Bethany was in her early 20s when she was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia. She came to see me in her early 30s, having seen a host of other therapists, and really felt that nothing could be done for her. In fact, the only reason Bethany came to see me was the fact that I was already treating her sister, who was so sure that I would be able to help that she had forced Bethany to come along, and even paid for her assessment!
She was in a bad way: she couldn’t even smile, and told me that she hadn’t even been able to yawn without excruciating pain, for nine years. She was constantly fatigued, limped badly, and complained of “brain fog” – no wonder she was only able to work part time, even working with children in a job she loved!
As soon as I placed my hands on Bethany’s body, I could feel that her nervous system felt tight and “wired”. It felt as though her whole body needed to be calmed, nurtured and “listened to”.
The way into Bethany’s nervous system turned out to be through craniosacral techniques, where I place my hands lightly on different parts of her head and spine, and “listen” with my hands, following the involuntary movements of her body, and sometimes intervening, but always very lightly.
The effect on Bethany has been dramatic: after the first session she said she felt her “brain fog” receding. After four sessions she was able to smile, laugh, and yawn without pain. Her witty sense of humour has returned, and she says that her friends and family have all commented on how much better she is walking. I do not know when we will hit the limits of Bethany’s recovery; but I do know that her quality of life is far higher now than when we started, and that currently, she is continuing to improve.
Peter was only 22 years old when he travelled half way across the country to see me, complaining of pain in lots of different areas of his body: neck, shoulders, back, hips and knees! Unsurprisingly, he was really struggling to carry out his job as a farmer. He was quite depressed and at a loss to understand why he was in such pain, when he hadn’t experienced any severe injuries. He had seen lots of different therapists who had treated the painful joints, with varying degrees of success; and had also had blood tests, which had ruled out systemic issues such as rheumatoid arthritis.
When I looked at Peter’s body as a whole, it was immediately obvious that his feet (about the only parts of him that didn’t hurt!) were not working well. They were very stiff, and he stood on the outsides of his feet, with his big toes barely touching the ground! His posture was also generally poor, with multiple twists and restrictions.
However, when I repositioned Peter’s feet, he was amazed: almost all of his pain disappeared!
I therefore treated Peter, mobilising the joints of his feet and providing tailored insoles which effectively brought the ground up to meet his feet, allowing them to relax. Because he had travelled such a distance to see me, Peter wasn’t able to attend physiotherapy regularly, so I gave him some exercises to increase his foot flexibility and strength, and encouraging him to adopt a more functional foot posture. As I am writing this, it has been 8 months since I saw Peter, though we have stayed in touch; and he tells me he has been diligent with his foot exercises and that his whole body is feeling much better.
Elsa was involved in a severe accident as a 19-year-old physiotherapy student, in which she rolled her car into a lake. Subsequently she developed post-traumatic stress disorder in addition to severe depression, headaches and neck pain. She saw a physiotherapist and a psychologist for two years after the crash, but stopped seeing them when she realised that she had started to mentally associate the therapists with the trauma of the crash, rather than with recovery.
She did recover reasonable function and was able to return to full-time study and eventually work, but the regular, severe headaches and neck pain seemed to be ingrained.
I met Elsa when I redid Diane Lee’s 6-month course on the Integrated Systems Model in 2019. Diane regularly updates the course in line with new research, and I make a point of training with Diane whenever I can! A significant part of the course involves the participants assessing each other’s injuries, and Elsa was proving particularly complicated; but eventually, in the last week of the course, Elsa’s study partner worked out that there was a line of tension between the right side of her skull and the left side of her chest… where her seatbelt had prevented her from flying through the windscreen!
While this was a significant development, treating each other is not part of the course curriculum, and therefore on completion, Elsa came to see me to get her seatbelt injury treated.
Elsa’s nervous system had tightened up along the line of the seatbelt, and stretching her muscles did not work – in fact, it made her feel worse. I therefore used a combination of craniosacral and visceral techniques to gently “untwist” her nervous system and restore the neural flexibility between her cranium and her pericardial ligaments. Her body loved it, and she could feel her headache and neck pain receding.
I then had to think of some “homework” for Elsa, as neural tissue doesn’t usually magically retain its flexibility after one treatment session, and she does not live in the UK so wasn’t going to be able to come back for more.
The Chinese say that the heart is the organ of joy, but Elsa hadn’t been feeling much joy lately, and her pericardial ligaments (the ones that hold your heart in the right place in your chest!) were feeling tight. I wondered whether some visualisation might help, alongside the physical treatment.
I asked Elsa to lie with her head on a still point inducer, while thinking of a time when she had felt really joyful. As she did so, I “listened” to her pericardial ligaments, and felt her chest relax and soften! Apparently we were onto a winner, so I asked Elsa what she had been visualising. She told me that two days before our session, she had been to see the play Harry Potter: The Cursed Child, and that this was the most joyful experience she could imagine! I therefore prescribed her the homework of using a still point inducer each night for 10-15 minutes while listening to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter audiobooks! Elsa says it’s the best “homework” a physiotherapist has ever given her, and that her headache still hasn’t returned.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 situation and I’m delighted to announce that I will be reopening my Liverpool Street physiotherapy clinic on 5 October, with everything wipe-clean and COVID-safe!
However, the current government advice is that I have to see patients online before I can see you in clinic, and that I should only see you face to face (or mask to mask!) if we both agree that the benefits of hands-on treatment outweigh the risks of coronavirus transmission. If this is not the case, then I do plan to continue to offer online treatment for the foreseeable future.
But if you want to be one of the first people to see me in clinic on my return, call my team on 0207 175 0150 and book an online session before 25 Sept.