How Can We Heal from Pain?
It was the morning of my 43rd birthday and while driving to work on the freeway, I was involved in a high-speed crash. I had been driving along at 65 mph and had braked for a slowdown in front of me. However, the driver behind me did not slow down and proceeded to drive into the back of my car. Upon impact, I heard my mother’s voice inside my head, “Pull over, pull over!” so I steered toward the median, but my car had already started to spin. The front side panel slammed into the guardrail and the car ricocheted and spun into the opposite direction. Then the rear side panel hit the guardrail and ricocheted back again as I quickly turned the steering wheel one way, and then the other, to counteract the spin. Everything was happening in slow motion when I somehow managed to get the car under control and stopped. I just sat there for a minute and looked around. Then I heard my mother’s voice again telling me to call 911.
Everyone said I was lucky that day and they were probably right. The CHP officer remarked that I “walked away” from a serious accident. My chiropractor said he couldn’t believe my car hadn’t flipped considering the high-speed impact. The ER nurse glanced over my body and sent me home with a prescription for painkillers. She said, “You’re fine, no broken bones, just soft tissue damage.” Indeed. It was the beginning of a long healing process from acute injuries and subsequent chronic pain.
What is Soft Tissue Damage?
When we think of soft tissue, we often think of our muscles, skin, and maybe tendons and ligaments. But another type has emerged into common parlance in the last 15 years or so, and it’s called connective tissue or fascia.
Connective tissue (or fascia) is a system inside of our bodies, just like the skeletal system or circulatory system. It is a matrix of tissue that
surrounds and envelopes everything else inside of our bodies, for example, muscles, organs, and nerves. It is like a pliable scaffolding that supports and protects us. An example of connective tissue in nature is on the inside of an orange. Inside the orange you can see that thin layer of white stuff that separates each orange segment—that is connective tissue in an orange. It supports the essence, or roundness, of the orange. In our bodies, we have layer upon layer of fascia, and in between those layers is fluid that allows the layers to effortlessly glide over one another. These layers form a matrix which we need so that we can move effortlessly without pain. This matrix helps us stay upright when we’re standing, supports us when we’re active, and protects us or helps us recover when we trip and almost fall down.
But sometimes we DO actually fall down! Does this mean that our connective tissue is broken? The short answer is that, yes, it’s likely not working efficiently for you. Maybe those tissue layers are stuck together. Maybe the fluid that is supposed to be in between the layers can’t get in there (because of injury, stress, repetitive motion) and the tissue has become stiff and dehydrated. As a result, our brain detects something is wrong and starts to send pain signals down to that area to let you know “Hey! Danger! There is something wrong right here!” In response to the pain, many of us take over-the-counter medication such as aspirin, or prescription drugs to get rid of the pain. However, although these drugs may temporarily help, often it simply masks the pain and you’re no closer to fixing the problem.
Just Fix Me!
In the months and years that followed the car accident, I felt like my body betrayed me. Having been healthy all my life, I now had major pain. I had vision changes and confusion from the effects of the concussion. My husband said my personality changed and simple joyful things that I liked to do before the accident, such as singing, were things I no longer did. I developed chronic hip pain and the worst headaches I’d ever experienced. All of this from “just soft tissue damage.”
For five years I searched, studied, and tried numerous modalities to help my body heal. I just wanted someone to fix the pain. Everything I tried worked to varying degrees, but nothing worked 100% and I wasn’t open to surgery or long-term prescription drugs. Then, I got lucky. I happened upon a workshop in New York City on fluid movement. During that first day, the instructor got my attention when she told me that I could heal myself. She taught me how to listen to my primordial oceans and allow my body to move fluidly. After the workshop, I sat at a restaurant with my sister and realized that, for the first time in four years, my neck didn’t hurt. I loved the feeling, but I didn’t know or really understand what had just happened.
The next day after the workshop, the instructor invited me to attend a talk at a neighboring studio with Sue Hitzmann, the creator of the MELT Method—a method based on a physical model with lots of science to back it up. I was tired but I reluctantly agreed to attend. I’m glad that I did because it turned out to be one of my best decisions ever made!
Sue explained why, when there seems to be nothing wrong, we can still feel pain. Unlike me, some people haven’t been in an accident, they haven’t fallen, haven’t been under crazy stress. In fact, maybe they’re leading a very healthy life; they’re active, they eat organic foods, their stress is low. But, they still have inexplicable aches and pains—sometimes severe pain.
She explained that when a pain becomes chronic, it is connective tissue dehydration that makes the pain persevere over time. Once connective tissue is dehydrated, it’s not a matter of simply drinking more water to reverse the effects. You have to intervene and actually do something to effect the change. You have to stimulate your connective tissue cells to fix the problem. That is what the MELT Method does.
It’s Not about the Muscle…It’s about the (stabilizing) Mechanisms
At first I didn’t think that I could do the MELT techniques because I still felt weak and injured, and not at all confident. But, Sue instilled confidence in me. She said, “MELT is not about how strong you are; it’s about getting your body stable.” She was right. I was able to do several techniques, and by the end of the demonstration I felt different. Not only was I in less pain, but I understood what had happened because she had explained it every step of the way. I understood the name of the technique I was doing, how to do it, why I was doing it, and the benefits of it. I understood my options too, in case something didn’t feel right, I knew what to do instead because she told me.
What happened next is that I went home and started doing the MELT Method for ten minutes daily. I felt better, was in less pain, and in a better mood. Over several weeks, as my body became more and more stable, I was able to start taking long walks, without experiencing pain afterward! My hip pain was 80% better and my headaches were gone. Then, as I continued MELTing, I learned the MELT Performance techniques, which are designed to help you strengthen your weak areas. This was the cherry on top that eliminated my hip pain 100%. I no longer live with any pain. If something new crops up due to my active life or aging, I know what to do because I understand how to fix it myself with the MELT Method.
What I came to realize is that once you get fluid moving in your body and you activate your ground-force mechanisms, you become more stable and can move more efficiently. This leads to better alignment, and better alignment leads to less compression in the joints of the body. Less compression in the joints means less inflammation, and less inflammation leads to less pain. The MELT Method techniques makes your body stable, which leads to numerous other benefits. In contrast, if you exercise in a compromised body that has compensations, you likely won’t resolve the pain, instead you simply train your body to become better at managing those compensations. You never get to the crux of the matter; you just keep treating the symptoms. So try 10 minutes of MELTing before you do your workout or start your day. All you need is about 10 minutes a day to get your body stable, get rid of pain for good, and live better, longer.
Leanne has been teaching the MELT Method since 2013. She offers two classes weekly at the TYC: Mondays at 3:30 pm, and Saturdays at 11:45 am. She was trained by Sue Hitzmann, the creator of the MELT Method in all of the techniques and the new science, including the MELT Hand and Foot Treatments, the MELT soft roller system, and MELT Performance.