Martha Carter Talks About Her Healing Journey - Part 6
My journey - and discoveries - in Supportive Care
This is Part 6 of a serial blog post. In Part 5, I share the start of my healing journey, following Harrington rod removal, thanks to the care and coordinated approach of a massage therapist and fitness trainer. In Part 4, I compare Harrington rod surgery when I had it done in 1974 to how different it is today. Missed the earlier posts? Read Part 1 , Part 2 , and Part 3.
The results of my intense massage routine and gym training slowly gave me confidence to try new things in the search for more mobility and pain relief.
I thought that by having my Harrington rods removed, everything would be better, immediately. But, as it turned out, I encountered a whole new set of challenges: the need to decompress, strengthen and reinforce my spine; to develop more mobility; to discover better alignment; to confront other related issues such as chronic headaches and indigestion; to look at emotional issues, and to handle pain management.
I didn’t know it then, but I was venturing out on a whole new healing journey that would ultimately lead me to discover the benefits of alternative modalities, and how they can support scoliosis.
Encouraged by suggestions from friends who knew different practitioners, I started to explore various supportive care options, which can be roughly divided into two categories:
PHYSICAL EXERCISE / TRAINING - in other words, related to physical exercise and your more active participation.
THERAPEUTIC BODY WORK / MAINTENANCE - body work where the practitioner treats you; it’s sometimes more passive and sometime more active.
It is important to note that many of ‘therapy’ techniques, although they are often quite passive, still require some action. For example, with massage or acupuncture, it’s helpful to breathe along with the therapist, and relax into the work they are doing with you.
Here is a list of the PHYSICAL EXERCISE / TRAINING modalities I have explored, and the corresponding amount of time I worked with each:
PHYSICAL EXERCISE / TRAINING:
- Alexander Technique (10 treatments in a one-year period)
- Body-Mind Centering (1 semester)
- Dance (45 years)
- Gym Training (See Blog Part 5)
- Feldenkrais (2 privates and a weekend workshop
- Meditation (ongoing, since 1996)
- Pilates for Scoliosis (ongoing, since 2010)
- Taoist Self-Healing techniques (6 month course)
- Restorative Yoga (since 2006)
- Iyengar Yoga (since 2008)
- Yoga for Scoliosis (since 2008)
- Yoga Teacher Training (200 hours in 2013)
Here is a list of the more THERAPEUTIC BODY WORK related practices I have explored, and the corresponding amount of time I worked with each:
THERAPEUTIC BODY WORK / MAINTENANCE:
- Acupuncture (12 appointments over the years)
- Chiropractor (crisis management, as needed)
- Colonics (24 appointments over 2 years, before and after Harrington rod removal surgery)
- Counseling (since 1995)
- Cranial Sacral Therapy (5 treatments, when neck tension became unbearable)
- Fasting (2 times, one-week each to cleanse)
- Homeopathy (a few periods of time undergoing treatment)
- Hydrotherapy (250 - water therapy alternating hot and cold water)
- Intra Muscular Stimulation (IMS) (10 over 6 months for knee and spine)
- Acupressure (10)
- Deep Tissue Massage (250 - see Blog Part 5)
- Reiki (25 - around the time of my rod removal)
- Rolfing (3 - one per week for three weeks to break up tight tissue in torso)
- Naturopathy (for 3 periods of time over 5 years - for digestion, food intolerances and general well-being)
- Nutritional counseling (ongoing)
- Osteopathy (40 - mostly in the past 5 years)
- Physiotherapy (10 - immediately after knee surgery)
- Reflexology (3 during fasting regimen to relieve cravings)
This is the first time I have written all that out in a list...!
And it is definitely the first time I have counted the approximate number of experiences I’ve had with each technique or treatment.
Looking back, it’s interesting to reflect on how and why I explored so many different techniques.
I suppose it is because I was on a journey towards healing, and figuring out what that looked like. Each modality is so distinct, with its own logic and benefits. In the same way, each practitioner is so unique in their personality and approach.
So how does one decide where - and with whom - to start?
Finding the right therapist or practitioner entails experimentation, meeting with different people, asking for referrals, and checking out different situations. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right fit — someone or something may work really well for one person, but not for another.
When you do find the right situation, it may be for just a short period of time, or it might be something you return to once in a while, over time. Or, it may become a practice you take on for the rest of your life.
For me, my ‘right situation’ at the beginning of my journey was finding Dawn for deep tissue massage, which led me to Shawn for weight training and stretching, as I elaborate on in Part 5.
That was a great starting place, but as I became stronger and more confident in my ‘new’ body, I encountered other issues that needed attention, as mentioned.
For example, I often got headaches, so it was recommended that I try Cranial Sacral Therapy (CST). CST involves gently moving the bones of the head, spinal column, and sacrum to release compression and alleviate stress and pain. Although it is completely different than deep-tissue massage, it complemented the work I was already doing by focusing in on one difficult area for a while. As my headaches improved, I stopped doing CST. However, I still do regular deep tissue work.
Another example of issues needing attention was the chronic indigestion I had lived with since my first surgery at age 14. When I had the rods removed, I was secretly hoping that would improve by itself, but unfortunately that was not the case. So as part of my ongoing healing work, I decided to consult with a naturopath who, after reviewing my case, recommended fasting and colonics. I had heard of fasting, but had never heard of colonics. This was a whole new direction of healing for me, and completely different than the physical training I was doing, but somehow all related. From there, I was referred to specialists who helped me with nutrition, food combining, herbal supplements, and homeopathy - to name a few.
One approach led to another, deepening my awareness, and furthering my personal research.
I started to see my rehabilitation journey like the layers of an onion; each layer distinct, but closely related to the others. Each layer revealed the next, and then the next, and then the next.
A few layers down, I hit a roadblock.
As my physical body started to feel better, for the first time in my life I felt a strong need to address my emotional body. Until that time, I had not realized how much emotional stress I was carrying. It seemed like over the years, many twisted thought patterns had become entwined with my twisted spine. Although I was generally an outgoing and positive person, the body work I was doing exposed other problematic issues, such as body shame, lack of self esteem, anxiety and depression, which were buried in some of the deeper layers of the onion. It was time to peel those layers back, and take a good long look at them.
In my next post, I will go into more detail about my initiation into emotional counseling, and how it helped me to understand that there is a powerful mind-body connection through which emotional, mental, social, spiritual and behavioral elements can directly affect our health.