I Have a New Friend. His Name is “Neuroma”.
When it comes to learning something new about the body, I swear I always get to learn it on myself. I have told the powers that be, “No really, I’m good! I don’t need to learn more!”. However, that doesn’t seem to work and the most powerful lessons are usually something I have to feel inside my own body to understand.
That is where most of the Pain Patterns & Solutions (PPS) concepts have come from that many of you enjoy using with your clients. Me, hurting myself in some way or another, and then figuring out how to “fix” it. I know, I know. “Change your intention” has just not seemed to work. But if I didn’t learn all of this somehow, how would you get all the good stuff about new and improved ways to work on the body to heal pain? I think I am finally beginning to understand how to learn from others mistakes so the trend may be on its way out (I hope, LOL).
Back to my little friend, the Neuroma.
This neuroma thing has probably been the most interesting treatment concept I have learned about body physics so far. Body physics is just basically understanding why pain and healing do the repeatedly,dynamic things that they do in the body. There is ALWAYS a reason something hurts and it is mostly likely NOT where you think it is coming from.
The answer to working successfully with most pain, my neuroma included, has to do with working with the opposite end of the problem. Opposite can mean many different things in the body – not always directly opposite but “opposing” as well.
The answer to my neuroma: I was able to help my foot heal by working with the opposite hand, but with a couple more steps in treatment.
You see, I developed a neuroma within a very short period of time of receiving a hand injury. Once I figured out how to work with my hand injury the neuroma started to decrease in inflammation and heal. It started to go away on its on.
In March of 2013, I did something SO stupid. I fell at a gas station while trying to step over the fueling line because I didn’t want to walk all the way around my car to avoid it. I caught my toe on the hose and the next thing I know I was body-slamming the concrete. I had my keys in my right hand and when I fell on my palms to catch myself, the impact with those keys in my hand was severe enough that it dislocated my right middle finger. I jum
It stayed that way until I had surgery 6 months later. In that time, let’s just say I had to learn to do all kinds of things with my left hand. I tried to let my hand heal without surgery because I was told that I wouldn’t be able to do massage anymore if my hand was operated on. I have been a massage therapist for 23 years and that just didn’t seem like an option for me. As it was, I finally gave into surgery because I was in constant pain and really had no choice. Fortunately, although I am limited with what I can do, I am still doing massage. The doctor did a great job with my hand and I am so thankful for the beautiful work he did!
Here is where the neuroma comes in. About 3 months after surgery, my left foot started to bother me. The second toe seemed like it wanted to go numb when I was walking on the treadmill and my favorite shoes (flip flops) were not comfortable to wear anymore.
Within 6 months of surgery, I was starting to hobble and after 12 months it was obvious what was wrong with my foot. The constant burning, numbness, and pain in between my toes and on the top of foot would keep me up at night.
I could tell you that my foot pain and neuroma came from my hand injury – it was just too coincidental. I preach Scar Tissue, injury, and compensation patterns day in and day out with my seminars for advanced pain management.
However, working the surgical scar in my hand wasn’t helping my foot at all. That would be the most reasonable answer in my mind but it actually made my foot hurt worse. I was just about ready to go see a doctor (again) about treatment options for the neuroma when something happened that made it feel better. One of my students, during a conversation, was just being nice to me and rubbed the whole top of my hand, not just my surgical site, and my foot instantly felt relief. You would think I would have figured this out for myself but apparently this was also a lesson in becoming too hyper-focused on one area.
*I have also tried this concept with several of my clients and I am starting to see a pattern that seems to be working. I have more to learn but if you are hurting as much as I was hurting you are willing to do just about anything to ease that pain.
Below is an outline of how this concept works.
The surgery on my right hand was between the second and third finger. The neuroma was between the second and third toes on the left. It is actually the same place on the foot that it was in my hand. That seemed easy enough to correlate. It didn’t work, however, to rub the scar of the hand to ease the pressure in the foot.
I had to work with the Scar Tissue on my 5th knuckle to be able to work with the scar from the surgery to create the change I was looking for.
This picture below was just a month or two ago. There is a constant amount of swelling in my hand and also a larger “knot” of Scar Tissue on my 5th knuckle – even though I work it all the time. Look at how it seems pronounced on that pinky. You only see it when I make a fist.
