This week Ramona Horton sat down with Holly Tanner to discuss manual therapy and her course Mobilization of the Myofascial Layer: Pelvis and Lower Extremity. The following is an excerpt from her interview.
What do we really know about manual therapy? We have decent evidence that shows that asymmetry matters. The tenet of the myofascial course is an osteopathic tenet called ARTS:
The whole myofascial course is designed around looking for ARTS. When you find the asymmetry within the myofascial system then that’s where you direct your efforts and energy.
Often patients have already tried breathing, yoga, medication, etcetera – and it’s the manual therapy piece that they often have not had. It’s not that uncommon for me to be someone’s second or third therapist. Some patients may have tried some type of manual therapy but it was more things like ischemic compression where the problem was that the manual therapy was triggering nociception.
So in the myofascial course, we start with ARTS but we also have an idea where we flip ARTS on its head and we go to STAR. In STAR, you take sensitivity and put it at the top of your list. That becomes the highest portion in your paradigm. Then we use simple techniques that are not non-nociceptive. Indirect technique versus direct technique, such as something as simple as positional inhibition.
The whole idea of the myofascial course is to teach people to think and problem solve. Then have a very broad spectrum way of you find an inner articular issue where this joint is moving and this one is not. Learn to not chase the booboo. Just because it hurts on the right doesn’t mean that you’re going to treat the right. It might hurt on the right because there is a hypo-mobility on the left. Let’s treat where the brain is protecting the tissue, and holding, and guarding the tissue. Trust in the belief that the body is a self-righting mechanism. The body will then normalize itself.
In manual therapy, our job is to get the body moving like it's supposed to. It’s not to fix the ‘booboo.’ The issue is not in the tissue. If the tissue is tight, it’s tight because the brain is keeping it that way. The way I teach manual therapy is the fascial system gives us access to the nervous system. By utilizing the fascial system in a non-nociceptive manner, what we’re really doing is just having a conversation with the brain. We’re not fixing the tissue. That’s the whole premise of the course - to get people to understand and change their thinking and their paradigm to ask what the brain is protecting and utilizing the fascial system.
This blog includes portions of an interview with Ramona Horton. Ramona serves as the lead therapist for her clinic's pelvic dysfunction program in Medford, OR. Her practice focuses on patients with urological, gynecological, and colorectal issues. Ramona has completed advanced studies in manual therapy with an emphasis on spinal manipulation, and visceral and fascial mobilization. She developed and instructs her visceral and fascial mobilization courses for the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute, and presents frequently at local, national, and international venues on topics relating to women’s health, pelvic floor dysfunction, and manual therapy.
How did you start in pelvic rehabilitation and visceral mobilization?
My PT training was through the Army-Baylor program, I was all in for orthopedics and sports medicine until October of 1990. I gave birth to my second child, an adorable, but behemoth, 9lb 9oz baby boy. His delivery, a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was very traumatic on my pelvis, I sustained pudendal nerve injury and muscular avulsion. When I queried the attending OB-GYN about my complete lack of bladder control his response and I quote “do a thousand Kegels a day, and when you’re 40 and want a hysterectomy, we’ll fix your bladder then.” As for the desire to study visceral mobilization, that reflects back to my PT training through the US Army which was 30 years ago, when the MPT was just getting started. It was an accelerated program, to say the least. We received a master's in physical therapy with 15 months of schooling. Given the very limited timeline, which included affiliations and thesis, the emphasis in our training was on critical thinking and problem solving, not memorization and protocols which in 1985 was not the norm. I can still hear the words of our instructors “You have to figure it out, I am not going to give you a cookbook."
Following my initial training in the field of pelvic dysfunction in 1993 I started treating patients. I had a problem, I could not wrap my head around how I was to effectively treat bowel and bladder dysfunction…. without treating the bowel and bladder? I knew that there was more to this anatomy than just pelvic floor muscles and the abdominal wall, but at the time that is what was being treated. Once I started learning VM principles and applying the techniques to my patients I saw a vast improvement in my outcomes. I realized that the visceral fascia is a huge missing link in this field and that somewhere along the line the physical therapy community forgot one simple fact. We are not hollow; the visceral structures attach to the somatic frame through ligaments and connective tissue and have an influence on the biomechanics of said frame.
Why is the adoption of visceral mobilization so rare amongst practitioners who aren’t pelvic specialists?
Most likely several reasons, first they do not deal with dysfunctions that have visceral structures involved the way pelvic health therapists do. The second is a paucity of higher levels of evidence on the effectiveness of VM for musculoskeletal conditions. The third and most difficult issue to deal with is the broad-based claims that VM can be an effective treatment for issues ranging from acute trauma to emotional problems. One website called VM “bloodless surgery”. The problem simply is when anyone purports their technique to be a virtual panacea for all that ails mankind, without adequate evidence to back up the claims, the clinical world raises its collective antennae. These critical remarks are coming from a practitioner, published author, and educator in the VM field. The reality of evidence-based medicine is talk is cheap, research is not.
Why do you believe fascial mobilization is such an important aspect of clinical practice?
Most importantly because fascia is ubiquitous, it is EVERYWHERE throughout the body and it contains a vast neurological network to include nociceptors, mechanoreceptors, and proprioceptors just to name a few. The fascia was that stuff that we all dissected out of the way in anatomy lab so we could learn the assigned structures that soon would have a pin with a number stuck in it that we needed to know for a lab practical. We need to move beyond the “myofascia” and understand that the fascial system has multiple layers in the body starting at the panniculus which blends with the skin, the investing fascia surrounding muscles and forming septae, the visceral fascia which is by far the most complex and the deepest layer of fascia, the dura surrounding the central nervous system. All fascial structures, regardless of layer or location have their origin in the mesoderm of early embryologic development.
Ramona Horton's Fascial Mobilization Series 2022 Course Schedule
Mobilization of the Myofascial Layer: Pelvis and Lower Extremity Satellite Lab Course
Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Urinary System Satellite Lab Course
Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Gastrointestinal System Satellite Lab Course
Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Reproductive System Satellite Lab Course