Inflammation and Distribution of Energy
So many of us have no idea of what inflammation is really about. As massage therapists, we understand what it is, how it feels, and what it does. But what do you do to help GET RID of it?
I have spent over 20 years watching inflammation and the effects of what inflammation can do with my clients. In those 2 decades, I have observed some interesting facts about inflammation and how we are continually working with it – or more often than not -against it.
I found that the human machine has its own predetermined codes for distribution of energy and system fails or fail-safes. I have also found as a massage therapist, I can override those controls – in a positive or negative way. The choice is in how I chose to treat the system and in what state the system is in when I go to treat it.
The greatest piece of information I can give to any hands-on therapist is:
Pain treated with pain will ALWAYS backfire with the individual who has a tired or exhausted immune system.
The hard part of this is that the person who wants pain treated with pain is the client who is in high levels of pain. So what do you do then? The answer to this involves some re-education about inflammation.
Inflammation Has a Governor: The Immune System
This is something that has a “catch 22” situation attached to it. Someone who is chronically in pain and is trying to heal will find that the immune system becomes too busy with creating all the necessary products to fight pain, that the inflammatory process is left unfinished.
The other jobs of the immune system, specifically environmental clean-up, gets less distribution of energy and you see the body lose its hold on the ability to keep homeostasis in regards to bacterial and viral control. The overall outcome of this is that if there is an underlying issue in the autoimmune category, when the immune system is overwhelmed, it will make itself known.
Chronic pain suffers are more likely to have an autoimmune issue show up in their lifetime. This dividing of the energy of the immune system between pain management and true immune function is what creates that opportunity.For so many of my chronic pain sufferers, they feel like they “all-of-a-sudden” developed an autoimmune disease. This has always made me wonder if we are all susceptible to some kind of autoimmune disease in our genetic code and it just takes a certain amount of depletion of the immune system to see what it is.
Pain depletes the immune system and we then see the result of a depleted system – lupus, diabetes, reactive thyroid, etc.
Pain, Inflammation, and Autoimmune Issues
How do you treat a client with pain and inflammation who is constantly dealing with autoimmune issues?
While the autoimmune disease is now considered “active”, if we can effectively reduce pain in the body, the disease seems to become “less active”. This requires that the treatment we apply does 2 things at the same time:
Dramatically reduce pain
Does not require further inflammation to heal the treatment application you just gave
This is where treatment application and measured outcome becomes important. Measured outcome involves having a beginning pain level, and ending pain level, and a goal for change.
The 4-Point Pain Changer
Using a 10-point pain scale, your goal in these massage sessions is to drop pain 4 points. There are a few concerns I always hear from therapists that I teach to work this way.
4-points does not feel like I am doing enough
I want to help my client get out of more pain, if not have their pain gone
This client wants really deep pressure, everywhere, and I want to help them and provide what they are asking for
What you need to realize is that for inflammation to drop it has to have the energy to finish its job. This sounds somewhat backwards, but one of the biggest reasons inflammation is so unstable is that it cannot finish its building processes. It breaks down and restarts; constantly in a remodeling phase, never finishing, because it lacks enough raw materials to do so. The materials are being distributed to fighting pain, instead.
When you can reduce pain levels, you automatically start allocating “funds” to the inflammatory process. For massage, decreasing pain without increasing inflammation becomes your #1 focus for healing phases to occur.
On the 10-point pain scale, dropping pain below a 5 is your magic number. Anything below a 5 is when this “shift” occurs from pain management supply to inflammation supply.
Measured outcomes look like this. Your client comes in with different pain levels. You goal is to do the following;
She comes in with an 8- pain level (10-point scale); leaves at a 4-pain level
Next treatment she comes in at a 7; she leaves at a 3
Next treatment she comes in at a 6; she leaves at a 2
Next treatment she comes in at a 5 (bingo!); and leaves at a 1
The frequency of treatment and length of treatment protocol all affect how this process happens. This could be 2 – half hour session a week to achieve this or perhaps 1 weekly or biweekly massage of an hour. Whatever the treatment protocol, the goal is to get this person to the healing phases of inflammation and then LET this person heal. The long-term treatment plan is to get this person to a maintenance schedule of once or twice a month to manage their body.
Every client is different. However, if they are looking for the same measured outcome (4-point change), together you can set up a treatment system to meet the goal of staying below a 5-pain level. Once inflammation has finished its more acute processes, you will find a treatment schedule that allows their body to continue healing (whatever keeps them below a 5).
The most important thing to remember is to ask a pre-treatment pain level and post treatment pain level to be able to measure the outcome of your treatment. If you beginning and ending pain are the same level, then your treatment protocol will need to change to create the 4-point change for your client. It may take a few sessions, but with communication, you and your client will begin to find the treatment applications that create the biggest changes in their body.
Pain Patterns and Solutions Seminars (PPS) has a unique approach to inflammation by working with Scar Tissue patterns in the body. Scar Tissue is a normal process of inflammation and working with this tissue helps the inflammatory process do its job more efficiently. This hands-on technique teaches you how to change the muscles without increasing inflammation in the body.
Click here to watch a FREE video on how to release the Rhomboid Triggerpoints through the IT Band.