News: Alternative Medicine

The Many Faces of Body Work

My first attempts to integrate my own body started with a chiropractor years ago. I quickly moved on to yoga and craniosacral — osteopathic — methods. About a year into this, I realized that, in terms of my own awareness, I had opened a can of worms.

Asymmetries in my physique that I had never thought about were now apparent. My right shoulder always felt tighter than the left, for example. Mild pain that I had ignored now occupied my attention and worried me. Not only this, but the pain moved around from one problem spot to another, requiring more body work and personal development. What also came with this was an ability: a self-willed release of both inner and outer pain.

Here are some examples of experiences that worked for my problems when medicine either didn't or when my own doctors referred me to physical therapy and/or body work. After a ski trip and a head cold several years ago, I developed ringing, stuffiness and distorted hearing in one ear. My ear specialist agreed that this was not infection after 10 days of antibiotics had done no good.

The next step was to take a diuretic — water pill — to get rid of excess fluid somewhere in my inner ear. Instead, after one craniosacral and eclectic body work session with physical therapist Vicki Fairchild at Light Touch Physical Therapy and Body Work Center in Blue Ash, the problem disappeared.

About a year ago this last March, I fell forward while showing off for my kids on a mogul run during our ski trip out West, tearing a ligament in my left shoulder. I began physical therapy with a Feldenkrais practitioner the next day for two days, came back home and on the advice of my orthopedist, headed for more physical therapy. It was then that I worked with the rest of the staff at Light Touch for the first time, on methods ranging from craniosacral work to standard physical therapy techniques and exercises. I did achieve my goal at the time, which was to be skiing in British Columbia one month later. Today my shoulder is back to normal.

Light Touch, however, offers a multitude of therapies and practices beyond manual methods. Collectively, these are termed essence in movement.

"Our philosophy in physical therapy and essence in movement is to address the entire person, not just the symptoms they may have," Fairchild says.

This might seem like a large task, but the entire staff at Light Touch shares a mission. Fairchild and her husband/partner Dana J. Pilolli, massage therapist and personal fitness trainer, have brought together a group of dedicated individuals.

"We use an integrated approach, which considers an individual's history, symptoms, lifestyle, personal goals and overall health, including state of well-being," Fairchild says. "Once the immediate problems such as pain are addressed, we begin to integrate a variety of approaches from the fields of movement and somatic studies."

What is occurring at Light Touch is a huge addition to what the public typically is offered in a physical therapy setting.

As Fairchild says, "With most treatments that are prescribed, the prescription only provides so much time. Healing is a process. When one is finished with physical therapy, he or she can continue to learn at essence in movement to reach a chosen potential, or continue a full body fitness program at home or in another facility."

The essence in movement program is based on the concept of "intelligent movement." An intelligent movement program might include any or all of Leban movement analysis, body-mind centering, Pilates-based exercises from the Polestar Method and/or suggestions for participation in classes that include Pilates-based mat classes, Tai Chi, dance aerobics or other dance forms, yoga and authentic movement.

Fairchild likes to point out that clients are not simply learning yoga postures or doing aerobics. Rather, "through these various options, an awareness of one's individual goals and needs in relation to personal physique is emphasized. This awareness affects one's physical function as well as influencing the feeling, emotional level. To connect an exercise or movement with yourself and begin to understand and feel what is happening in your body — that's intelligent movement."

Initial physical therapy might include pain-relieving modalities, therapeutic exercises, craniosacral therapy, visceral manipulation, myofascial release, mechanical link or joint mobilization. Other supporting therapies include massage and Feldenkrais.

"My experience as a physical therapist with pathology helps me integrate this program for those with limitations," Fairchild says. "I know not only what has to be done for, say, a damaged knee joint, but what can be done due to the immediate limitations of damaged tissue and also the long-term potential of repair and healing."

In my own training at Light Touch, I've most recently begun working on the reformer with various staff, but I try to get an appointment with Pilolli in case I change my mind and opt for a massage that day. The reformer involves deceptively simple exercises with pulleys and light weights. I say deceptively because after an hour session of arm work, my arms, shoulders and neck feel like they have a better fit together. Not only that, despite the light weight, I feel toned up as if I've been doing a complete workout in the gym.

"That's what's interesting about it," Pilolli says. "The reformer challenges the body and the mind to work efficiently by enhancing core strength."

The level of research into body work, even physical therapy that we rely on a great deal in medicine, is not extensive or well-controlled. There are some interesting findings, however. Optimal pelvic angle might be created through a variety of methods, and this result seems to create a reduction in nerve/hormonal responses, which might often contribute to things like high blood pressure. So, in addition to correcting injuries, long-term and profound alterations in one's entire system might occur.

One important outcome of integrated physical movement often not mentioned is the possibility of becoming less prone to future injury. Other benefits reported include decreasing or eliminating pain from problems in the spine, eliminating headaches and TMJ problems, rehabilitation after bone fractures and joint injuries and helping in healing strains and sprains. An enhanced sense of well-being, more energy, less strain on the job and improved awareness of physical sensations can keep one on the path of overall health and fitness.

Light Touch Physical Therapy is not resting on its current success. The staff plans, in the near future, to add Qi Jong for children, Tae Bo, adult and children's ballet and Ashtanga Yoga.

In a world where physical therapies and movement techniques are becoming more and more numerous, having the choice and integration in one center makes Light Touch Physical Therapy and Body Work Center unique, and gives clients a greater chance of personal success.

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