Inflammation: Cause or Symptom?

Inflammation is for the most part looked upon by the health care community as an entity more or less unto itself. Inflammation may be accompanied by other conditions, but it is usually seen as its own aspect and exists coincidentally with the other conditions.

I see inflammation as both a result of certain situations and, even more, as an indication that an underlying dynamic exists, an underlying dynamic that will potentially cause more insidious problems in the near future if not addressed and resolved.

Many of you have heard me suggest that a phrase that can be substituted for inflammation is ‘pissed off’. Pardon the crudeness, but I believe the euphemism is appropriate.

When tissue is inflamed it is angry, and it is angry for the same reasons you or I would be angry when we’re on the job – it is being required to do something unreasonable and beyond its job description, and it is being required to do this repeatedly or constantly. Like you or I in these circumstances, the tissue is under excesive pressure. In this case, the pressure is coming from some combination of hyper-tonicities, The focus of the hyper-tonicities, or the most vulnerable tissue within the lines of force of the hyper-tonicities, would be the location of the inflammation. Often, the location of the inflammation has no actual physical malady occurring; it is simply the location of the most ‘pissed off’ tissue under the circumstances.

Let’s take plantar fascitis as an easy example. If that is the client’s complaint, and the therapist thoroughly works the plantar fascia, results will much more than likely be temporary at best. The key to effectively addressing the inflammation is to find where the pressure being placed on the plantar fascia is coming from. In truth, it could be coming from anywhere, even (though it would be very unusual) scar tissue from anywhere in the body. You can see that we are now getting into the investigative or ‘detective’ aspect of massage therapy.

This is where we at LMD believe the tensegrity concept of body organization, and even further adding “Three-Lever Theory”, comes into play. If the plantar fascitis is in one foot, the opposite sacro-iliac joint will be the location to begin your investigation. In the detective analogy, it’s the prime suspect. The cool thing about bodywork is that the SI joints are always the prime suspects, because all the forces generated in the body must flow through them effectively for graceful, purposeful movement. And of course, the dynamic of the arms and the balance of the head, focused on Occiput/C1/C2, are the next suspects. It’s like these guys are always in cahoots, and if they are not the cause of the inflammation, they will practically always point you in the direction of the culprit(s).

If the cause of an inflammation is very unusual, like say scar tissue in one finger actually being the root cause in a pattern that results in plantar fascitis, you can trace the cause by following it backwards. If this were the case, the pattern would have to flow through the arm into the neck, where it would create a compensation through the pelvis, and so the SI joint(s), to create pressure in the plantar fascia. The pattern will be there, follow the hyper-tonicities and fascial thickenings. They will be having an effect on the fluidity of the #1 & #2 levers. In this case, they will lead you to thoroughly investigate the arm, elbow, wrist, and hand, and you have a good shot (detective pun intended) at coming across the guilty scar tissue.

So, I feel the bodywork perspective on the subject is that inflammation is a symptom. It is a warning sign that unbalanced forces are now operating. If they are not addressed, the next phase will probably be worse, and a downward spiral is in the making. Look for clues, figure out what is operating, and solve the mystery. Getting good at this is one of the most intriguing and rewarding aspects of effective, advanced massage therapy.

More on this subject next week in a look at pleurisy.

2 comments on “Inflammation: Cause or Symptom?

  1. Thanks Chuck, your words may help me to influence my client that wants 45min on her back only…. drives me crazy. I want to say “let me do my job” but that’s probably not the best way to put it. lol She says I’m “getting lost” but maybe I am trying to find the root of the “pissed off” tissue. Thanks again YoU rOcK!

    • You’re welcome, Lisa, and good luck with that. What is it with clients who think they understand effective bodywork? They can be very trying. Feel free to post how you approached her, and how it worked.

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