasionally wear them when my pain spikes). 


I also sometimes lie on an electric heating pad, but because it isn't portable, I prefer the heat patches. However, if I need to lie down to rest my neck anyway, the heating pad gives me a little added pain relief.  

Rating: (++)

BOTTOM LINE: Help to temporarily moderate symptoms, but don't permanently or completely eliminate my pain.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Acupuncture

My Personal Experience:

Many people have told me that acupuncture cured them of their pain. I didn't try it until 2017 (twelve years into my pain). I hadn't tried acupuncture for a few reasons:


  1. I don’t like the thought of getting stuck with needles even though I’d been reassured that they are very fine needles that are barely perceptible;
  2. right before I was about to try it, when nothing else was working, I found the John F. Barnes method of myofascial release (JFB-MFR), which was the first treatment that significantly reduced my pain for a sustained period of time; and
  3. JFB-MFR helped me discover that my pain was tied to past emotional trauma and that in order for my body to heal, I needed to address both emotional and physical aspects of my pain. Therefore, I decided not to spend money on acupuncture when I had already found something so effective.  

The idea of needles makes me bristle. Thus, I tend to steer away from anything that at the mere mention of it causes my muscles to tense. Of course years earlier I allowed myself to get stuck with a needle when I was incredibly desperate for pain relief. If I hadn't found so much relief through JFB-MFR, I suspect I would have put aside my distaste for needles to try acupuncture.


However, since I was still not fully healed, in the fall of 2017 I finally tried acupuncture. I knew that it has helped many. Whether or not it is a placebo effect, I cannot say, but I believe that it probably can help deactivate trigger points (TrPs) (which is supported in an article by Findley, 2013 in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Myofascial Pain which states: “Over 70% of TrPs correspond to acupuncture points used to treat pain”), as well as help balance the energy flows throughout the body. 


But since past TrP injections only temporarily deactivated my TrPs, and because I didn't know if acupuncture would also help me process and resolve my past trauma, I hadn't tried it. I had stuck with what had worked best so far.


However, I had also learned about  Five Element acupuncture and how it can address the mind, body, and spirit and can trigger emotions. Therefore, I thought it might be something worth pursuing, so in 2017 when I was still living with chronic pain, I searched for a Five Element acupuncturist. When I couldn't find one, I decided to try acupuncture anyway. I had moved to a new state and my new doctor suggested I try it along with MFR, since I'd had some success with the MFR.


The acupuncture ended up spiking up my pain. I went four times. The first two times I was stuck in places besides my neck and I felt okay afterwards. The second two times I was stuck in my neck area and my pain got worse. I confess I did have a small amount of extra energy for a couple of hours after the second and third sessions, but after my pain spiked for a solid six weeks, I decided it wasn't worth paying money just to increase my pain.


Maybe if I made sure they didn't stick my neck, and that they were Five Element acupuncturist, it would have been okay. I don't necessarily discredit acupuncture. Maybe the right practitioner would make a difference. But I didn't feel it was worth the time, energy, or money to figure that out. (Click here to read my blog post about my acupuncture experience.) 

Rating: (--)

BOTTOM LINE: Tried briefly; it aggravated my pain.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Chiropractic

My Personal Experience:

I know people who swear by it, but I have not been to a chiropractor. Frankly, the thought of someone playing with my cervical spine scares the crap out of me. My neck pain can flare up easily without anyone touching it. I don’t want to chance it.


I do believe, however, that we are often mal-aligned. Yet personally, I have addressed this mostly through releasing restricted myofascial tissue via John F. Barnes myofascial release (JFB-MFR) or MFR self-treatment. Restrictions in the body's muscle and fascia can pull the body out of alignment and once those restrictions are released, the spine and the rest of the body can fall into place better. 


I also know that cracking or popping my joints can help with alignment and can relieve pain to some degree. I crack my own back by twisting my torso (a habit since my gymnastics years), and my husband and daughter know how to give me a bear hug to crack my back. I also pop my hips into alignment each night before bed. 


By popping or cracking my own joints, I slightly increase my range of motion (although usually only temporarily). I just won't let anyone crack or twist my neck or abruptly move my head.

Rating: (?)

BOTTOM LINE:  Haven't tried, but it scares me.


My Ratings Key:

-----------------------------

(+++) Most effective

(++) Effective

(+) Somewhat effective 

(-) Not effective or hardly effective 

(--) Not effective or partial negative impact 

(---) Not effective and negative impact 

(+/-) Unsure or some positive and some negative impact 

(?) Don't know because I haven't tried at all or enough

------------------------------


Note: Described here is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain.


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)