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Soft tissue manipulation has proven itself to be beneficial for scoliotic conditions, and vacuum manual therapy is providing a valuable missing link in treatment protocols.
Adding this method of decompression aids the tissue by releasing deep patterns that hold the bony structure in a forward or sideways twist associated with conditions such as hyperkyphosis, hyperlordosis and scoliosis.
Soft Tissue Memory
Neuromuscular function creates soft tissue memory from trauma, which could include trauma from an injury or repetitive movements. The three dimensional fascial system, as seen in “Strolling Under the Skin” by Jean-Claude Guimberteau, M.D., can also get stuck in position from the same causes.
The strands of fascia become tangled and dehydrated from inflammation, and vacuum decompression helps draw fluids into the area while it gently pulls the strands apart.
One of the most critical areas to address in working with spinal curvatures is the diaphragm. If all or part of the diaphragm is elevated, the surrounding structures have no choice but to accommodate the abnormality.
The diaphragm can be affected by so many life experiences, such as compression during birth, a multitude of other childhood injuries and illnesses, falls that “knocked the wind out” of the lungs, asthma or chronic bronchitis, pregnancy with a large child and even traumatic experiences such as car accidents or physical abuse.
One case that stands out for me is a young man who was beaten and robbed in his home. His spine had curved into the position he took to protect himself and would not release.
While it was a challenge to access his diaphragm, it proved to be the main cause of his dysfunction. Once it was released to return to its normal position, the upper body structures could revert as well.
Vacuum manual therapy makes the process of releasing the diaphragm so much easier, and if manual techniques such as massage therapy are added in, accessing the diaphragm is much more comfortable after the vacuum has been used to pull it down.
Hypertonic vs. Hypotonic Tissue
Once the diaphragm has been addressed, the next step is to release hypertonic tissue and strengthen hypotonic muscles. For most spinal curvatures, anterior and posterior muscle groups must be included to address all compensatory patterns.
For the anterior neck, use the vacuum cup to release the contracted sternocleidomastoid and platysma, with special attention to the clavicular attachments.
Use a smaller cup to soften scalenes. For the posterior neck, use a smaller cup and deeper vacuum pressure to tone splenius capitus and splenius cervicus, along with levator scapulae.
Release anterior deltoid and pectorals, especially the attachments along sternum. Then release serratus anterior, anterior intercostals, rectus abdominus and obliques from their locked and contracted positions.
Tone erector spinae, posterior intercostals, latissimus, serratus posterior, along with rhomboids, obliques, trapezius, levator scapula and posterior deltoid.
Rotator Cuff Muscles
It is vital to address the forward rotation of the shoulders that occurs with most spinal curvature conditions. Assess restrictions and treat subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and the upper bicep to tone hypotonic and release hypertonic tissue.
Working with Rods, Plates and Cables
Many people have had corrective surgeries and appliances implanted after being diagnosed with scoliosis or other spinal curvature disorders, while others are told to simply live with the condition.
Vacuum manual therapy can help relieve soft tissue issues, and this gives appliances the ultimate opportunity to assist the structure to stay in place.
One very fascinating case presented itself recently, a young woman who has had multiple surgeries since late childhood that included implantation of Harrington rods, plates and cables. We began work on the diaphragm and lower intercostals, and discussion began about childhood injuries.
Due to her posture, I began work on the anterior torso and then moved up to release the anterior neck. As the session progressed to the posterior of the body, evidence of some kind of trauma showed itself in the clients’ shoulders and neck.
As it turned out, she had found out from her mother that she suffered a very serious fall down cement steps when she was 3 or 4 years old. She had basically fallen down the stairs on her head.
Patterns showed up in her tissue indicating compensatory patterns and restrictions. I followed them around her body with the vacuum cup. By the time her session was done, her shoulders were lying flat on the table and her posture had changed considerably. Now the appliances can work even better to keep her structure in place, and a series of treatments will be required to recondition the soft tissue.
As seen in the case above, there can be a logical event in childhood that could begin the development of scoliosis, hyperkyphosis and hyperlordosis. Working with the extra-large cups and observing the tissue can offer big clues about the origin of dysfunction in the form of restrictions and discolorations.
These can clearly be seen through the vacuum cup as it is moved over the area, and restrictions look like large dents, while the discolorations can range from black, brown, yellow, gray, red and even green. All of this is old blood and other substances that became trapped at the site of injury.
The truly interesting part is helping the person being treated to remember what incident or activity could be showing itself in their tissues.
Childhood events such as falls in gymnastics and ballet, equestrian pastime injuries, car and bike accidents or even years of mucking out horse stalls can clearly show themselves in the restrictions and colors under the skin.
It is an amazing moment to realize that even experiences so long in the past can still have an effect on our current posture and movement.
Vacuum manual therapy provides a new window into assessment of spinal curvature conditions, as well as aiding in the release and re-patterning of the tissues to maintain optimal spinal health.
The addition of powerful micro-cup magnets into the treatments can also help produce positive results.
There is so much to learn about scoliosis and other spinal curvature disorders, and truly effective treatment incorporates a team of professionals that often includes medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, exercise physiologists and massage therapists.
Specific exercises, some of which involve a special “ladder” or even particular yoga movements that are designed to help support correction of curvatures, are also a big part of an effective treatment regimen.
About the Author
Anita Shannon has been licensed in massage therapy and cosmetology since 1983. An educator since 1990, she appears at national chiropractic, massage, and spa conventions and currently presents workshops on ACE Massage Cupping and MediCupping at international locations since developing these brands of bodywork in 2002. She has published multiple articles in Les Nouvelles Esthetiques, Massage Today, Massage & Bodywork and Massage Magazine and has created five educational videos on vacuum therapies. She was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame in 2011.
About ACE Massage Cupping & MediCupping
TheraCupping, LLC does business as ACE Massage Cupping & MediCupping to provide training and equipment for vacuum manual therapies. The techniques and equipment can be used by hospitals and other medical professionals, CAM (complementary alternative medical) service providers, spas and massage therapy clinics, and the general public. The products range from professional vacuum machines to soft silicone cups for home use, and all equipment is supported with comprehensive educational videos, certification workshops, and online education.
ACE (Advanced Continuing Education) techniques are based on a somatic approach to treatments that is clearly understood by both health care professionals and laypersons. Many other companies promote traditional uses from Traditional Chinese Medicine (and other traditional medical approaches) that utilize a vastly different system of evaluation and treatment. ACE is dedicated to teaching safe and highly effective techniques that utilize medical massage and manual and physical therapies as the foundation.