Friday, February 2, 2007

The Haunting: When Childhood Bumps & Bruises Come Back To Roost In Adulthood.

I’m sure you remember falling off your bike as a kid. Maybe a little accident on the monkey bars or on the ball field. A bump on the head, a bruised knee, a sprained ankle or a sore shoulder from a multitude of childhood horsing and playing around. You went home, mom or dad put on a cold compress and the next day or the day after you’re up and running around again like nothing ever happened.

Ahhhh; but something did happen. Your little bump, bruise, strain or sprain started a little process. Yes it’s your body’s natural healing process but its how we ignore the process that presents the problem. Mom or dad puts an ice pack (if you were lucky) or a heating pad on it for a day or two and then off to the races you go. It doesn’t really matter if you go to a doctor or therapist for treatment of your injury, it will heal on its own regardless. But that doesn’t mean it will heel properly or optimally. That’s where we (the doctors, trainers & therapists) come in.

So, you have some contusion (deep muscle bruise) or strained a muscle that now needs to be fixed. The healing process starts by removing the damaged tissues then when that’s done, it starts bring in the new materials to start rebuilding. Inflammation happens, hopefully it subsides on its own, typically it doesn’t. So you put on some ice, take some over the counter pain killer and you feel fine again. Trust me on this, you’re not fine. You can ignore the pain, the slight change in function and get on with your little life. But the healing process ensues. Eventually, the damaged tissue heals with scar tissue and you’re all patched up. Now, here in lies the problem.

Scar tissue isn’t as good as the original tissue. Just look at any old cut on your arms or hand, or that spot where you skinned your knees as a kid and you can easily see it. Scar tissue has a haphazard matrix of fibers whereas the original tissues matrix is organized. It’s organized based on the specific function of the tissue for both strength and resiliency. Have you ever seen a car that had bad body work done on it? It’s just like that. Most scar tissues (adhesions) are simply a bad “patch job”. If you’re lucky enough to realize what’s going on in the beginning, applying ice compresses, doing light stretching and very light resistance exercise can help scar tissue heal optimally. If you just brushed it off, took a few over the counter pain killers and ignored it, (like most of us); as you get to your mid 30s or 40s all of a sudden you start getting these aches and pain out of nowhere. Then you are forced to deal with it as that once childhood bump, bruise or strain, comes back to Haunt You.

The problem lies in the transition area between the scar tissue and “normal” tissue. It’s a zone of weakness that is prone to re-injury. It’s not that neat organized “normal” flexible tissue you used to have prior to that old injury, and it’s not that thick inflexible scar. It’s the transition somewhere in-between. And it’s weaker!

So, how do you get rid of it?

In the past, we never realized that scar tissue and adhesions from old injuries were such a problem. The conditions were attributed to “old age” (what I call a cop-out), arthritis or the doctor would say something like “you probably twisted yourself in your sleep” or something the like. The approach was typically physical therapy, ice compresses, or heat compresses or stretching or massage, joint mobilization, adjustments to the joints etc. Which, are all good treatments, but never really addressed the primary problem. Now, through a lot of trial and error and some published research, reducing scar tissue and adhesions from old injuries seems to be solving many of the problems people have been told they simply have to “live with”.

Once scar tissues have formed they are pretty darn durable. Which is usually as good thing. But many scars attach to more than just the injured part and therein lies the problem. Muscles, ligaments, connective tissue, fascia etc are all layered on top of one another and they slide & glide on top of each other. When one tissue gets injured, the “stuff” that becomes a scar to heal the area solidified while attaching to a bunch of different tissues in the area bonding them together. But they weren’t made to work together like that, they should work independently. This causes restriction and pain and sometimes it could take years for it to develop as the scars become more mature as the years pass. (Think about lifting your pants leg up while it sticks to your sock or stocking with static cling; or taking a band-aid off a cut while the little white pad sticks to the scab)

You can’t massage them away, some more aggressive stretching works in some cases but is mostly temporary. Typical therapies just never really did the trick. However, over the past 8-10 years a new technology has emerged that directly addresses scar tissues and adhesions at their source. With high density stainless steel soft tissue mobilization tools, doctors and athletic trainers using Graston Technique (aka: Graston Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (GIASTM) have been able to detect both superficial and deep scars and adhesions, reduce and remove them and in combination with post GIASTM treatment protocols, finally get rid of this nemesis that plagues us as we get older. I have great successes with rotator cuff problems, post surgical knees, chronic hip pain after hip replacement surgery, low back pain, TMJ disorders, neck pain deep contusions, ankle sprains, plantar fascitis just to name a few.
The GIASTM technique has been wildly successful to the point where most Athletic Trainers for the NBA, NFL, MLB have become certified and use the technique to treat their pro athletes. This past summer I was down in Cartegena Colombia treating world class athletes along with some colleagues at the 2006 Central American & All Caribean Games; and after only a few days, those of us certified in Graston Technique were getting a huge following amongst the athletes, their team physicians & trainers. Those physicians who weren’t certified, all inquired about signing up for the certification program. That's how powerful this is. Trust me, physicians are a skeptical bunch.

So, if your joints are starting to ache and you feel like you too are suffering from “old age”, maybe try a new approach. If you are an athlete and you feel things aren’t just right, maybe not like they use to be, then seek out a Graston Certified practitioner in your area and put those childhood bumps, strains and bruises back in the past where they belong.

If you need a good Graston Technique physician, athletic trainer or physical therapist, feel free to email me.


Healthfully yours

DocT


Dr. Narson is a 2-term past president of the Florida Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries, Physical Fitness & Rehabilitation and was honored as the recipient of the coveted Chiropractic Sports Physician of the Year Award in 1999-2000. He practices in Miami Beach, Florida at the Miami Beach Family & Sports Chiropractic Center; A Facility for Natural Sports Medicine.

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