Healing low back pain after trauma

What most people do not realize is that the body perceives a surgical incision as trauma, which begins a cycle of dysfunction.

by Maria Troia — 

It would be logical to think that low back pain should be addressed by focusing on the back muscles. However, particularly in the cases of women who have had caesarean sections and hysterectomies, it is vital to treat the front of the body to release the scar tissue causing the low back pain. In the words of physical therapist and bodywork pioneer, John Barnes, “Find the pain. Look elsewhere for the cause.” The basis of the John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release has to do with trauma and cellular memory.

What most people do not realize is that the body perceives a surgical incision as trauma, which begins a cycle of dysfunction. Peter Levine, Ph.D., author of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, discovered that in addition to the well-known phenomenon of fight or flight, there is something called the “freeze response.” When an animal is captured by a predator, he will freeze and play dead in an attempt to fool the predator, hoping that it will look away, so he can scurry to safety.

Levine’s work revealed that this traumatic episode is recorded in cellular memory, creating the roots of dysfunction — unless the memory is shaken off and released. This theory applies to a surgical incision as readily as it does to the moment of attack by a predatory animal.

Let us revisit the animal that has played dead and fled to safety. Once it knows it is safe from danger, the animal will begin to tremble uncontrollably, described by Levine as the “thaw of the freeze response.” The animal is literally shaking off trauma, releasing it from cellular memory. Barnes refers to this as a profound moment of healing.

Humans typically do not do this, although almost always post-surgical patients experience a thaw of the freeze response. Often the hospital staff tries to stop this trembling because it is viewed as abnormal. As a result, trauma gets logged in the cellular memory. Over time, faulty structural patterns begin to form and pain sets in. This is true of all traumatic experiences, not just surgery.

This phenomenon happens as a result of car accidents, physical abuse and even chronic emotional stress. While these individuals may appear fine upon observation, often they deal with inexplicable chronic pain that takes a toll on the psyche, as well as the body. These conditions are given labels like fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome or even arthritis. Worse yet, many are told the pain is in their head.

The John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release allows one to shake off trauma and release pain-sensitive structures that have been entrapped by myofascial restrictions, clamping down on blood and lymphatic vessels, nerves, muscles and organs. These restrictions hold up to 2,000 pounds of tensile strength, a tremendous force.

Until the connective tissue is directly engaged and cellular memory is released, however, the pain cycle will continue, which is why most other forms of therapy offer only temporary results. Myofascial Release is a powerful way to break the cycle of dysfunction and pain, restore balance and achieve lasting results.

During these sessions, there is often an actual physical “shaking off” of the surgical trauma — clients may begin to tremble and break into a cold sweat. Sometimes they experience an emotional release. What often follows is silence and an awareness that something has shifted.

The body-mind relationship shifts because the body and the subconscious mind have had the opportunity to revisit and release the stored traumatic event. The body is freed, the mind is clear and the pain is gone.


Maria Troia, MSEd, LMT, NCTMB, CH, is a bodywork therapist and instructor who specializes in the John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release and AMMA Therapy®. She is the owner of East-West Holistic Healing Arts in Scottsdale. 480-313-6260, maria@eastwestholistic.net or www.EastWestHolistic.net. 

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 6, Dec 2009/Jan 2010.

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