Gentle Pain Treatment Options for Fibromyalgia, Myofascial Pain and More

By Melissa Stout

ASHEVILLE – Myofascial release and acupuncture are getting results as more people seek relief from chronic and acute pain.

“Most physical therapy is doing what I call rehab,” said Richard Fowler, physical therapist and owner of the Gentle Pain Release Center. “Very few are attending to the pain.”

These procedures are getting results for acute and chronic conditions such as back, shoulder and neck pain, fibromyalgia, headaches including migraines and many others when a lot of other treatments aren’t.

The treatments are virtually painless and usually quite relaxing with patients feeling results within a few sessions.

The power of touch

Following an injury, Becky Parks had tried two or three types of therapy and massage to treat her “frozen” shoulder, but nothing would ease the pain or restore the freedom of movement until she went to see Fowler.

“It wasn’t anything like anyone else had done,” Parks said. “It’s not a perfect shoulder, but it’s very livable.”

MFR uses gentle pressures, stretches and long holds, two minutes or longer, that achieve releases and a loosening and softening of very tight and painful tissues. This process is repeated until the area is fully relaxed, resulting in decreased pain and eventually restored motion.

“I find the tissues that are tight and hold them with gentle pressure. Physiologically, it’s more like a melting – holding pressure on it until it lets go,” Fowler said.

Fowler has been a physical therapist for 34 years, has studied gentle pain release methods for 15 years and has been practicing them for eight years. The other four licensed therapists at his two clinics have also had similar training.

“We’re helping people in ways that’s giving them pretty lasting results,” Fowler said. “It doesn’t make sense to me to hurt people who are already in pain.”

After treating Parks, Fowler invited her to work for him at the Gentle Pain Release Center.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Parks said. “Our stories are pretty typical stories. Working for (Fowler) has nothing to do with it. He needed someone that knew it worked. There are some things that he can’t fix, but he can make it livable.”

Each hands-on session lasts about one hour. “It’s a very slow, very gentle process and it works,” Parks said. “It’s just a new paradigm.”
MFR was developed and currently taught by John Barnes, nationally renowned physical therapist.

“Most people that come to us have been to lots of other places and tried lots of other things,” Parks said. “People call it magic hands.”
The Gentle Pain Release Center also encourages exercise and believes in getting people moving after the pain is under control. Fowler will be teaching people how to treat themselves at home and at work.

Fowler “wants people to learn how to take care of themselves,” Parks said. “It’s not just working on somebody; it’s helping someone understand what they’re doing.”

The Gentle Pain Release Center asked patients to scale their improvement on a scale of zero to 100 percent. They responded with a 71 percent improvement on the average in 11 visits. “That’s pretty phenomenal results,” Fowler said.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than helping people. Someone telling you ‘You’ve given me my life back,'” Fowler said.

Needles aren’t always bad

After trying a number of other remedies the three-year-old arthritis pain in Judy Marr’s back, shoulders, elbows, neck, hands and feet was still unbearable.

Marr’s family doctor had prescribed her Vioxx and Bextra, which offered some relief for her arthritis and her recently diagnosed fibromyalgia, but still she wasn’t happy with the results and was starting to feel uneasy about taking the medications.

She decided to try something completely different and made an appointment with Lorraine Harris, licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist at Chi Medicine Works.

“I started going to her last October,” Marr said. “I’ve noticed changes ever since.”

Marr is no longer taking the medicines her family doctor prescribed, but feels much more secure with the ibuprofen and herbal medications dang gui and kang gu that Harris prescribed her. She is also undergoing acupuncture and acupressure treatments, the use of fingers to stimulate points, once a week, but Harris plans to lessen the frequency over time as Marr’s condition improves.

“My major excitement is that my heart is doing much better,” Marr said. “I still have pain (in my joints) but it is lessoned. I understand that this could be a long process.”

According to Harris’ Web site, acupuncture is a 3,000-year-old Chinese technique and is the fastest growing method of health care in America today.

Acupuncture works to restore and balance the body’s vital energy (qi or chi) through the use of the gentle insertion and stimulation of thin, flexible needles at specific points near the surface of the body and are left in for 15-20 minutes.

“When there’s pain there’s no flow. To relieve the pain we have to bring back the flow through that area – open up the flow through the chi (energy) and blood,” Harris said of the belief that there are meridians that run through the body that affect the pain.

Chinese needles are only about three times the thickness of human hair, the Japanese needles that Harris uses are even smaller and use a shallower style of needling.

“A great deal of stimulation is not needed, it’s just where you do the stimulation,” Harris said.

Acupuncture has been proven to release opiate-like hormones and induce a state of relaxation, balance and healing.

“Sometimes relief is instantaneous and sometimes it may take longer if there are underlying issues,” Harris said.

Harris looks at acupuncture as a physical medicine and as a provider of benefits that Western medicine can not provide. The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture’s ability to treat more than 30 diseases.

“Some people come to an acupuncturist because the problem couldn’t be identified through Western medicine,” Harris said. “Another reason (to see an acupuncturist) is because the doctor wants to put them on pain medication and they don’t want to be on medication.”

Harris explains that acupuncture can do one of two things: It can reduce pain to where the patient doesn’t need medication at all or it can reduce pain to where the patient only needs medicine for a short period of time.

“Western medicine can’t do everything and neither can oriental medicine,” Harris said of how not all conditions can not be completely cured. People “should keep open to both systems (Western medicine and oriental medicine) and integrate them instead of using one or the other.”

Myofascial release is highly effective in treating patients with:

• Back strain and chronic, low and thoracic back pain

• Carpal tunnel syndrome

• Chronic cervical pain

• Complex pain complaints

• Dizziness, vertigo

• Fibromyalgia

• Fibrositis

• Headache

• Myofascial pain dysfunction

• Pelvic Pain

• Plantar fasciitis

• Post-Polio symptoms

• Pregnancy back pain

• Thoracic outlet syndrome

• TMJ dysfunction

• Trigger points, tender points

• Whiplash


© 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times

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