I took my first John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (JFBMFR) course last March in Bellevue, WA. It was an eye-opening experience in which I felt like I had finally “come home.” The techniques were simple, yet had better results than I had ever seen in my 11 years of manual therapy training, and on the last day of class I experienced what is known as “unwinding.” Many people in the therapy world are quite skeptical of this work, as it incorporates fascial tissue, energy, gentle techniques and emotional components. Throughout my career I had noticed and become aware of many of these components, but didn’t know what they were or what to do with them. I felt areas of the body get warm, I saw redness popping up at places that I was not working on, I had a few people cry or laugh randomly and have no idea why these emotions were happening to them (they weren’t particularly sad or happy at the time). As soon as I felt my own personal “unwinding” in my last hour of class that weekend, it all came together and made sense. I was no longer a skeptic – once you feel it for yourself, I don’t know if you can be a skeptic anymore.
As soon as I returned from this course, I added JFBMFR into my treatments and started seeing and feeling things change that I hadn’t been able to affect with my previous techniques. Some people thought it was odd – “why aren’t you pushing hard on me?,” “why aren’t your hands moving?” It made me question what I was doing, and for people that weren’t able to accept this new technique, or weren’t responding to it well, I carried on with my other arsenal of manual therapies (dry needling, joint mobilization, deep tissue release). I would say though, that 90% of my patients were pleasantly surprised by the results that they received from this gentle technique. They wondered why no one else had ever done this to them, or how was I able to loosen up things that no other deep techniques had been able to loosen before? I started seeing incredible results with headaches, migraines and neck pain, as I had learned quite a few cranial techniques in the class that I had never heard of before. Most people (myself included) forget that our skull is covered in muscle and fascia as well, and I found that these were amazing techniques for people that hadn’t found migraine relief from any other treatments.
So I incorporated JFBMFR into my treatments and that is when I realized that I had to get out of the insurance world. Insurance would only pay for about 15 minutes of treatment, and these techniques required prolonged holds that require at least 45-60 minutes. When I would randomly have a longer amount of time with a patient, I would see such amazing results!! I couldn’t go on knowing that I had much better forms of treatment in my skill set, but couldn’t utilize them because of insurance restrictions. I had to find a way to treat people in the way that I knew would be the most beneficial for them, or else I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. In August of 2017 I officially opened Solstice Physical Therapy and it has been incredible! I am seeing so much better outcomes, I’m able to treat any part of the body that I feel is beneficial (the source of the pain is almost never at the actual area of pain), and my patients are seeing faster results because they are getting 60 minute treatments, one-on-one with me. I absolutely LOVE what I do!
So back to JFBMFR, I knew that I wanted and needed to learn more, so on March 11th I took off to Sedona, AZ for a week of further training. My first 3 days consisted of a course called Unwinding. This is most-likely the treatment that gains the most skepticism in the therapy world, and to tell you the truth, it looks and sounds weird! Unwinding is the body’s way of releasing and working through past traumas (emotional, physical, injuries, etc) that have been held in the tissues and are causing the person discomfort, pain, and a slew of other symptoms that are unexplainable (examples are insomnia, restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, etc). I had recalled my previous experience with Unwinding, which had occurred in the last hour of my class 1 year ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect this time around, as I had just skimmed the surface of this incredible release, but I was astounded. There were about 150 people in the conference room, and as people started to work into these intense releases, you could see arms and legs flailing and movements and sounds that seemed otherworldly. At first I was uncomfortable, as I hadn’t ever heard anyone make some of the sounds that I was hearing now, but the energy and heat in the room started to build and I fell into my 2nd Unwinding experience. This continued multiple times a day over the next 3 days and I will tell you, I have never felt so relaxed, zenned out (is that even a word?) and at ease with my body and mind as I did after that. I knew that I had some neck issues, but I did not realize the extent, as I had accommodated to it over the years. I now have full neck mobility, no longer have the consistent pain in the L side of my neck, and it feels so much more stable and strong (and I didn’t even do any strengthening exercises!). Unwinding was so incredible to me, as every person’s experience was completely different, and my personal experiences were also different every time. It was like each time something released, my body was able to work into the next thing. As I was having some of the releases, I remembered things happening to me when I was very young, that I would have never remembered otherwise. As my chest started to spasm and shake and I started taking huge deep breaths, I remembered falling off of some high playground equipment straight onto my back, knocking the breath out of me and causing the most pain I had known at that point in my life. I must have been 6 or 7 and would have never remembered this in my adult life, but that trauma must have been sitting in my body since then. As I took a huge, deep breath and let out some kind of noise that I didn’t know was possible, I felt my chest open, my shoulders relax and my neck straighten up (I probably grew at least an inch taller). I felt incredibly relaxed afterwards and no longer felt this pressure on my chest (something that I never realized was abnormal, as I’d probably had it since I was 6 years old). The last 4 days of the class were centered more around “structural work” in which we learned how to release specific areas of the body, including the mouth, cranium, pelvis and spine. There were many spontaneous Unwindings throughout these days and I continued to find it incredible that I never had any idea that certain areas of my body were holding or tight, I’d just become used to it.
I can’t write this blog without also talking about the amazing beauty of Sedona. If you’ve never been there, plan a trip now! You can’t look in any direction without seeing the incredible beauty of the red rock formations and the hiking is fantastic! I would love to plan another trip there purely for hiking, as it seemed like there were never-ending trails. I’ll definitely be making it back there someday!
If you have any questions about JFBMFR or would like to experience the deep and effective work for yourself, please contact Lisa at Solstice Physical Therapy – (720) 369-7738, DrLisa@SolsticePhysicalTherapy.com or see my website at http://www.SolsticePhysicalTherapy.com.