SOMETIMES when I visit a chiropractor, physiotherapist or any other kind of body fixer-upper, I lie when filling in their forms.
Asked about “problem areas” I often leave omissions. I worry that were I to list all that ails me – recurring sciatica; the trapped nerve in my neck; tendonitis in my elbow; nightly loss of feeling in my fingers; torn knee cartilage; a subluxated rib; a bunion – I may appear to have been rather careless with myself, or to be a hypochondriac.
However, when I visited Liz Wright at Edinburgh Physiotherapy Centre, who practices Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation (IASTM), I hadn’t counted on her being able to discover my litany of complaints using a special hand tool, designed to feel adhesions or thickening in the soft tissue which can happen after injury or be caused by habitual poor posture.
The metal instrument, which looks like something a boy scout might have in his kit bag for opening bottles or removing stones from horses’ hooves, is first worked over my muscles, to “scan” for problem areas. When Liz comes across tissue that needs attention it rasps under the device.
“Oh, that’s a good bit!” she says rather gleefully. It’s a strange sensation because both the therapist and the patient can feel what the instrument feels. There’s a marked difference between the way the metal surface glides over relatively healthy muscle and the manner in which it shudders over tight fascia. Liz tells me that when tissue is damaged, the fascia thickens or bunches up around the area and that’s what she is working on as she flays away with the gadget.
The treatment is designed to deliver controlled microtrauma to damaged areas which, in turn, triggers an inflammatory response, initiating reabsorption of scar tissue and production of collagen. According to Liz, three treatments should be enough to tackle any problem from muscle strains to ligament damage.
We work on my neck and shoulder - a recurring hotspot of pain and tightness. Liz moves the tool swiftly in short little scratching movements until the rasping subsides. It’s not painful – it’s far more pleasant than deep-tissue work which can sometimes bring tears to the eyes. I wouldn’t mind being worked over like this from top to toe. When Liz has dug all around my trapezius muscle, she gets me to sit up on the treatment table and checks my mobility which has, after just ten minutes, improved.
by MERCY BREHENY
Edinburgh Physiotherapy, 36 Henderson Row, Edinburgh (0131-556 1116, www.edphysio.com). Until the end of December Scotsman readers can get three sessions for the price of two. Just mention this deal when booking