Basically, there were 4 parts and the 4th is important:
Work the compensating Scar Tissue in the same hand for the injury.
Then work the injury itself (the scar or injury).
Then the compensating Scar Tissue in the foot (matching the compensating Scar Tissue in the hand – the little- toe same place).
And then I just let the area that was SO inflamed just heal meaning I LEFT IT ALONE and let it just heal with the absence of pressure and pull. If I rubbed my foot it inflamed the nerve further and I created a standstill in my healing process.
Who would have thought that not touching pain would help it heal? I relearn this lesson all the time. Pain is just a signal, not necessarily an invitation to work on that area.
If you follow PPS bodywork, you already know that everything has a correlation to pain. Scar Tissue in one area of the body creates pain in another area of the body. You just have to see and understand the correlation between the two points.
So for the hand, and foot, there is a chain reaction that happens inside the hand (or foot) before it becomes part of a whole body balancing. A domino effect if you will, kind of accordion style from finger to finger. That’s where the “pinching-action” for the neuroma (nerve pinched and irritated between the bones) comes into play.
An injury that happens to the hand, like mine, creates a heavy stabilizing point of Scar Tissue that is inside the same hand ,opposite of the injury. Like for me, injury between the second and third finger created a stabilizing point on the fifth finger.
To balance within the body (this is the physics part), the compensating stabilizing point becomes opposite the hand dynamically. So, dynamic means the opposite foot. What that means is that I created Scar Tissue to stabilize in my foot, along the little toe edge (fifth toe), which them created pressure between the digits – the accordion. Ending up at the same location, opposite, as my surgery. Correlated, but not as directly as you would like to think it would be.
It is something I am now referring to as the “double negative”. I have also lovingly called it “the rack” because I felt that way in my low back at the same time. Like the torture method except everything was being pulled outward in 2 directions at the same time and my back was feeling like it was being stuck between my hand and foot (and twisted….and hurting…and anyways…)
Back to the neuroma. I started rubbing the outside of my right hand ALL THE TIME. Anytime my left foot started hurting I rubbed my hand. It takes a little retraining of the brain to not rub what hurts but to use that pain as a signal that it is time to rub somewhere else. I didn’t care about inflammatory cycles or anything else. I just wanted my foot to quit hurting!
Over a very short period of time, I started to isolate the ONE area that gave it the most relief. It was a “scientific method” again of rubbing just one small area, then move my foot around and check for pain. Rub another area just a centimeter away, move my foot. I repeated this until I found the one, small area that was like a “breath of relief or absence of heat” and the pain would ease substantially for awhile. For me it was at the base of the knuckle, top of the hand, fifth finger. Anytime I start to feel pressure in my foot, I rubbed there. I still do.
It has taken about 3-4 months of consistent work to be able to feel like my foot is about 80-90% normal again. The nerve was mad, pinched, inflamed, and calloused I think. Nerves take time to heal. I am walking normal, mostly pain-free again, and cautiously wearing flip flops. My hand is still trying to heal (while I am still working at the massage table) and it also seems that the more I over-use my hand, the more my neuroma rears it’s ugly head. So there is a balance that I have to work with there as well.
This was not an instant connection like the rhomboid Trigger Point to the IT Band (check out the video on the website on how to work with that pesky point). It took consistent effort on my part at home, almost daily, to change it. For your clients or yourself it would be the same. Homework in the form of having them work their own hand or foot would be important. Keeping it out of pain to heal is also important.
I have been applying this to clients who have Trigger Fingers (prior foot surgery or injury), hand and wrist injuries for bunions, and so on. I have had some clients who dislocated fingers (or broke; damaged fingers and wrists) a decade ago or more and now are just developing a neuroma similar to myself. The length of time between the connection makes no difference. If you have had and injury to your fingers or hand, it will eventually show up in the opposite foot. If you have had an injury to your foot, it will eventually show up in your hand. For some reason it just takes more time to get there, thankfully, for some. For me the injury I sustained, with the surgery required to fix my hand, just got me to the neuroma point faster. Without that, I am not sure I would have observed the connection. Blessings in disguise so to speak.
There is a connection and it is working to approach it this way to alleviate pain. I still have a lot to learn and will share what I find out. All I know is that a neuroma starts in the opposite hand, from the opposing Scar Tissue for the injury within that hand. The double negative. Try it out on yourself or your clients and tell me how it works for you.